NORMAN — By noon Thursday, the “beer trailer,” for lack of a better name, had been rolled into the scoreboard courtyard south of the clubhouse.
Already, all the names had been put up on the boards that will adorn the scoreboard, though the planks remained in the clubhouse, waiting to be moved the following day.
The goodies afforded the players, of which there are always many, and that always includes a commemorative hat from event sponsor OklahomaTickets.com, were in the snack bar before dinner time, waiting to be dispersed.
The food will come in today. As will 132 golfers (and perhaps still more if the Second Flight fills up at the last moment) for the 38th annual Westwood Invitational.
It is the tourney nobody might have guessed would go on to be the state’s largest stroke play event, and yet here it is again in all of its glory, ready to go on another memorable year.
There are a few names missing, perhaps. There is not a Metzger in the field, when once there were four. There is only one Blevins in the field, when once there were four.
Local favorite Taylor Artman isn’t here, but he has a good reason, spending the summer on the professional Adams Tour. Ditto for two-time champion Sam Powell, whose 192 remains the best three-round total in tourney history.
Greg Bray, always a favorite and an old Westwood hand, couldn’t make it. Instead, he’s busy being an assistant pro in Andover, Kan.
But Kelsey Cline is back to defend his title and maybe win Championship Flight for an amazing fifth time. And Michael Gellerman, who should be in the Sooner top five as soon as the fall is in the field.
So is Mark Crabtree, who has a second- and two third-place finishes over the years, as well as Austen Fuller, a teammate of Gellerman’s, still hoping to make a collegiate mark after graduating from Edmond North.
The course, never long, is in fantastic shape, thanks to so much rain and a summer that finally arrived. The greens are fast enough to excite a skilled a putter and fast enough to depress a bad one.
What else do you want?
As it turned out, Thursday was a great day to play the course.
The Fourth of July, the venerable layout was none too busy while, presumably, most of the local golf community hung with family, celebrating the birth of a nation.
The wind wasn’t blowing much, play was quick, there was nothing not to like. Today, Saturday and Sunday may be wonderful, but also very different.
The course will be flooded with golfers, playing all four of their majors at the same time, because when else does an amateur tee it up three consecutive days, put everything out and count every stroke?
Some will find their game. Many more will wonder where theirs went, for it is the nature of the beast, because 54 holes of playing everything as it lies and picking nothing up on the green is no picnic.
Also, for all the ups and downs, and every forgettable and embarrassing thing each player will encounter, none would have it any other way. Not really. That, too, is the nature of the beast.
The sport gives and takes, but the Westwood Invitational remains an event not to be missed.
Whatever it is about the game that demands we play, from the camaraderie of friends, to telling lies at the 19th hole, to the chance to see what you’ve got when the money and glory, however little, is on the line, it will be on display today, Saturday and Sunday.
It is the Westwood Invitational and there’s still nothing like it.
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