Friday, September 22, 2006

Look who does the work


Chronicle photo by Michael Maloney

This morning our broadband connection was not working, so I read the paper. Maybe I should do that more often. Sports columnist Scott Osler offered a story that catches the human reality of our immigrant-dependent society.

Since this is a golf story and it is not about Tiger Woods, I better give some background. The subject might be a little obscure to most of us. Probably the last woman golfer to make an impression on the public imagination was Babe Didrikson half a century ago. Anyway, there is a "Ladies Professional Golf Association" and the players play a daunting tournament schedule like the male pros -- just without much notice or nearly the money the men get.

Lorena Ochoa, a Mexican national, is this year's leading money winner on the LPGA tour. You may never have heard of her, but apparently those invisible phantoms who manicure greens so that others can recreate all know about her:

They are proud of Lorena. And she of them. When Ochoa showed up at Blackhawk on Monday for a practice round, "All of them (the workers) were waiting for me and watching me play," she said.

They call out to her as she passes. "You can do it, Lorena!" They ask her, "Have you seen the course? It's in good shape; we've been working hard to keep it in shape."...

To give back some of that love, Ochoa will drop in on her compadres this morning at the golf course maintenance shed. It's something she does at many tournaments, gets together with the crew and shakes hands with the guys with the dirt under their fingernails....

Mexico, population 102 million, has only about 18,000 golfers. Because of the nation's socioeconomics, it's not likely that Ochoa's LPGA success will set off a boom in Mexican golf at the grass-roots level. But she definitely is a role model and a national hero.

Unlike our home grown products of privilege, Ochoa at least remembers that someone must be doing the work. You have to wonder, have some in the U.S. treated her with the same disdain they would display toward on the greenskeepers?

5 comments:

sfmike said...

I actually adore the LPGA and usually watch the U.S. Women's Open each year which is often more interesting than the men's tournament. The fact that you hadn't heard of Lorena before just illuminates the fact that you haven't been paying much attention to this particular niche. Korea practically shuts down when one of their female golfers wins a major tournament in the United States (Se Ri Park is just one of the most famous of the recent "Korean invasion" of the LPGA). Annika Sorenstram and Michelle Wie are also currently playing against professional male golfers and are doing more to change gender and sports expectations than anyone around.

So it's an interesting time. And I'm glad the mostly Mexican grounds crews at fancy golf courses like Blackhawk have Lorena to root for. However, a good worker at a golf course is not the anonymous day laborer who works gardening jobs at rich people's condo complexes and estates. They tend to be considered an integral part of the place.

At least, that's my take.

Renegade Eye said...

I found this blog surfing.

Very interesting, well written post.

Now with Mexico, having two governments, maybe more golfers, will be created.

janinsanfran said...

I stand enlightened. Guess I should stay away from things I know nothing about. :-)

BTW -- my image of the shadowy, semi-invisible phantoms manicuring the landscape comes from my one stay in Palm Desert. Still true?

sfmike said...

Haven't played golf in the desert yet because it's been too hot, it's way too expensive, and I hate obviously "manufactured nature" golf courses (which means just about ALL desert courses). I tend to like ones that play with nature as it exists.

Will report on the "shadowy, semi-invisible phantoms" when I do encounter it because you're right, it's a fascinating subject. At present I'm trying to bond with one of the coolest old-men tennis doubles groups I've ever encountered that hangs out in a public park in Palm Springs.

Nell said...

Just a few weeks ago I watched the first women's golf I'd seen in almost a decade; all the players SFMike mentions were among the leaders except Wie (who, I think, passed up the tournament due to injury; I only caught the last five holes of the last round).

Annika Sorenstram is just a force of nature; she didn't make a single mistake on the holes I saw.

I was rooting for Lorena Ochoa, but she was too far off the lead when I started watching to have a chance.

It's good to be able to say "LPGA" so as not to have to call the players "Ladies." Just as with 'NAACP'.

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