Sockless in Seattle

9 Holes with Fred Couples

Posted by Robert on Sep 3

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With trophy girlfriend in tow (and in need of socks), Fred Couples returned to his hometown of Seattle for the 2011 Boeing Classic. He was fresh off his first major victory on the Geezer Tour -- the Senior PGA Championship --winning it after taking off most of the year because of his ailing back.

It was a sunny, warm Saturday, and I haven’t sweated Freddie around the links since the 2007 Player’s Championship at Sawgrass. Thus, I jumped in my modified bio-fueled, fully renewable “Love-mobile” (it runs on love… and lots of $3.87/gallon gas) and headed north out of Portland for the 180-mile trek to the beautiful TPC Snoqualmie Ridge.

I timed it perfectly, running from the shuttle to the number 10 tee box where I saw the group in front of Fred just walking up the steep, ascending fairway. I was surprised that there weren’t more fans swarming the area. After all, Fred is the main draw for the +50 pros and his picture is plastered all over the billboards, programs, and tickets. They even were handing out Fred Couples bobblehead dolls on the 14th green. (I’m auctioning mine off on eBay.)

I was taking in the spectacular mountains that frame the course when three golf carts came screeching around the corner in single file and almost ran me over. (Oh yeah, they let the “retirees” ride in golf carts on this tour.)

The cart in the lead was driven by a very petite lady in pink shorts and a white caddie apron. A blond ponytail poked out of her Bridgestone baseball cap, and fancy mirror sunglasses made her look like a movie star. On the back of the apron in big bold letters read: “COUPLES.”

What?! Where’s Joey LaCava?! (Joey, of course was across the country in New Jersey getting his first win at the Barclays looping for Dustin Johnson.) She was Midge Trammell, Fred’s girlfriend and apparently his interim caddie.

Finally, Fred came strolling down the fairway towards the tee box. He was grinning while he chatted with playing partner Mark O’Meara -- no doubt discussing the latest “puffed up” media story about Fred using one of his picks on Tiger for The President’s Cup.

Hole 10, 353 yd., Par 4: Birdie. He was first to hit and pulled out a hybrid and took that familiar upright, open stance. “WHACK!” The ball sailed high to the right, drawing perfectly back to the left landing in the center of the fairway and rolling another 15 yards.

On the approach, after both Mark O’Meara and Mark Wiebe hit it short in the bunker guarding the hilltop green, Fred wedged in a dart that landed 10 yards past the pin, spinning back to 4 feet. (Wow!) He stroked the birdie dead center. It was a lot less stressful on me then back when I followed him in the '80s and '90s where it seemed he missed about half of those knee-knockers. Bless the belly-putter!

Hole 11, 484 yd., Par 4: Bogey. I hoofed it ahead of the group to the 11th tee box, and when Fred walked up I said “Nice shot, Freddie!” He nodded and said thanks. Then he proceeded to pull his drive into the junk on the left. (Uh-oh, I jinxed him.)

After missing the green, he had a very easy up and down, but he hit a lackluster chip and missed the putt and bogeyed the hole. (Okay, I’m not talking to him anymore. Sorry, Fred.)

Hole 12, 426 yd., Par 4: Par. Fred hit another bad drive on the 12th, this time missing in the long stuff to the right of the fairway. He had no other choice but to pitch out. That left him 80 yards to get up and down for par, which he did, sticking a lob wedge to 5 feet and another good putting stroke.

Hole 13, 210 yd., Par 3: Birdie. It’s a grueling 3-story climb to the 13th tee box from the 12th green. Walking up the path, I had to give way to the carts, and noticed Midge driving up solo.

“You mean you are going to make Freddy walk up this hill?” I asked between deep gulps of air.

“He likes to walk,” she replied. She smiled but I couldn't help but notice that she seemed a bit uncomfortable during the round. She obviously hadn’t spent a lot of time on the golf course.

Both the Marks missed the green and landed in the greenside left. Fred hit a beautiful draw that landed on the front of the green rolling to the back, pin-high, 20 feet.

Midge came driving up ahead of the group and tried to subtly ask the volunteer if the ball on the green was Fred’s. However, she wasn’t sly enough because Freddy noticed, and he wasn’t about to let it go.

He had a big smile on his face when he teased, “You didn’t even watch my shot?!” She was flustered and not amused. The mockery must have relaxed Freddie, because he stroked the long putt into the middle of the cup. BAMM, another birdie!

Hole 14, 448 yd., Par 4: Birdie. This is a really cool hole shaped like a horseshoe with the green 80 vertical feet below the tee. The shortest distance to the green is across a giant ravine. Boom-Boom had no problem, launching a high drive that landed in the center of the green but skidded into the rough behind. The gallery was delighted. And by gallery, I mean four old guys who kept asking me, “Where’s the ball?”

Freddie made a tough up-and-down look very easy for his second consecutive birdie. He’s en fuego, and he has a par-5 coming up next!

Hole 15, 590 Par 5: Par. Unfortunately on this hole, Freddy fell a little from the pedestal I kept him on. After crushing a drive down the middle of the fairway, he got smoked by the beer-bellied Mark O’Meara. (Are you kidding me?) It’s true; Mark out-drove Fred by at least 10 yards.

What’s more, Fred hit an ugly approach into the green-side bunker and failed to get up and down for birdie. Mark hit his approach on the green and 2-putted for a nice birdie, four.

Hole 16, 380 yd., Par 4: Par. Fred hit a hybrid to wedge distance in the middle of the fairway and promptly chunked his approach shot into the greenside bunker. (UGGH!) He cleverly used O’Meara’s ball as a backboard on his sand-shot as if playing bocce ball in the park. The ball would have run 10 feet by, but instead smacked Mark’s and stopped short for a tap-in 3-footer. This is a perfectly legal play. (Let that be a lesson to you youngsters out there.)

Hole 17, 211 yd., Par 3: Par. Nothing spectacular here, except Mark Wiebe made a pretty cool lob shot out of the deep rough to save par. Fred hit the green and two-putted for his par.

Hole 18, 498 yd., Par 5: Birdie. The finishing hole is an easy birdie hole for most of these guys. However, the short par 5 is up hill and heavily bunkered. Freddie annihilated his TaylorMade R9 driver over the dogleg right corner and had an iron in his hands for his approach shot. The crowd had grown and was buzzing around the green that was framed by the giant Craftsman-style clubhouse and several double-decker hospitality tents. I swiftly made it up the hill before Fred hit his approach shot and snuck into the Seattle Seahawk’s hospitality tent -- free wings and beer. Sweeeeeet!

Fred hit a gorgeous iron shot that flew high over the pin and spun back to 15 feet for eagle. The crowd went crazy! He stroked his eagle putt beautifully, but it didn’t break as much as he expected and it lipped out. He tapped in for birdie and tipped his hat to the appreciative crowd.

The jittery Midge looked relieved that the day was over and scurried to the cart while Fred signed autographs. I had another beer and hung out in the cool shade flirting with Sea-gals.

Although Fred shot a nice -3 on the back nine, and -3, 69 for the day, his bookend 73’s on Friday and Sunday were only good enough for a tie for 16th. Mark Calcavecchia (70,67,65) won in a one-hole playoff over Russ Cochran.

If you ever get a chance to go out and follow these guys, don’t pass it up. Watching how they play the game will take strokes off of yours. And Freddie is still the man, even without Joe (and socks). If he can keep that bad back healthy, he will win many more major championships.

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