with Robert Bicknell
By the time you read this, both the Masters tournament and the Norfolk Invitational are both over. Normally, I write about the Norfolk a week or so in advance, but I realized that since it IS an "invitational" event (meaning, you have to be invited, you cannot just sign-up like other conventional "open" events), all I was doing was giving the organizers additional headaches because everyone would call to try and get in.
The Masters is a special event for many different reasons, as is the Norfolk Invitational, but of course on very different levels. Please do not think I am crazy enough to equate a local event, regardless of how prestigious it is, with the Masters at Augusta National.
But, then again, just for the fun of it… let's see…
First of all, they are both "invitational" events. (Please refer opening paragraph).
Second, they are both held at the same golf club each time.
Third, they are both held on the same date every year.
Fourth, they are both well organized prestigious events (on different scales).
Lastly, everyone wants to get into them, but cannot.
Yes, there is a major difference in the skill level of players and overall prestige, but on the other hand, The Masters doesn't have Audi's and Benzes as Hole in One prizes, so… nyah.
Also, the Masters gives you a green jacket, while the Norfolk gives trophies, prizes and, most importantly…there is a Lucky Draw… BOOM! Take that Augusta!
Pimento sandwiches are nice, but cannot compare to steak sandwiches from Corso… BOOM!!
While all of this is in good fun, the case can be argued that the benefit of an Invitational tournament is that the organizers can decide who to invite, who to keep out and what they want to do in general.
In this aspect, both the Augusta National and Norfolk are the same. They know who they want to attend and who they do not, and pressuring them will not make a bit of difference. They control the entire event from start to finish. Sponsors for both are there at the invitation of the organizer and if the sponsor fails to live up to his obligation, they won't be asked back next time.
In contrast with an "Open" event, if you meet the basic criteria (breathing and paying the entry fee) you can get in. This also leads to headaches as some players might have handicaps of 10 while others never played on a course before and will take 50 shots to reach the green on a Par 4. This is the danger of not controlling the field.
Open events are held for many reasons, most of which are to raise money, either for the organizer, the club or a charity. Sometimes it's all three and sometimes just to raise revenue. When this is the case, expect a long day out there and try to keep a positive mental attitude.
Having said that, I am looking forward to the Norfolk this year as it was skipped last year due to technical reasons.
It's also the last Norfolk event for local pro Rick Blackie who will take up residence overseas at another project. Rick was one of the real straight shooters and a heck of a guy. His knowledge, level-headedness, advice and friendship will be missed by us here in Viet Nam's golf industry.
Best of luck Rick!
As to the "Tiger-less" Masters event this year, I dare say he wasn't missed at all. Many of the younger players stepped up to provide some very dramatic moments and proved they have the game to hang with the more experienced names out there.
OK, sure, Rory, Phil and Jason Day bit the dust early, but Jordan Spieth, Jonas Blixt, Jimmy Walker and even Kevin Stadler (son of the Walrus) showed everyone they have the skills to keep people interested in the game, even in a Tigerless environment.
Of course, I was just happy watching Fred Couples out there and lasting all four rounds. OK, he didn't pull off the miracle win, but just seeing him out there and in contention was enough to keep me happy. Couples is probably the nicest and most loved player on the Tour, so it's always a treat to see him in action.