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Parlor games at the Nelson pro-am

Posted 11:05pm on Wednesday, May. 16, 2012

This will probably make me sound like a golf geek, but I love Pro-Am day at our DFW tour stops.

It's not that the play is great. In fact, some of the amateurs' swings should come with an R-rating -- as in Really horrifying to watch.

But on Pro-Am day, you can stand a few club lengths away from young guns likes Jason Day or Adam Scott as they launch 300-yard drives, and you can study the fascinating dynamic between the pros and the amateurs, many of whom have paid about $10,000 for one unforgettable round.

The HP Byron Nelson Championship officially gets under way Thursday at 7 a.m., but I went to the TPC Four Seasons in Las Colinas on Wednesday morning to get my Pro-Am fix.

As I ambled up to 2nd green, the volunteers were buzzing about the hole in one by D.A. Points earlier. And they were wondering if that really was New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton playing with Ricky Barnes.

It was, I told them, and we exchanged jokes about Payton having plenty of time to practice his game this year. He was recently suspended for an entire season in the wake of his team's bounty scandal, but consensus among the small gallery at No. 2 was that Payton, who lives in Westlake, got a raw deal.

The other glam group of the day was Phil Mickelson playing with University of Texas coaches Mack Brown (football) and Rick Barnes (basketball). It was the one group that had a noticeable following, but I chose to steer clear, because part of the reason I like Pro-Am day is the chance to stand with just a few other golf fans watching some of the game's most talented players at work -- and interacting with their starstruck Pro-Am partners.

Day, the young Aussie and Fort Worth resident who won the Nelson two years ago, was a regular ol' chatterbox, signing autographs for kids, smiling for photos and helping read putts. Scott, another Aussie and one of the tour's heartthrobs, had a large female contingent following him. He happily posed for photos before bombing a drive on the 18th hole that may still be airborne.

The other thing I like about Pro-Am day is chatting with folks while we waited for the next group -- play was at a snail's pace. I met Chris McGuinness, one of the owners of the Dodie's cajun restaurants in Dallas, on No. 17. Behind the first tee, I met the mayor of North Richland Hills, Oscar Trevino, whose daughter was playing in the pro-am in his place. (Trevino said he injured his shoulder over the weekend.) She filled in ably, striping a drive on the first fairway and knocking her approach to about 15 feet.

Near the 18th green I snapped a photo of the Byron Nelson High School golfers and near the Pavilion, I created a Father's Day postcard, thanks to a woman who was demonstrating a Samsung phone/tablet. I also tried to talk my way into the Travis Mathew golf apparel tour bus, which had a party area on the roof, but I learned you had to buy some Travis Mathew gear (just like Bubba Watson wears) in the gift shop before you could get past the velvet rope and into the champagne room. (I'll have to save that for Sunday.)

Such is the strange and wonderful melange of experiences you can have on Pro-Am Day. If you've never been, you should check out the Wednesday Pro-Am next week at Colonial. There are some real characters who play in it each year, not to mention John Daly and his psychedelic slacks. You might even spot a celebrity of two. I've seen George Lopez and Pat Green in past years. Even a Jonas brothers, though I can't remember which one.

Things turn serious on Thursdays on the PGA tour, as it should be, but in a sport where some of the top players come off as aloof and self-involved, the Pro-Am is the best chance to see their other side -- if they've got one.

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