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|| News Item: Posted 2003-05-31

It's All About Annika
By Robert Beck, Sports Illustrated

Photo by Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated

Photo by Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated

Annika is greeted by the fans.
I landed late last Tuesday night in Dallas after spending most of the previous night in a hospital with my son. I had thrown a pop-up a bit too high and it conked him right on the temple. The only good thing about head trauma is that it will get you through the emergency line a lot quicker. Especially if you are only eight. I wouldn't recommend it but just keep that in mind. Five hours of watching people with squished appendages and a cat scan later Bub was pronounced okay. Sort of. We had to keep a close eye on him for a few days.

Anyway I kept such a close eye on him I forgot to pack my shorts. I had to fall into The Gap to pick up a couple pair before checking in at The Colonial Country Club. It was going to be a hot week.

Great news...I got front row parking and my assistant is on time! We check in and get our rain gear ready for the day. Good thing. It poured for most of Annika Sorenstam's pro-am round which was eventually canceled after the front nine. We all went home to dry out for Thursday's round.

Annika teed off from the tenth tee early in the morning on Thursday. TV types had staked out much of the front row near the tee box. I went behind the box off to one side (the scorers tent was in the way). My idea was to show the media crush filming her first shot. I was there plenty early to work out the logistics with security, announcers, TV geeks and marshals. It was looking good.

When she stepped to the tee everyone forgot where my shoot lines were. I did get a great shot of the FBI guy and announcer from behind. Annika was behind them....I think. Not a very good start.

Photo by Robert Seale / The Sporting News

Photo by Robert Seale / The Sporting News

Robert Beck in action.
The marshals and security were out of their minds. It was a little hectic. Many of the photogs had no experience shooting golf and there were more than a few instances of snaps during OTHER player's backswings because people were only concentrating on Annika. I'd say about 7-9 media types lost their credentials the first day. Half a dozen more headed in because of the heat so it wasn't too bad. Some media babies bitched about it being too crowded and the fans barked out the usual "We've been here for two hours" crap. Hey. What'd they expect? I only drank about eight bottles of water and my assistant only fell in the mud once.

The second day Annika started late in the afternoon on the front nine. It was PACKED. A lot more media (she had done very well on the opening day and it looked as though she might make the cut) and a ton more fans. It was just as crowded as any big Tiger day for the first three holes.

The fans were going crazy for her. They were ten deep on each side of the ropes. They were hanging in the trees. They were hanging over the fences from outside the grounds. It really was a sight. It was electric. She birdied the second hole and they went crazy. She was heading for the horrible horseshoe (holes four through six) ready to roll...And her putting began to give her fits. It had been her only downfall on Thursday.

The crowd, both inside and outside the ropes, started fading away. Then the heat kicked in and the energy was sucked out of everyone.I had one more big shot I wanted to get of her though.

On Thursday, a couple of us had climbed up on one of the clubhouse balconies to shoot her tee shot on 17 from above and behind to show the crowd. The shot on Thursday was good but the light was pretty flat.

On Friday the crowd was not as big but the light was better. The real problem was that security was not letting any photogs up there on Friday. The tournament photographer and I pleaded our cases to the powers that be but they held fast.

I decided to bluff my way into the clubhouse where the elite were cooling their heels. I wound around to the kitchen on the second floor and asked where the door was to the outside balcony. They showed me the way and I headed down the hall...And back outside on the first floor! Wrong door. So I ran back around to the front, blasted past the guards and headed back to
Photo by Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated

Photo by Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated

This is the view from the balcony.
the kitchen. "Second floor balcony?" I said. "Oh, right around behind the dishwasher." I found the door and had a group before Annika's showed up. I couldn't go out on the balcony or I would be thrown out.I watched through the crack in the door and when Anni's group approached the tee I had the hired help hop out on the balcony. He held the door open just enough so that I could shoot but so no one could see me. Worked like a charm.

Basically all that was left was the shot of her finishing out her round to a standing O on 18. She parred 18, tipped her hat, chucked the ball and shed a few tears. The crowd gave her the O. It was really a pretty cool scene.

Annika missed the weekend but Justin Leonard and Kenny Perry made it somewhat interesting. Both flirted with shooting magical 59s. Kenny on Saturday, when he ran away from the field, and Justin Leonard on Sunday. I jumped off Perry the last day to catch up with Leonard on 15. He had no chance of catching the leader Perry but he was close to 59. He had to birdie three of the last four holes to get it.

He birdied 15 and looked like he was feeling it. Usually, Justin doesn't look like he's feeling anything. He had to wait a bit before teeing off on the par three 16. He found the left side bunker but made a decent up and down to save par. He birdied 16 with a 15-footer and give us a double pump. Ohhh this was good.

Photo by Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated

Photo by Robert Beck / Sports Illustrated

Annika hits out of the sand.
He opened with a good drive on 18 then....chunked his approach and didn't even make the green. He didn't even give himself a CHANCE to birdie the damn thing. His chip went a mile past the hole and he didn't even hole the comebacker. He bogied the f**ker! I gave my assistant (Kevin Cox, upright and less muddy) the cards to ship and waited for the final group to come through.

I would shoot Perry winning and transmit those images from home later that night for possible usage. Or so I thought. I packed everything up and headed for the airport after Perry gave up a judo kick punch combo jubo shot. I settled into takeoff mode and got out my computer to do my editing. Got out the card sleeve and opened it up...No card!

I tore through the rest of my gear as soon as I landed. Still no card. I called Hertz. Still no card.

If you travel I-35 in Texas I bet you'll see my card being ground into the asphalt. Guess I shouldn't have called Leonard a choker. Bad karma.

See you next week at the Padre game.

(Robert Beck is a staff photographer with Sports Illustrated, based in Southern California. If you don't see him walking the fairways of the top PGA events of the year, you'll find him pounding the waves on a surf board. He will be teaching a breakout class at the upcoming Sports Shooter Workshop & Luau entitled: "Get off that Computer & Get Back to the Light Table".)

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