By Rob Daniels
It's one hour into the second round of the Greensboro Regional in the NCAA men's golf tournament, and a volunteer in the scoring office has offended fate in the first degree.
"Seems to be going pretty smoothly," the man says.
The observation greatly resembles the TV broadcaster's fifth-inning declaration of a no-hitter in progress. It is immediately met with moans and groans and subtle searches for wooden objects on which to knock.
The mostly volunteer crew in this converted meeting room at the Grandover Resort braces for a technological revolt, a weather delay or something else to knock the score-collection process off course. But they keep going as best they can, continuing a process of choreography in which data are relayed from 25 walking scorers to four intermediaries, who organize and collect the results and pass them along to Phil Perry, UNCG's interim director of media relations and the manager of this convention of crosstalk. Perry then enters the individual scores into Golfstat, the website that makes everything comprehensible to the masses.
Consider this the 1,005th reason that golf is unlike everything else in sports. A basketball game is played on a single surface, all of which is readily visible to everybody. At its peak, this golf tournament, hosted by UNCG and the Greensboro Sports Commission under the aegis of the NCAA, is playing out on 18 venues at once.
And every couple of minutes, four or five of them have news to report. Players from Mount St. Mary's, George Washington and Cal State-Northridge, known this day as Group 22, have just finished the 10th hole. Meanwhile, Matt Schovee of SMU, the first-round leader, has just played his first hole of the day. Can't ignore that.
The communication tools are push-to-talk phones supplied by Verizon, an official corporate partner of UNCG athletics. And they are efficient. In one especially hectic period, four groups are passing along their information, and they and their score-takers in the office combine to produce 17 push-to-talk tones. That's one every 3.5 seconds.
"This is Group 13," one reporter tells a score-taker.
"Go ahead, Group 20," a second receiver says almost simultaneously.
Five seconds later, this: "Are you handling Group 11?"
It's enough to drive most of us to frustration, but Perry sits in a comfy chair and juggles it with the aplomb of Harry Anderson, the comedian and actor once known for negotiating a watermelon, a bowling ball and a running chainsaw simultaneously.
One by one, his deputies relay their scores and everything stays on track. There are moments of uncertainty, caused chiefly by dead cell zones on the course that preclude immediate communication from fairway to clubhouse. In those events, Perry dispatches others to track down the scorers and get the information online as soon as possible.
This team's work is not official; it is a service to the public. The official scores are kept by the players themselves and are not certified as final until each man signs his card. But so far, there have been few discrepancies, and that's pretty impressive.
In each round, each of the event's 75 players has 21 numbers to report: one for each of the 18 holes and totals for the front nine, the back nine and the final 18-hole. That works out to 1,575 data-entry events and 3,150 keystrokes per day.
Try to get that perfect. Then consider the pitfalls of static. Did he say "four" or "five" for that guy? And which Florida Gator was that: J.D. Tomlinson or T.J. Vogel?
This much is certain: They're not going to get cocky.
- UNCG -