with Robert Bicknell
As you read this, the Masters is in full swing and leaders are fighting for the green jacket. One of my favourite tournaments, it's always held at the same course, at the same time of year and always by invitation only. Yes, unlike the US Open or Open Championship (aka British Open for our US readers), the Masters is an "invitational" which means ft you ain't invited, you ain't getting' in.
I take great delight in knowing many English teachers in Viet Nam just spit their coffee all over their desks due to the use of slang and poor grammar. Did you know that most Americans pronounce it "gramma"? Not too bad when you consider many pronounce "aunt" as "ant" especially in the northeast. More coffee, more desks and probably a shirt ruined. OK, I digress, but I love it.
Occasionally, we will have "invitational" tournaments here in Viet Nam, but those not invited still find a way to get in, either through a friend, a sponsor exemption or pressure from a high-ranking friend.
Except for the Norfolk Invitational Tournament, which operates as close to the Masters than any other event in Viet Nam. First of all, it's always held at the same time as the Masters. Second, it's always on the same course (Viet Nam Golf&Country Club's West Course), they both quietly make donations to charity and lastly, its invitation only.
OK, sure, there isn't a green jacket available and I haven't seen Azaleas anywhere on the course, but unlike the Masters, the Norfolk Invitational does offer four Audi automobiles as Hole-in-One prizes.
Why should the Norfolk be the hardest entry for golfers in Viet Nam and why does everyone burn up the phone lines to the Norfolk Group trying to get in?
Well, partially because it is an premier annual event, all the prizes, gifts and trophies are top quality. But, also because it is a status symbol of sorts. Whenever you can get into something that nobody else can, it's a little uplifting for those in, and depressing for those who are not.
However, it's not that Norfolk is being snobby, but rather that they hold the event more as a "thank you" for corporate elite, clients and patrons of the various projects of the Norfolk Group and long time friends of the group.
It's sort of a family affair, but on a corporate level.
As for me, I think I have attended every Norfolk Invitational tournament since the beginning, and actually threatened to quit working at one club when the owner decided I couldn't take the day off and fly south (on my own cost) to attend. In the end, the owner agreed, but was surprised that I would go so far as to quit over a golf tournament.
Sorry, but, like the Masters, it's more than just a golf tournament…
OK, onwards… Many pundits and columnists were loading the websites and magazines with their views on would Tiger Woods play or not; would Rory win or not; would Tiger being in the event help Rory or not.
Thankfully, they burned themselves out on that subject and moved onto more important subjects, such as Tiger Woods rockin' and boppin' to music while practicing his chipping; Tiger Woods' kids caddying for him in the Par 3 contest; Bubba Watson not being allowed to serve Waffle House for the champion's dinner; and Miguel Jimenez crab-walking and taking selfies.
OK, there was also an interesting item *yawn* about Bubba Watson not being such a popular guy with the other guys on Tour. Watson did make a reply that he needed to learn from it - or words to that effect. But inside he was probably thinking "what has you more aggravated: my two Masters' jackets, my hovercart or my General Lee Charger?"
It was probably the hovercart that pissed them off.
So, needless to say, Tiger claims his short game has improved enough to tee off at Augusta, Rory has a feel good video with Tiger, Jimenez entertains the crowds and the event is under way.
By the way, if you see a 6-foot 6-inch monster with his own gravitational field roaming the crowds, don't be alarmed. It's just Ben Styles from The Bluffs treating himself to a well-earned VIP holiday.
And THAT is a ticket that makes me envious… — VNS