You're a Tour pro hitting practice shots. At the far end of the range there's a 30-foot-tall mesh fence meant to prevent balls from flying into the adjacent parking lot. The range is long, but not long enough to deal with today's superlong players, so if you bust a driver you can clear the fence and smash a car window. What would you do? Throttle down a bit on the driver to be sure you don't do any damage, or tee it high and let it fly?
Tour players on the driving range at the Barclays Classic last week faced that exact predicament. The fence on the range at Westchester Country Club was about 290 yards from the teeing area, and just behind the fence there was a parking lot for Tour caddies and the media. What did the professionals do?
"I've been stunned at how many guys purposely rocketed balls over the fence. Already this week I bet at least 10 car windows have been busted," Tour player Bob Heintz said last Friday afternoon as he warmed up on the range for his second round at the Barclays. "It's like some guys are playing a game. Or it's some stupid joyride."
Don't these guys care about the people who have to come back at the end of the day and find their windshields destroyed? Don't they worry about somebody walking around out there? What if they hit someone in the head?
Heintz put away his driver and pulled out his sand wedge. There were only 30 minutes until his 2 p.m. tee time, and he was at the end of his warmup session, which usually ends with some short shots. "I don't understand what the guys are thinking," said Heintz. "Maybe they don't care because they know that the Tour will pick up the tab to fix the cars. Whatever the reason, it's not right."
The security guard sitting on a folding chair at the entrance to the grass parking lot behind the range on Friday afternoon agreed with Heintz. When I told him what Heintz had told me, the elderly man shook his head in disbelief. "The last few days I've seen balls fly over the fence and go boom," the guard told me. "Wow, it's really been dangerous. Luckily, nobody's been hurt."
As I was driving home that afternoon--I had parked elsewhere so my car was still in one piece--I thought about what I'd heard and seen. I remembered the syrupy TV commercials that show Tour players as Mr. Nice Guys doing community service, visiting children in hospitals and touting educational initiatives. Then I pictured the same guys trying to smash car windows, and one question came to mind.
These guys are good?
TRUST ME by JIM GORANT
Poor attendance, tricked-up course, slow play--the New York City stop on Tour has problems.
DAVID CANNON/GETTY IMAGES
¬†Players used practice balls to damage cars.