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Sports Column: How I became a ‘celebrity’ for a charity gold match

The Angry Birdies, left to right, Weston Davis, Mike Rutz, Brendan Carl and Chad Searls pose for a picture on the No. 9 tee box at Salish Cliffs Golf Club.Buy Photo
The Angry Birdies, left to right, Weston Davis, Mike Rutz, Brendan Carl and Chad Searls pose for a picture on the No. 9 tee box at Salish Cliffs Golf Club.

My palms were sweaty. My heart was pounding out of my chest. I felt like I was going to throw up and that was even before I stepped onto the golf course.

Standing in front of all of the players at the 2014 celebrity golf tournament to benefit Summit Pacific Medical Center, I realized two things, this was the first time I would be auctioned off and this was definitely the first time I would ever be called a celebrity.

Back in February, my editor, Steven Friederich, came to my desk with a big smile on his face. I knew something was up immediately. He soon informed me that he had volunteered me to be a “celebrity” for the tournament on May 9. My first thought was I’m not a celebrity and it has been six years since I’ve golfed competitively.

I almost grew up with a golf club in my hand. My dad had me on the course when I was 5, and I played off and on before playing in high school and at Grays Harbor College. I love the game and can still play quite well, but a tournament is an entirely different aspect.

My nerves were eased a little when I learned it would be a scramble format, meaning each player hits a tee shot and then the team picks the best shot and all play from that location, repeating the process until the group gets the ball in the hole. Then, I learned I would be auctioned off to the highest-bidding team and all sorts of questions entered my mind. Who would buy me and how much would I bring in and, most importantly, would I be worth the money?

I practiced several times, but still as I pulled up to Salish Cliffs Golf Club in Shelton, the sick feeling I used to get right before I would compete crept back into my stomach. Imagine that feeling right before you had before taking a final worth 40 percent of your grade coupled with the awkwardness of a first day at work and topped off with the nerves of a first date.

As with most golfers, I have a love-hate relationship. The amount of love I have for the game is based in how well I hit the last shot and the amount it loves me back is shown in how low the number is on the scorecard.

“They call it golf because all the other four-letter words were taken,” pro golfer Raymond Floyd once said.

Now on the driving range with a six iron in hand, I planted my feet and swung connecting with a beautiful 160-yard shot that I paused to watch… ‘I love this game.’ Then on the next shot I dipped my back and dug under the ball… ‘I hate this game,’ I muttered under my breath as I watched the ball roll about 50 yards in front of me.

I had the pleasure of going first in the celebrity auction. I began to sweat as the time approached, feeling nervous about who I would play with and if I would be worth the amount bid for me and if anyone would bid for me. There was a quick bid for $50. At least someone bid. Then nothing … sold. I watched as KOMO news anchor Brad Goode, Kix95.3 DJ Phil Luce, Big Break Florida’s Courtney Coleman and Class A PGA member Jordan Cooper each went for between $400 and $600. ‘I told Steven I would end up costing the hospital money,’ was my first thought, but then they decided to auction me again. This time I garnered $325. Now there was pressure.

That pressure subsided the longer we played as it became evident that we were there to worry more about having fun than the scorecard.

My group consisted of Grays Harbor Hospital District 1 Commissioner Chad Searls, Green Bay Packer fan Mike Rutz and beginning golfer Weston Davis — the “Angry Birdies.” We would have two birdies on the day.

Our first birdie would come on No. 9, where I would play competitive golf with a neon yellow ball for the first time and I would drive the green with that same ball. “I love this game.”’

On the par-5 No. 10 I set up to hit the ball as hard as I could with a 5-wood and slid my feet in the wet fairway digging about 3 inches under the grass and almost spraining my wrist. “I hate this game.”

Then I sunk an eight-foot putt for par on No. 14. “I love this game.”

On the day, I ended up leaving nine golf balls on the premises of the course, which was recently ranked as the sixth best golf course in Washington by Golf Digest. “I hate this game, but I love this course.”

Finally, we approached the final green standing 190 yards away, looking over a very large pond and several sand traps guarding the green. I grabbed my 3-iron and did my best Bubba Watson impersonation, hooking the ball over the water and landing it on the back of the green. “I love this game.”

As much fun as it was to golf in the tournament the day was not about birdies and bogeys, but bringing in money for equipment for Summit Pacific. It was a good feeling to give back the community, even if it didn’t often feel like I was sacrificing anything being forced to play golf on a Friday. It is also a good feeling knowing that when the day comes that I suffer a heart attack after I get my first hole-in-one or finally shoot in the 60s, there will be a facility to take care of me.