The world's friendliest golf tournament
Even Tiger Woods might smile in a Houston Open
One of the first things you notice when you walk into the Shell Houston Open — especially if you've gone to other pro golf tournaments around the country — is the smiles.
There's no one shaking you down at the entrance, all but conducting a cavity search to ensure that no one brings in that always deadly-cellphone (yes, you can probably sneaks yours in, but don't let it ring). Instead, there's a self-check cellphone tent, an actual honors' system in the year 2010. Yes, it's shocking, but grown men and women are treated like adults. At least if you go through the red parking lot entrance, which isn't even the official media entrance (most tournaments shake down reporters, demanding authorization stickers for cellphones anyways).
The marshals at Redstone Golf Club also obviously need immediate retraining. Because these volunteers aren't the usual storm-trooper, power-hungry types you find at almost every other PGA Tour stop. They don't act like the fate of the free world depends on their raising of those little placards asking for quiet. They don't treat Houston golf fans the way police officers approach a drunk college kid, which is sadly standard tournament marshal operating procedure around the rest of the country.
Maybe, it's because Houston's marshals aren't all bitter 70-year-olds (sorry Arizona) who regard their little piece of assigned golf course turf like it's their own front lawn under siege from a bunch of punks.
But the loony differences of the Houston Open even extend to the security guys. They actually say hi to passing fans. It's so jarring at first, that I always have to remind myself that I'm in Houston (OK Humble). I've covered PGA Tour tournaments around the country. For years, golf was my beat — and I've seen Tour stops all around the country. And there's nothing else as relaxed, as welcoming, as the Houston Open. This attitude at the Houston Open probably helped lay a subliminal foundation for my decision to move here.
You just can't come to the Houston Open as an out-of-towner and not feel welcome. I'm reminded of that now even when I show up as a resident media member.
This type of sunny-side writing doesn't come easy to me (it's actually sort of making me sick — as anyone who's read me in even just my brief time at CultureMap can attest, I can be a harsh critic). I pride myself on being a measured cynic who never sugarcoats things. I'll tell you the truth about what a phony sports figure like Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is really like (the first thing most people ask you when they found out you've been a sportswriter is how the athletes and coaches really act and I've never understood why so many sportswriters lie with their answers).
Believe it or not, Tiger Woods didn't just suddenly turn grumpy when he backed into that fire hydrant. And University of Houston athletic director Mack Rhoades didn't suddenly start making dumb decisions in this comically-completed coaching search.
And the truth is no PGA Tour stop is more friendly and relaxed than Houston's. It's just run with class.
Now, I've been put in a good mood. Damn this place.