By Jonathan Owens

Billy was stuck at some work thing on Friday (really, Billy. Where are your priorities?), so he asked me, his loyal assistant for all those years (ok, two years) to fill in for him, since I was already going to the Open. I’ll be expecting the giant freelancing check in the mail any day now.

In 2005, I got to cover the U.S. Open in Pinehurst as a member of the media, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. In fact, it’s the second-coolest thing I covered as a journalist, behind the 2008 presidential inauguration. It was all-you-can-eat buffets and free brownies and press conferences with Tiger and Phil and a big ol’ air conditioned room to watch it all in.

But there’s something even better out there that I never thought I’d experience until Friday, when some of my wife’s work friends invited us to a backyard cookout at their house on the first hole of No. 2. This wasn’t just a cookout and golf on TV. No, you could drink beer, eat barbecue, borrow one of the passes and hit the course, watch Phil Mickelson three-putt on 18, go back, drink more, eat more. Good times were had.

Or, if you didn’t care, you could just sit on the couch and watch it all. Or watch the World Cup. Or not.

At one point, one of the golfers’ caddy was there. I have no idea how that happened, but he was a nice guy. It was definitely the epitome of a southern afternoon.

You never know what you’re missing out there. For a day, I experienced what it was like to be one of those people who live in those awesome houses behind the fence. I guess in 2022 or whenever the Open returns, I’ll probably be playing in it. Can only go up from here.

And let’s be honest. At some point, the golf is just the side show. It’s the experience that matters.

Home sweet home

I gotta say, I’m pretty dang proud of my home county. I grew up in northern Moore County, and while the north and south ends of MoCo are about as alike as Bubba Watson’s two rounds and Martin Kaymer’s, it feels pretty damn good to look on the TV and see all that sand and wiregrass. The course is awesome, and it looks awesome both on TV and in person.

I’ve played No. 2 once, with Billy and Alex in 2008. I shot a million. I think if I played it now a million would be a good score.


I met this guy out there. He’s a black squirrel. My wife kept calling him a fox squirrel. He looked like a skunk to me. He was obviously a golf fan. I want one as a pet.

Merch tent blues

I made it to the merchandise tent, and things in there aren’t terribly overpriced, considering everything has Polo Ralph Lauren or Nike or some other awesome brand name on it. And oh how I would love to have all of it. But outside of a second mortgage, that’s not gonna happen.

I found a cool shirt for $26 and two beer koozies for $3 each. I’m good.

The worst part of the merch tent, though, is checking out. You know when Walmart only has four of their 50 lanes open and 30 people are in each line and you get pissed off and the baby starts crying and the 8-year-old wants candy and you want to just drop everything and leave? Well imagine every lane being open, and 200 people in each lane, and you’re hot and all you want is a friggin’ T-shirt. Yep. That’s what happened Friday.

It wasn’t the workers’ faults. It was just the wrong time to be in the merch tent. But I really wanted that shirt, so I toughed it out.

It’s not over

I managed to finagle tickets for Saturday and Sunday as well without paying a dime. I was thinking today, and I don’t know if I’ve ever bought a ticket to a sporting event. From college basketball games with a student ID to years as a sportswriter to now, I’ve had a pretty good string of luck. And that’s good, because I’ve been broke for most of that time.

Now that I can afford tickets, I’m still finding them for free. Hakuna Matata.

So, maybe I’ll check back in with you Ranters over the weekend. My dad and I are going Sunday afternoon for a Father’s Day trip. I hope someone catches up to the German so at least we’ll have something to watch.

And if not, I’m sure we can sneak into a hospitality tent. My dad is pretty good at that. I get it honest.