The Range. Tour pros call it the Rockpile because it's where
they pound rocks. A more accurate sobriquet would be a word that
encompasses psychiatrist's office, social club, swing-fix
center, comedy club and convention hall.
Indeed, the range is much more than a grassy plain on which golf
professionals hit golf balls. It's also a good place to find
golf insiders, agents, swing gurus, golf industry executives and
media types, to name a few.
Consider the scene last Thursday afternoon as the first round of
the 77th PGA Championship was unfolding at Riviera Country Club.
There was swing guru Mac O'Grady giving Chip Beck a diatribe
about club-face angles and swing planes. There was Mike (Fluff)
Cowan, Peter Jacobsen's caddie, commiserating over the death of
the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia. There was Scott Simpson
hitting balls side by side with his eight-year-old son, Sean.
And there was Greg Norman winning a wager with his caddie, Tony
Navarro, that he could blast a two-iron over the 40-foot-high
net some 240 yards away.
That all happened within a few minutes. Activity on the range,
however, began hours earlier at 5:51 a.m. when club professional
Bob Lendzion arrived. The action didn't stop until 7:14 p.m.
when fellow club pro Bob Makoski slumped off toward the
clubhouse. Makoski was peeved because he had hit it great on the
range before and after a disappointing 74. "I guess I'm just a
driving range pro," he said.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHRIS COVATTA The Rockpile opened for business when Lendzion swung into action at dawn. [Bob Lendzion]
COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND (Clockwise from left): Per-Ulrik Johansson focused on his long game; Mac O'Grady made some points with Chip Beck; Jay Haas got in some work on an oft-overlooked area of the game; and a Bear loosened up before looking to stretch his remarkable record in major championships. [Per-Ulrik Johansson]
FOUR COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHRIS COVATTA [see caption above--Mac O'Grady and Chip Beck; Jay Haas signing autographs; Jack Nicklaus stretching; golf tee in mid-air]
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHRIS COVATTA For a self-proclaimed driving range pro like Makoski, life can get awfully lonely. [Bob Makoski]