An All-American kind of time

Finally back home from the Western Refining College All-American Golf Classic. Here are some highlights from El Paso:

1. A great tournament. For most of the final round it looked like Dustin Garza was going to win. Unfortunately, his 3-wood tee shot on No. 18 looked like it was going to land on the left side of the fairway, but it hit a hill and kicked left under a tree, forcing him to punch out. One playoff hole later, Hunter Hamrick earned the victory.

You really had to be there to hear the sorrow from the crowd when Garza walked off 18 with a double bogey. You had to be there to witness Hamrick’s birdie putt to force a playoff and hear the crowd erupt. I know I have already said this, but you had to be there!

2. The dinners. On Friday night the players gathered at the El Paso Country Club for their welcome dinner. Forget how great the food was, because that was topped by the entertainment for the night. Everybody was enjoying their dinner when all of the sudden, “Hail to the Chief” came on over the speakers. At first, everyone looked at each other like “No way, Obama is here?” Well, he was . . . but he wasn’t. Ushered in by “Secret Service,” an Obama impersonator took the stage. For about 15 minutes everyone got to hear the fake Obama talk about his first year in office, and of course throw some jabs at his predecessor. I even have a (cell-phone quality) picture I can now show to everyone telling them I met President Obama.

On Saturday night everyone was shuttled to the Sun Bowl, home to the UTEP Miners football team as well as the annual Sun Bowl bowl game played at the end of the year. We were all taken to a banquet room atop the stadium with an amazing view. The stadium was built in the mountains with an end-zone view of Mexico. Yours truly emceed the event and interviewed Ricky Barnes. We discussed he 2009 U.S. Open, his success at the Western Refining College All-American Golf Classic, and how hard it is for a young player to make it as a pro.

Sunday night was a night I will never forget. Dinner that night was at the El Paso Sherriff Posse’s club, a men’s horse club from what I’ve been told. When we arrived we were welcomed by a Texas-sized steak and potato dinner, but the real fun was outside. Players were being taught how to lasso. That counted as the comedy for the week. Each player made several attempts, but I only witnessed two lasso the target. One was Texas’ Lance Lopez, and the other was Charlotte’s Cory Nagy. I made 11 attempts and finished 0-for-11, unless you count the time I hit myself in the head.

3. The hosts. I have been to a lot of amateur events over the last couple of years, but the hosts in El Paso truly appreciate every second of this event. The All-American Golf Classic brought in a hospitality tent for the players at the hotel, and it had anything and everything a player could need. The tent was always stocked with cold drinks, plenty of snacks, arcades, big screens to watch football, comfy couches and hosts to hang out with. The hosts always picked up their player from the tent bright and early for their round, shared a snack back at the tent after, and exchanged stories and memories after dinner. At times I didn’t know who was enjoying their time more, the players or hosts.

This was a great experience. The 32 golfers that competed in the Western Refining College All-American Golf Classic felt like they were actually participating in a bowl game. The weekend had that type of feel, and the tournament had that much excitement to the end.

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