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TopProspectAlert.com Minor League News & Autograph Blog Home


An Insider's Guide to Graphing on the
Golf Course

By: Ben Lipson

I'm not a golfer, yeah I've tried to golf a few times, but I always wound up finding the sand trap rather than the green. But when it comes to snagging signatures on the golf course, I usually hit a hole in one every time.

The PGA Tour came up with autograph policies a few years ago stating that golfers could only sign in the predetermined autograph tent following their round during tournament play. These tents are located on the 9th and 18th holes, and throngs of casual golf fans crowd these areas waiting to get their hats or programs signed. While these tents are a great place for the rookies to be penned up, veteran graphers should avoid this area at all costs, especially on Saturday and Sunday. If you follow my tips below, the PGA rules won't apply to you, because you'll be sitting at home in your air conditioning, with all of your items signed, and watching the final rounds of golf on television.

This information comes from five years of graphing on the TPC at Southwind golf course during the Memphis stop on the PGA Tour.

I did most of my golf graphing before all of the recent golf cards came out. All I would have were the ones from the 1991 and 1992 golf sets, and after a year or two all those would be signed. So what I turned to was hitting the discard section of the library, and buying all of the Golf Digest, Golf World, and Golf Weekly magazines I could find. I'd cut out the pictures with an exacto knife, leaving the captions so I knew who each golfer was, and then would mount the pictures on index card stock paper using double sided tape. I'd then buy a hanging file folder case, sort the golfers pictures in alphabetical order, and then carry the case with me to the golf course.

Let's take a look at a week of PGA Tour autographing.

Monday is usually the worst day to have a ticket. This is a travel day for most golfers. The good ones at least. Mondays usually feature a Pro-Am, with Nationwide Tour regulars who are paired with amateurs who couldn't afford a place in the Celebrity Pro-Am which occurs later in the week. In other words you're better off getting something signed by your local golf pro then you are by any of the "pros" you'll find golfing on Monday.

Tuesday, or Super Tuesday as they call it here, really is super for getting things signed. This is the day that the money list golfers arrive and practice rounds go on all day.

The key on the practice round day is to find a spot by the green on a hole in which the golfers have to walk a long distance to reach the next tee box. You also want to make sure that the green you stakeout is within a short walking distance of a tee box from a later hole on the golf course.

For example in Memphis I sit under a large tree just behind the 1st green. There is about a 150 yard walk between the 1st green and the 2nd tee. However the 8th tee is within 50 yards of the 1st green, so I can get the golfers between the 1st and 2nd hole, and then have a second chance on the eighth hole.

On Tuesday, most fans and collectors wonder around the driving range and the putting green area to catch a glimpse and a signature of their favorite golfer. While you can get some stuff signed in this area, there is usually a mass of people and a good deal of security, and if a player does sign you get a crappy looking signature in most cases.

I just plop myself down under a tree at the end of the first hole, and let the golfers come to me. I would guess that I see maybe a total of ten spectators at my location throughout the day. I cannot recall being turned down once on a Tuesday in my five years worth of golf tournaments.

The only disadvantage of having no one around is that there is no one there to tell you who each golfer is. The best way to identify a golfer is to read the name on his golf bag. However caddies will sometimes throw you a curve and place the golf bags face down so you can't read who the golfer is.

There are two ways to combat this. The first way is to bring a small pair of binoculars with you so that you can begin to identify the golfer as they come down the fairway towards the green. The second way is to familiarize yourself with which golfer is under what sponsorship.

For example David Toms was a Cleveland Golf player for many years along with about five other golfers. I always made a list of the golfers I had pictures of, and on that list put a mark as to their sponsor. So if I didn't get a look at the name on the golf bag, but knew only five of the golfers at the tournament were sponsored by Cleveland, then I'd just check the pictures of those five golfers to see who was on the green at that time.

Once you make the identification it is important to have your items ready. During the practice round most golfers usually golf in pairs or threesomes with the occasional group of four. I always bring five clip boards and around ten sharpies so I can land multiple golfers in each group.

If I do happen to miss a golfer coming off hole one, which can happen a lot in groups of four, I have positioned myself in a place where I can get them once again coming off the eighth hole. This is why setting yourself up in the vicinity of two non-sequential holes is a key.

There is no telling when a top golfer will begin their practice round, and often times you can go forty minutes without seeing a group. This is especially common around lunch time, however a star golfer could strike at any time so I am always very hesitant to move. The other unique aspect of the practice rounds is that you rarely see top golfers golfing together, in fact most will golf along side a group of no names during the practice round. I always get to the golf course no later than 7:00 a.m. as many top players like to hit the course in the morning and then again later in the day to see how it plays.

You may also have the chance to make a few bucks by getting to the course early. A few years ago I set up shop around 6:30 a.m. The second group of the day come through about 6:45 and included PGA journeyman Esteban Toledo. I didn't have anything on him or the other two rookies in his pair, so I just stayed put under my tree. When he was done with the hole Toledo started yelling at me to come see him.

Turns out his caddie had a little too much fun Monday night and didn't show up at the course Tuesday morning. I carried Toledo's bag for two holes and the caddie finally showed up, and I went back to graphing at the first hole. When Toledo came up to the eighth he sent his caddie over with a nice shinny bill in his hand for my trouble.

Wednesday is another good day for autographs as this is the day of the Celebrity Pro-Am tournament. Every top golfer in the tournament will play in this event, so if you missed any big name golfers on Tuesday you should be able to get them here.

The Pro-Am usually tee's off at 7:00 a.m. but their is no need to get to the golf course anytime before 11:00 as these things take forever. Six hour rounds of golf are not uncommon at these events.

While it is still a pretty easy day to get things signed, Wednesday does bring an increased challenge. First of all you are for the most part restricted to the 9th and 18th holes, and between the practice tee and the driving range as your main places to have access to the golfers. Although I have had limited success around the clubhouse itself.

The best bet is to get a pairing sheet, see which golfer you need, which pairings have celebrities you need, and make a sheet listing the order of when they will come off the course. I will then commute between the 9th and 18th greens according to when they will come off. If two golfers I need are coming off different holes at the same time, I always go for the hole closest to the clubhouse. After getting the first golfer, I can usually double back and have a shot at the second golfer walking from the far hole to the clubhouse.

The best place to set yourself up to get a golfer coming off the course is along the roped off golfer walkway section between the green itself and the scoring tent. I usually position myself along the rope about 10 to 15 feet from the green along the walkway. This gives you the most maneuverability in the event that a golfer does not sign coming off the course and you need to reposition yourself.

Here in Memphis golfers come out of the scoring tent on the 9th and take a path around the putting green that leads them to towards the clubhouse. There is about a 25 foot open area between the end of the path and the clubhouse, and if a golfer does not sign on his way off the course, I immediately go to this area. On the 18th the golfers come take a path around the back of the driving range and go through about a 60 foot open area. The open areas are also a great place to snag any celebrities who may not have signed coming off the course, as by this time they blend in with the crowd and no one other than me approaches them.

By the time the actual tournament kicks into gear on Thursday, you should have just about all of your items signed. If you still need to get the few that remain, you may have a difficult time. Security will be at its peak, and the opportunities between the putting green and the driving range will disappear, as will the chance of getting the golfer coming off the 9th or 18th hole. What remains is the PGA sanctioned autograph tent at the 9th and 18th that many golfers will avoid, and that has lines that can be 200 deep at times.

I combat this in two ways. First I always get a spot along the rope on the opposite side of the autograph tent. The golfers that do not stop at the tent will walk by this area. Being the only person there, many will grab my clip board and walk and sign on their way to the clubhouse.

The other place I hang out is around the television broadcast booth. Many times star golfers who golfed well early in the day will come to the booth to do an interview between 3:00 and 5:00 when the tournament is being televised. This is especially true on Saturday and Sunday.

Obviously if a golfer misses the cut on Friday and you haven't got them by then you are pretty much out of luck.

I encourage all autograph seekers to take advantage of a few days of graphing at a PGA Tour stop. The environment at the golf course is a nice change of pace from the usual setting of a ballpark or arena, and you will find golf graphing to bring you the highest level of success of any of the major sports.


 

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