Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ricky Barnes (almost) Late to the Tee

This was a truly exciting U.S. Open! What a diverse group of guys in the thick of things right at the end. The triumphant and much-deserving Glover (solid person, too), the usual suspects Tiger and Phil, the resurgent Duval (who probably played the best all week, in my opinion), the steady Fisher, and the complete surprise Barnes.

Ricky Barnes finally earned his 2009 PGA TOUR card after paying his dues on the Nationwide Tour. But years ago, the Scottsdale, Arizona resident played in the 2004 FBR Open on a sponsor exemption from the Thunderbirds. Ricky was playing great that week, and only three shots off the lead heading into the final round.

One of my many jobs on TOUR is to monitor the first tee as players are starting their round. If someone is late for their starting time, I'm the guy who calls them on it. There are several "Official Time" clocks positioned at each tournament, on the range and practice green and obviously the first tee. While it is not my responsibility to help players arrive on time, if I see a guy taking a leisurely stroll to the tee with thirty seconds to spare, I might yell at them to kick it into high gear. This is exactly what I told Ricky that year in Phoenix.

Ricky's final round starting time was less than two minutes away, his caddie was on the tee, yet he was nowhere to be found. I started scanning the landscape, and finally saw him casually walking with some fans, signing autographs, 100 yards from the tee box. I screamed out, "Ricky, you've got 60 seconds to be on the tee, ready to play!", and with that, he took off in a full sprint, popped under the ropes onto the tee, flashed a big smile, grabbed his driver, and ripped his opening shot, all without breathing heavy. I was impressed...he had just run a 12-second 100-yard dash, for crying out loud!

After the round in the scoring area, I reminded him the consequences of being late to the tee (two-stroke penalty if within five minutes late, disqualification if over five minutes). Ricky finished t-14 that week and took home over $78,000...two shots worse would have cost him more than $32,000. He thanked me profusely for giving him the pre-round warning. "You saved me a ton of money!" he said. Now that you've just made half a million dollars, Ricky...remember the little people!

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