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Confessions of a Weekend Golfer: My Day with Tiger

Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Antonio Banderas, Nov/Dec 2005

"How did you play?" a friend asked.

"Tiger shot 6-under," I replied. That was the response I repeated whenever a friend asked how I played with Tiger Woods on July 27 [2005] at the Buick Open Pro-Am at The Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club in Grand Blanc, Michigan. The truth is, I've played a lot better! I don't think my game was off due to Tiger alone. It was the first time I had ever played in front of a few thousand spectators. Of course, they didn't come to see me. But nevertheless, they stood by and watched every time I stepped up to hit the ball. For weeks before, I had worked myself up into a nervous lather. Sleep became more and more difficult as the day approached. The night before, I checked into the Townsend Hotel in nearby Birmingham. I had trouble falling asleep and had a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call. I had a 45-minute drive ahead of me to meet my host, Gary Cowger, of General Motors at the practice range at 6 o'clock. Tee-off time was 7; we would be the first group out.

When I arrived at the first tee, the team was assembled. We were noticeably all excited. Each of us shook hands with Tiger and we all looked at one another as if we had just landed on the moon. Today we were playing with arguably the greatest golfer of all time!

For me, it was a dream beyond my own expectations. I came to golf late—five years ago to be exact. Since beginning to play, golf has become my obsession. I fell in love with the whole experience—the outdoors, the exercise and lots of fresh air, the natural beauty, the friendship and camaraderie and the fact that it's cigar harassment free! I can smoke my brains out without people giving me attitude. Heaven on earth!

For a new player to have this chance-of-a-lifetime opportunity was beyond words. Exciting and unbelievably intimidating.

On the opening tee, each member of our team was announced to the crowd. I was last. Everyone else had put his first drive onto the fairway. As I stepped up to the tee and my name was announced, my blood began to race. I could not feel my hands. My heart was pounding like a highway construction drill. I took several deep breaths, silently prayed and then swung my driver.

With a soft breeze behind me, I lifted a modest drive onto the fairway. Not far, but in the fairway! Boy, was I relieved. I was ready to go home and take a Valium. And so began my day with Tiger.

My spirit for adventure clicked in and I headed out to the fairway with my group, led by Tiger Woods. My foursome included Gary Cowger, group vice president of General Motors Corp. (a 20 handicap); Steve Shannon, general manager of Buick (a 24 handicap); and Tom Izzo, head basketball coach at Michigan State University (a 12 handicap). I have a 19 handicap.

Friends asked, "What was Tiger like?"

My response: "Reserved, carries himself with elegance, friendly." However, Tiger's aura was bigger than life.

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