The group in blue T-shirts calls itself Club 15, because it packs a small area along the 15th tee at Pebble Beach and – well, claims it provides professional support for amateurs in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but the support seems more like harassment.
They chant, they cheer, they bellow. Andy Roddick knew all about Club 15. And after he hit his tee shot, with a hybrid not a driver, Roddick stepped over the gallery rope and virtually dove into the crowd, which hoisted him up and then nearly dropped him.
“That was fun,” Roddick would say later, “but I almost went past vertical so I was a little worried. I’m just thankful they let me get away with hitting a hybrid. I’ve heard they can be tough.”
Roddick, 32, announced his retirement from the ATP World Tour at last year’s U.S. Open. He had won the 2003 Open. He had been a Wimbledon finalist three times. But he never had played in a golf tournament, until the 2013 AT&T, where he was paired with pro John Mallinger.
Mallinger made the pro cut, but the team, with a net best-ball score of 16-under par 198 -- Roddick playing to a 6 handicap -- did not. Also in the foursome were pro Jerry Kelly and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who were a shot worse at 15-under.
“It’s tough to compare,” said Roddick, when asked the obligatory question about playing golf and tennis in competition. “In tennis, on my worst day I still knew what I was doing. Here, probably half the people in the stands could hit a ball better than I could. That wasn’t true in tennis.”
That wasn’t true in golf, either. Single-digit handicappers are rare among America’s 26 million players.
“I know enough about one sport that you’re not going to be that good if you do something half the time or for fun,” reminded Roddick. “When amateurs talk about, ‘I could be a pro,’ it’s harder than you think.”
Roddick had met Rodgers previously. Andy’s dad is a lifelong Packers fan.
“He never had been to Lambeau (Field, Green Bay’s home), and a mutual friend reached out to Aaron. He not helped us, he put us in his box. You watch him on TV and then he turns out to be every bit as nice a person a player.”
Roddick has swung the racquet now and then since the announcement at Flushing Meadows he was taking his leave, but he’s swung golf clubs much more.
“I play a lot, three or four times a week,” he said. “Athletes are kind of trained to enjoy the process of getting better. I enjoy doing this. It’s nice to be able to hang with friends. I loved playing here. I just wish I could have played a little better.”
That’s what everyone says, no matter the ability, no matter the sport.