The Final Countdown: On the Tee with the Best in the World
By Keith Stewart, PGA
Nelly Korda begins her downswing for a tee shot.
A caddie walks up to the tee. The name on the bag says it all. The fans start to percolate as the golf bag billboard tells a story. This group is going to be special. The starter checks her notes, and the rules official collects her accouterments. Media members scramble to find their place. Photographers position themselves waiting to capture their shot.
Go time is in 10 MINUTES
Three players approach the first tee at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. One caddie is with them. The third looper lags behind. He must have had one last assignment prior to play. Next to the tee, all six are grouped together. Their customary place to the right just under the signpost for the first hole. Perfect for a photo opportunity, the caddies are busy digging in the bags.
The players approach the rules station. Time for the speech covering any last-minute news and notes. Each grabs their competitor’s card and a hole location sheet. Maybe even an extra copy for the caddie. A couple pleasantries are exchanged on the walk back to the bags. Caddies receive their information sheets. Some even hold the scorecard. The players each dip into the bag one more time.
Suddenly 6 MINUTES are left.
One player grabs her driver and takes a couple practice swings. Another starts marking her golf ball. The routine is so specific. A certain color Sharpie dot on the ball. The weather will be a factor this morning. One caddie checks the umbrella and another ties his bib on. The temperature is cool enough for a lightweight layer. As another player grabs her driver for a couple loose swings, she pulls on each sleeve to set her long sleeve shirt.
4 more MINUTES
The crowd senses we are getting close. One player walks and approaches the metal fencing saying a couple words to their agent and friends. A couple laughs and a hug between them for good luck. The other two are checking their phones. One last survey for a late inspirational text. Maybe a swift check of the exact time. I see it as nervous energy. A dad leans over to his daughter to explain the ritual. He gives his own perspective on teeing off. His last words are a request to keep quiet. Two spectators standing next to them smile watching the interaction.
The spotter gets in position. He pulls out a bright yellow flag. One photographer moves abruptly to another position. He changed his mind on what the perfect place will be to get the perfect shot. The starter was talking to a volunteer. That conversation ceases and she moves back toward the podium.
Headcovers are coming off. Each caddie pulls on their respective drivers. There’s a mist in the air so they wipe off the club face. Most amateurs don’t realize having water across the driver face affects ball flight. The first player grabs her driver and walks over to the tee. Her caddie follows closely, and they discuss the line. He points into the distance, and she confirms his assertion with a nod. Another player grabs a tee. Almost time to go…
The starter checks her microphone. Then one last glance at her sheet and she breaks the silence. “Next on the tee, from Florida, you’re 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA Champion – Nelly Korda.”
We all wonder what the first tee experience is like for the best in the world. It is just like ours. Nerves and rituals alongside a little small talk.
The 2022 KPMG PGA is officially underway. For complete Round 1 television coverage tune into the Golf Channel from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm EDT. Complete coverage is provided at https://www.kpmgwomenspgachampionship.com/.