I spent a little time at the Country Oaks Classic on Sunday when I started thinking about something tournament director Trey Miller said as I was getting ready to leave.
Now Trey has been involved with this event in each of the 18 times it had been played (starting at a time when he wasn’t much older that the current junior champion), so he definitely has a little perspective on the ebbs and flows of the event. Throughout all of changes in sponsors, the addition and later canceling of the pro event, the pro-ams, weather delays, PGA Tour players who have won, PGA Tour players who have lost, and a whole lot of local players who have shaken hands on the 18th green after giving it their best for 36 holes.
Trey and I were the last two left by the scoreboard after the hardware had been given away and we talked about some of the battles that had been fought over the years out there.
He sat quietly, looking tired after along weekend, but still seemed pretty satisfied with the way the two days had gone — and then he said:
“I think that people were desperately looking for some type of normalcy. I think that playing in this was a way to get back to normal and take them away from what is going on around them. It is a way to remind them of what we have been missing.”
I kept thinking about it as I left the parking lot and realized he was dead right. Since March 13 nothing has been the same,but going out to Country Oaks on Sunday seemed normal.
All through the day, people were huddled around the scoreboard as their flight results came in. People were talking about the putts that lipped out, or the mistake of going for it on No. 18. People were very interested in Ball State senior Jack Cunningham as his 29 on the front side was posted and wondered if that magic No. 59 wasn’t out there on the horizon somewhere.
Maybe the best thing about Sunday was that for a few hours, it felt like a golf tournament, nothing more nothing less.
Starting next week, a lot of our local high school sports teams will begin to push the restart button again. That is the next step on the road to normalcy and for many it can’t come soon enough. In our part of southwest Indiana, schools are still at the center of the community and sports are still a big part of the schools.
There is nothing more natural in the fall than a Barr-Reeve volleyball team dominating much bigger opponents, a Washington-Memorial tournament soccer game played on a crisp fall evening, and according to those around the Hatchet football program, some exciting Friday nights are on the way.
College football is expected to have 77% less fans, NASCAR will be racing in an empty Brickyard on Sunday, and God only knows what the NFL, NBA and NHL are going to look like when they return, while Major League baseball have done everything they could to turn me into a “casual observer.”
However, I think high school sports will be what begin to lead us back. It may be a little ways down the line, and the next few weeks of practice may seem anything but normal. Maybe people will have to spread out in the stands or do without the walking tacos and chili dogs at the concession stands for a while, but I think when it is all said and done we will all have a little better idea what is really important and what isn’t.
I watched a couple of very good players have trouble with the water at the 18th hole in the Classic on Sunday. For a couple of them it was the difference between being in the money or not. However, I didn’t really see anything but smiles as they headed up to the scoreboard – they were just happy thing were beginning to feel like the previous 18 Classics.
And from a personal perspective, dumping a couple of in the water on No. 18 has always felt perfectly normal to me.