It was a little before 1 p.m. Sunday, and some of the best golfers in the world — or at least a lot of real good touring pros in search of FedEx Cup championship points — were beginning to pound up the 18th fairway at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin. They were coming up two at a time.
Up in the swimming pools flanking that fairway and green, a young woman in an itsy-bitsy teenie-weenie pink bikini (no polka dots) was pounding away, too, on a Red Bull and vodka. She wasn’t totally oblivious to the real good golfers who were strolling up No. 18 in pairs, but she wasn’t exactly questioning their club choice, either.
“This is a perfect way to catch some sun, enjoy some drinks, watch some golf,” said Joyce Jones, the aspiring actress-model who was clad, sort of, in the itsy-bitsy pink bikini.
If I had to guess, the catching of sun and enjoyment of drinks were about 6-under for the day. The watching of golf was about 9-over, in a fairway bunker.
If I had to guess again, it would be that somebody had arranged for the young woman in the itsy-bitsy pink bikini to be there.
This was believed to be the first time that swimming pools had flanked fairways and greens at a PGA event. Golf and swimming pools go back a long way, however. At least back to 1980 in the movies.
When I asked the girl in the itsy-bitsy pink bikini if anybody had chucked a Baby Ruth into the pool, it went right over her pin placements, probably because 1980 was roughly 20 years before she was born.
I’ll bet Phil Mickelson would have known what I was talking about; Lefty would have been around 10 years old when “Caddyshack” came out.
But Lefty wasn’t at the Shriners Open, because Lefty doesn’t need to chase FedEx points. Mickelson finished second here in 2000, when they were playing 90 holes at different courses around town, but he hasn’t been back since 2003.
Tiger is always injured and has stopped coming around, too. And Rory McIlroy and a lot of the other young guns also choose to bypass Las Vegas. That would partly explain why there are now swimming pools on the course, and why the Shriners Open is constantly striving to reinvent itself, like Madonna lying four.
The swimming pools — adults up near the bar on The Hill, kids down by the Zappos minigolf course below — were the latest stops pulled out by tournament director Adam Sperling and his staff to provide the Shriners and their wonderful causes with additional exposure.
There was a lot of exposure to be had in the adult pool. Though it wasn’t exactly the sort Sperling might have had in mind, some guys sporting fezes made their way over there.
In terms of an upset, this wasn’t exactly Larry Mize over Greg Norman at the 1987 Masters, one supposes.
“At my age, it’s either the swimming pool or the gene pool,” said one guy in a fez, 82-year-old Sandy Kahn of San Ramon, Calif.
Sandy said he has been coming to the tournament for seven years, and he couldn’t remember people having this much fun. Not even when Ellen DeGeneres went out of her way to entertain golf fans near the putting green that one year, while Justin Timberlake seemed not to care that much.
It also is believed to be the first time a young woman in an itsy-bitsy pink bikini had offered to squirt a Shriner with her rubber duckie.
On the TV feed in the giant beer tent on The Hill, the golf announcers were talking about somebody’s lie while the football announcers were talking about the Jaguars’ one-game winning streak on the other TV feeds.
The golf announcers were saying somebody could probably reach a particular green in two. That’s also how many shots it might have taken the young woman in the pink bikini and her pals to reach the kids pools and the minigolf course on the bottom of the hill where Adam Sperling was standing.
The tournament director’s heart, which is always in the right place, was surveying the scene and diggin’ it. “Look at all these kids,” Sperling said.
“These kids are what raise my spirits,” said Sandy Kahn, who by then was manning the booth where they kept the minigolf putters.
A little while later, Ben Martin came strolling up the 18th fairway with the lead.
Some holes back, Russell Knox, the Scotsman who had been the early-rounds pacesetter, was hitting right-handed golf shots from the rough left-handed. It seemed Martin, the third-round leader, hadn’t made a birdie since Saturday. But then he made an eagle putt on 16 that traveled exactly 45 feet, 6 inches. (They track every statistic on the PGA Tour, down to the most minute detail.)
A lot of spectators who were not Ben Martin fans already were heading for the shuttle buses when the South Carolina journeyman with the toothy smile holed that long putt on his way to a two-shot win.
If I had to guess a third time, it would be that even the golf fans who hadn’t gone swimming had had a good time.
I wanted to find out if Joyce Jones was a Ben Martin fan, but by then the girl in the itsy-bitsy pink bikini and her pals had toweled off. Seventy-one holes in, nobody had chucked a Baby Ruth into the deep end. It had been a good tournament.
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.