Amateur diary: The feeling of life on the road

Alison Whitaker

Alison Whitaker

It’s amazing what players can learn when they leave their home country to play competitive golf. You learn more about the game, the world and about yourself.

My very first golf trip was to England for the British Amateur. I remember sitting on the Singapore airlines flight reading good luck letters from my best friends back in Melbourne and feeling the little sting of being homesick already. The experience was made worse when I learned that Michael Buble had released a new song called “Home” that was about leaving the ones you love to chase a dream, which happened to be playing on every radio station I flicked through.

I landed at Heathrow airport 21 hours later and was greeted by my dad’s cousins with whom I would be staying with for the first few days. We got back to the house and I unpacked, then went downstairs for dinner (I promise I’m getting to a point). We ate curry, and as I walked back up the stairs to my bedroom, I was hit by a huge wave of sadness.

I was completely overwhelmed, so I pulled out my diary, wrote down the time, and gave myself a happiness rating out of 5 stars.

When I woke up the next morning, my energy was restored and all seemed well in the world.

The next week I ventured to the United States to play in the Colorado Open, and to my surprise I was greeted by a similar burn of sadness.

“Hmmmm,” I thought to myself. “I see a theme emerging.”

Sure enough, six years down the track I still get homesick after dinner on the first night in a new city, and simply learning that the feeling is coming has made it much easier to deal with.

In college golf, things are a little different. Instead of learning about yourself, you learn about coaches and teammates. Food patterns, sleep patterns, homework and luggage patterns are noted and after four years at Duke I think I probably have the ability to predict a typical travel dinner:

Anna Grzebien’s first question would be “What kind of diet soda do you have?” She would continue to order a Diet Sprite.

Coach Bastel will order a Diet Coke and promise to start kicking her addiction the following week instead.

Amanda Blumenherst (when attempting to order a salad with balsamic dressing on the side) would ask “Do your salads have the healthy (spinach) or unhealthy lettuce (romaine)?”. When they replied healthy she would simply settle for an Arnold Palmer.

Both Jennie Lee and Kim Donovan would then go on to order a bowl of whatever type of chowder there is to offer for a starter, followed by the Lobster Ravioli for main.

Before he orders, the team will remind Coach Brooks of his previous run-ins with the exceptionally spicy Shrimp Diablo and encourage him not to order it again.

My teammates would probably predict that I would order the steak; and they would probably be right.

And finally as the waiter turned to walk away, we would realize we forgot to ask for bread and pledge to ask him the next time they were within earshot.

The meal would progress and after three games of Mash where it is decided by chance that Lindy Duncan will have to cram her nine kids into a two-person smart car sometime in the distant future, the team would load into the van and pick up some ice cream on the way back to the hotel.

After a few years together, a team turns into a well-oiled machine. Those of us with ailing backs learned quickly to avoid Amanda’s travel bag (identified by a much-dreaded pink ribbon). And when Jennifer Pandolfi was on the team we would all take sweats to sleep in since she kept the air-conditioning at arctic temperatures.

Some of the girls were light sleepers, long sleepers and some were loud sleepers; but it never ceased to amaze me that six very different people could get along so well.

I guess it just goes to show how unifying a common goal can be for a group of misfits.

Right now I’m back in the US of A – Colorado to be exact – and I am loving the warm, dry climate. The next few days will be taken up by both preparation for next week’s tournaments, and food/homemaking in my new abode. Having said that, even a quiet week in an American summer still has the potential to surprise you. I’ll keep you posted on my discoveries!

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