Longkou City, China – All I could think of as I trudged from the grounds of Augusta National to the media parking lot one night during the last Masters was getting myself a drink, and then getting to bed. I was beat from another long day of work and could not wait to get back to my hotel.
But just as I reached my car, a man trotted up to me, and in very broken English asked for help. I quickly figured out he was Chinese and in town to cover the tournament – and the appearance of his countryman Guan Tianlang, who was making his Masters debut on the basis of his winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship several months before. I also came to realize that his rental car had broken down, and he needed a ride to the house where he was staying.
Believe me when I say it was the last thing I wanted to do. Yet, it was the only thing to do. So, he jumped into my rental car, and then led me through the streets of Augusta to his quarters. We said cheerful good-byes, and I was on my way.
I had long ago forgotten about that encounter when I traveled this past week to Longkou City, China, for the 2013 Asia-Pacific Amateur. But the memories came rushing back when I ran into that fellow upon my arrival at the tournament site, at the Nanshan International Golf Club. He broke into a huge grin when he saw me and heartily shook my hand. I smiled and patted him on the shoulder.
I thought that was about it. A quick encounter, and no more. But that night, there was a knock on my hotel door. And when I opened it, my newfound friend stood there, a bottle of Chinese Chardonnay in his hand.
“For you,” he said. “For the ride.”
I thanked him, shook his hand and replied, “Another friend through golf.” I was saying that more to myself than to him, and felt sure he had no idea what I had uttered. But then he repeated the name of the sport that kept bringing us together.
“Golf,” he said excitedly. “Golf.”
He knew exactly what I had meant.