This weekend marks what might be the very last Buick Open, and that’s a sad thing.
Before you stick out your tongue and say “good riddance” because you think golf is for rich, white old men, geezers with money to burn, think again. Think Tiger Woods, who is not only a person of mixed color, but who is young, handsome and personable. Think Vijay Singh, a Fijian Hindustani who is a tower of strength on the links. Think a host of up-and-coming Korean golfers like K.J. Choi or Japanese golfers like Ryo Ishikawa who are laser-like in determination. Then think women golfers like Cristie Kerr or Paula Creamer whose abilities inspire awe in not only women but with men.
Golf is a game that can be played by anyone, even a non-athlete like me. I’ve seen old guys who can barely walk hit the ball long and straight. Depending on the course, golf can even be forgiving, where occasionally hackers can look like the geniuses they are not.
Michigan was once third in the nation for its number of golf courses, behind California and Florida. The golf bug bit the residents hard, but it’s a different story now. I don’t play as often as I used to, who can afford it? Many courses that are still in business are struggling, offering deep discounts.
Held yearly in Grand Blanc at the tony Warwick Hills Country Club, the Buick Open attracted golf fans from all over Michigan. It was the yearly shot in the arm for the Flint area. If you think the economic slump is bad in Detroit, take a quick hour drive to the north and see what a depression really looks like.
General Motors, now in essence Government Motors, can no longer afford the event so this is the last. Last year, Buick dropped Tiger Woods as a spokesman and it wasn’t because of unhappy feelings for the golf legend. Buick didn’t have the money to spend. I applaud the austerity move, even though it could be argued that Tiger Woods moved a few cars for the ailing company.
I’ve been to the Buick Open a couple of times, there to chase Tiger around the course with my husband and son. It’s not just “squares” or “nerds” as my daughter would say that attend, and it’s not just drunks like the rowdies on the 17th green coming for the party either. Families come, kids of all ages. It’s the golfer wannabes and people who want to worship their heroes.
And let’s face it; people come to see Tiger Woods. All professional golfers are impressive, especially when compared to duffers like me, but it’s Tiger who steals the show. Tiger's finesse and skill defies all logic and some of the rules of physics.
Next year, there’ll be no Buick Open, no Tiger and company to give a boost to the community. Already the once gorgeous homes around Warwick Hills are looking a little worse for wear. With no real industry in Flint anymore, it’s hard to justify a trendy suburb like Grand Blanc. There’s a sense of sadness over the loss. The Flint area has little to offer in the way of attractive entertainment options. Now what?
What will replace the fans that once came to the Buick Open? They buy stuff when they attend, not just things like souvenirs but also food at local restaurants and gas at local stations. What will take up Michigan’s golf void?
There’s talk of bringing some form of the tournament back, but the swan song more like a death knell is sounding much louder.
The Buick Open ends tomorrow. There’s still time to catch it before it's gone.Powered by Sidelines