Pat Bradley & a media day memory
One of the high-holy days for a golf writer during the year is attending a media day. The normal media day involves media members being invited to the tournament course a couple months before the event’s playing. The defending champion, or sometimes a star player if the defender isn’t available, is on hand to mix with the media and discuss the event, and then the media plays the course and sits down to a great meal.
The idea, from the tournament organizer’s point of view, is to have the media then go back to their outlets and file reports to build enthusiasm for the event. As far as the writers and reporters are concerned, however, if they are totally honest, the fine food and golf are a mighty strong attraction for the day as well. Sure, they’ll do their due diligence to help the PR campaign, but getting pampered is an awfully nice feeling. Mmmm, there is something about working long hours, often in hot, humid air outdoors and 32-degree AC in the media building, that makes free food so enjoyable, so the golf media members take it when they can get it. There have been many memorable assaults on appetizer tables that are legendary among the writing brethren.
It was in a media day setting that I experienced a wonderful moment with LPGA legend Pat Bradley, who turns 66 on March 24 and is aunt to PGA Tour player Keegan Bradley. I gained insight to the engaging personality she had on tour, and the moment I shared with her was typical of the effort the LPGA has been so well known for in promoting their events.
As a bright-eyed golf writer for the Daily Pantagraph in Bloomington, Illinois, in the early 1980s, I went to the media day for the Rail Charity Classic, in Springfield. Bradley was there, and during the breakout media session I got to chat with her and get notes to write a story. Typical stuff, and something she’d done hundreds of times. We’d never met before but she was attentive to my questions. After the interviews, it was fun time: lunch, and the media groupmoved to carts for the 18-hole round on The Rail course.
My group got through the front nine, and as we played the par-4 10th, me, playing my normal game, dumped my second shot into a greenside bunker. As I got ready to play my third, I didn’t realize that Bradley, who had been riding around in a cart watching play, was now observing our group. I then, uncharacteristically, hit my sand shot stiff, and as I’m leaving the bunker I hear, “Cliff, that was a great shot. Nice going!” I turned and saw Pat, with a big smile, giving me applause from the cart. I smiled and gave a thumbs-up response.
Bradley’s reaction made a deep impression on me: that she would recall my first name, that she was genuinely pleased at my good fortune, and in the big picture, that I would fade from her memory but she knew the tournament would benefit from a writer having a good time.
More than 30 years later, that moment may seem like a small, throwaway gesture by a Hall of Fame golfer to a small-market writer. But it’s much more than that; the interaction with a pro is what media days are all about.