Sports writer Jo-Ann Barnas is blogging from this week’s Buick Open. Come back throughout the day for periodic updates. Brian Bateman’s team, which includes new Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, isn’t exactly lighting up the course: the group is even through 12 holes (after starting on the back nine). Afternoon play is slow, which is typical for a pro-am filled with amateurs with varying degrees of ability. Schwartz’s group, for example, is en route to a five-hour-plus round. It teed off at 12:50 p.m.
With the start of training camp just two days away, Schwartz seems to be enjoying himself -- and the fans seem to be enjoying him. While members of his group walked ahead to the first tee to play their second nine, Schwartz stayed behind for a minute to sign autographs. He commented to one fan that he had been signing a lot of commemorative flags from No. 17. He theorized, “ 'cause that’s the party hole, huh?’” Schwartz is correct; the par-three 17th has long been known as one of the most raucous holes on the PGA Tour.
If the Buick Open indeed ends its 51-year run with this year’s event, Woody Austin said that hole will be the one he’ll miss the most. Austin won the Buick in 1995, his rookie year, by defeating Mike Brisky on the second hole of a playoff. “Since it was my rookie year, it was kind of my first experience with a rowdy crowd,” Austin said of the 17th. “I’d been playing with Freddie Couples the first couple of days and always hearing, 'Fred-die! Fred-die!’