Amateur Golfers Ride Roller Coaster of Emotions at Pro-Am

Peter Salvati stood off the green on the first hole just hoping to chip it close to the pin. In view of one of the greatest golfers in history, Tiger Woods, he hit a shot that sailed over the green. “Fore!” someone yelled. His ball came within five feet of hitting a spectator. He picked up his ball and moved to the next hole.

This was the pressure of playing the Zurich Pro-Am at San Diego’s Torrey Pines Golf Course. Golf can be frustrating on its own. Adding cameras, spectators and the excitement of playing next to Tiger Woods can be enough to throw anyone off their game.

Salvati, who works in the commercial construction industry in San Diego, said he knew Tiger likes to keep the pace of play moving quickly, so he quit playing the hole. “I’m not going to have people watch me hit back and forth over the green,” he said.

Others were equally frazzled. Young Kwan from Orange County said he usually scores in the high 90s. Young hadn’t played in about a year. He had hoped to get some practice time before the tournament, but his busy schedule did not allow it.

He revealed his strategy before teeing-off with pro golfer Marc Leichman. “Have a great time and don’t be the worst one of the course,” said Kwan. After sinking a birdie putt on the third hole of the North Course, he said, “I’m having fun!”

Pro-Am tournaments like this one allow amateurs or occasional golfers a small taste of the pressures felt by the professionals: clicking cameras, a gallery of eyes glaring at every move, reactions from the crowd that exacerbate the extraordinary excitement of great shots and the miserable disappointment of a stroke gone awry.

The bigger picture was not lost on San Diego amateur golfer Jeff Baglio while he waited to start his round with professional Carl Petterson. “No matter how frustrating it is, you have to remember that you’re out here playing golf with a pro,” he said. “And that’s a lot of fun.”

After finishing the ninth hole, Peter Salvati followed Tiger to watch the cluster of reporters pepper him with questions. Outside the press area, his caddie revealed he shot 46 on the front nine holes of the North Course, which he called his usual performance.

Salvati said he had a great time, remarking that he does business with Zurich, the sponsor of the Pro-Am. This allowed him an invitation to play with the Tiger. “It was the invitation of a lifetime,” he said.

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