There’s this band from Knoxville, Tenn., called The Dirty Guv’nahs, and they’ve been compared to the Black Crowes, and on Friday and Saturday they played free concerts after scorecards were signed at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin.
A pal who was there Friday said there might have been six people listening to The Dirty Guv’nahs.
Now, maybe you could draw the conclusion that this was the wrong demographic, that pro golf fans are not necessarily Dirty Guv’nahs fans, because the lead singer for The Dirty Guv’nahs — a fellow named James Trimble — was dressed like Bruce Springsteen: gray shirt, black vest, jeans, industrial-style boots.
Most people who watch pro golf do not wear industrial-style boots.
Most people who watch pro golf wear little alligators on their shirts, or little polo players.
But on Thursday and Friday and even on Saturday, there weren’t a whole lot of those people watching pro golf at TPC Summerlin, either.
So perhaps James Trimble and The Dirty Guv’nahs shouldn’t feel so bad playing American roots rock ’n’ roll in front of a mosh pit of six.
Sunday’s crowd was much better.
I even saw a person under 30.
Her name is Natalie McCarthy and she is 29 — she looked younger. She was sporting colorful tattoos up one arm. She might have liked The Dirty Guv’nahs.
“I’ve never been to anything like this, but I’ve played some nine holes,” she said.
She didn’t say which nine holes. I’m assuming it wasn’t the front nine at Butler National, or the back side at Medinah Country Club.
But she was lounging on the boulders outside The Hill party tent, and she and her friend Mike were sipping on reasonably priced cocktails overlooking the 18th fairway. And Natalie McCarthy seemed to be enjoying watching pro golf in person, because three weeks ago she moved here from Chicago, where a cold front was blowing in.
There were a lot of people in the party tent on The Hill, which for the first time was open to people without little alligators or polo men on their shirts. They were standing in lines 10 deep for reasonably priced cocktails, and they were watching the pros play football in high definition on 34 TV sets.
I hiked out to the new spectator viewing platform on the edge of the green on the drivable par-4 15th — I’m calling it Bartman’s Corner, because the platform and pin placement are so close to the green you can almost reach out and interfere with approach shots — and there also were a lot of people there.
Small galleries were forming everywhere. So maybe becoming a FedEx Cup event, rather than a guys-looking-to-hang-onto-their-tour-cards event, is having the desired impact at the turnstiles.
At least on Sunday.
“If we had four days like today, we’re probably not having this conversation,” said Adam Sperling, the boyish-looking tournament director.
This is Sperling’s fifth year. He and his staff have done everything imaginable to attract crowds to the TPC, short of paying people to come out and letting strippers serve as caddies.
“We opened The Hill to the public, we had free concerts, we built a public viewing platform on the 15th — we’ve got a Pinkberry (handcrafted yogurt bar) up there — food on The Hill, everything from fish tacos to barbecue to veggie wraps to Asian chicken salad to …”
What they don’t have is Tiger or Phil or Ben Hogan, as former tournament director Charlie Baron would say whenever you asked when Tiger and Phil were coming back. But the guy who won the tournament, Webb Simpson, won the U.S. Open in 2012.
The playing field is not the problem.
I think the problems are the same old ones: no place to park; location, or lack of a central one — a lot of people who live in Green Valley do not want to drive to Summerlin and leave the Lexus at the Suncoast before getting on a shuttle.
The NFL on Sunday; college football on Saturday.
And that while Las Vegas would seem the quintessential country club town, people here would rather play golf and tennis than watch golf or tennis.
But like a guy with a hitch in his swing, Sperling says he’s gonna keep working on it. As he says, you can valet the Lexus at the Suncoast, walk 10 feet and get on an air-conditioned shuttle bus — and still arrive at the main gate in minutes. That’s a much better situation than parking at Ford Ord during the AT&T National Pro-Am. And yet they still manage to draw a throng to Pebble Beach.
As I was sitting down to write this, a thin young man, with prosthetics for legs, pushed his way through the door of the media center on his way to the driving range. A colleague said he was a spokesmen for Shriners Hospitals.
This young man is the reason I wish more people would show up to watch pro golf in person here, and to listen to The Dirty Guv’nahs.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.