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Pre-Tourney Talk

Team USA Ready to Take on the World in Junior World Golf Cup Beginning Tuesday

Cal Smith

TOYOTA CITY, Japan ? Last Thursday, the American team began a journey halfway around the world. Five days later they are finally just a single day away from the reason we all came. Erik Flores competed in the long drive competition on Sunday, smoking a 322-yard drive - a mere eight yards shorter than the eventual winner - showing the Americans? readiness for the challenge that lies in front of them. The following is a random summary of some of the things that I, along with the team, have experienced in the days preceding the event.

My journey began in Oklahoma City. From there, I flew to Chicago where I was to meet the team, along with Coach Scott Moe and J.R. Steinbauer. On my way to Chicago, I found myself riding along in a plane the size of a Honda Civic. I think I had some Tonka Toys back in the day bigger than this particular flying machine. I had a hard time fitting my little digital camera in the overhead compartment bins.... Luxury at it?s finest. It was quite a feat meeting up with Scott at Chicago O?Hare Airport because it just so happens to be the size of Oklahoma, but we finally got everyone (and our 629 pounds of luggage a piece) to the hotel and were done for the night after a delightful stop at Chili?s and Coldstone for a little dessert.

The next morning we got to wake oh so wonderfully early and sit at the airport for four marvelous hours. I?d never been on a 747 plane before and let me tell you that it was really great. Except for the fact that I would never desire to be in a single place for 13 hours straight with 500 other disgruntled human beings. Anyways, over half a day, nine hours of the movie Hitch, 3 hours of ingenious games like "Solitaire" and "Connect Four," an hour of randomly almost falling asleep but keeping myself awake with Japanese techno music (the kind that will give you a seizure if you listen to it for more than three minutes at a time), and one screaming baby later, we arrived in Tokyo. We quickly discovered the massaging chairs and spent our first yen on those little guys. This was the first point where I was greatly impressed by the Japanese people. Their signs look soooo complicated! I saw a sign with 27 symbols and an arrow pointing to the left. Right under it I saw in big, bold letters the word TOILETS. Anyone that can look at an entire alphabet and immediately get "toilets" out of it has my respect no questions asked. We then got on our plane to Nagoya, were I was sat in front of the Japanese version of a portly Pele. At least I got another hour and a half long massage and this one was for free.

The bus to our hotel was about another hour-long ride through Nagoya, which is spread out for states on end. It?s GINORMOUS. Yes I know that?s not a word, but we?re not caught up with grammar in the CAA (Cal?s Association of America) which is the award-selecting body of a few prestigious events for this particular column. MOVING ON..... The U.S. guys are apparently considered very interesting over here. A camera crew was waiting for them when we got off our bus and filmed them for a few minutes getting all their luggage together. They obviously made a mistake because as soon as I was about to step off the bus, they turned off the camera and disappeared. As I think you can tell, they obviously didn?t know who exactly they were about to get a shot of. I let it roll off my back though - after all, everyone makes mistakes (except for me in my wonderful analysis of the world surrounding golf of course). Our hotel is excellent and very classy. The difference in the hotel from American hotels is the room size. These rooms are tiiiiiiiiny. Apparently all Japanese hotels are like that, showing the vast difference in the two cultures. Coach Moe is now one of the tallest men in Japan and his bed just can?t quite hold all of him. Still, everyone has been very happy with the hotel.

Saturday, everyone affiliated with the tournament went to the World?s Expo just outside of Nagoya. It was very interesting as our camera crew friends reappeared out of nowhere and followed Erik, Michael, Nick, Matt, and I around for a great deal of the time we were there. They even followed us inside the sushi bar that we ate at. Try learning how to eat with chopsticks with a camera one foot from your face. Yeah I felt reeeeaaaal smart for those 30 minutes. The girls liked the cameras through as we had Japanese girls coming up to us, asking to take pictures. Personally, I think they just wanted to talk to me, but we?ll give the camera crew some of the credit until the matter can be voted on by a panel of our peers (me). After all that fun, we headed to the golf course so the guys could practice for a little bit and play a few holes. The cool thing is that on some of the steep hills, the course has moving sidewalks. I want moving sidewalks outside in America. I don?t really care if they?re on hills or not, but, as a country, we should contemplate turning all sidewalks into the kind that moves us without any effort on our part. You could sleep and move down the sidewalk at the same time. What a country that would be....

Something that I was told about before we went out on the course was the massive amount of big dragonflies. I was told they can bite or whatever but I didn?t think much of it. The problem is that I specifically heard "dragonflies," not "DRAGONS." There is a big difference there. These things aren't joking around. I thought I was being attacked by rabid birds at first. I don?t think that bug repellant is going to cut it this time. I?m trying body armor. I?ll let you know how it works out.

Sunday the Junior/Amateur Competition was held. The U.S. Ambassador to Japan was kind enough to come out and play with Erik Flores in one of the groups. His name is Tom Schieffer and we all greatly enjoyed the time that he spent with us. Thanks again Mr. Schieffer. It was also kind of cool that a bunch of guys with earpieces were running around giving everyone unhappy looks as they ran by. Some of the security even rode around in a cart behind the ambassador?s group.

Speaking of carts, that brings me to my final point of interest. As I was skipping merrily out to a hole to watch one of the guys tee off, a cart started rolling toward me. I didn?t know whether to jump in a push the brake or let it roll on by and maybe take someone out on its way. All of the sudden it turned. Once I realized that I was dealing with a possessed cart, I decided to just let it go. Then it stopped. I ran away. Later I realized that the caddies (who are all women dressed in pink with big pink hats) have little buttons that they push for the cart to go. There is a buried cable under the cart path that the cart follows automatically. Therefore there is no steering needed. I hope their extreme convenience was worth my heart attack. I really do.

Now I do believe this novel is complete. I?ll keep everyone up to date on what?s going on around hereafter each round so, as unpleasant as it is using part of your day to read my rambling, just do it. For the kids.

Now it?s time for 24 hours (even though it?s been like three days, but who?s counting) in 24 seconds: Honda Civics, U.S. Ambassadors, toilets, Portly Peles, body armor, tiny rooms, moving sidewalks, Tonka Toys, demented carts, Hitch, celebrities, entire alphabets, and dragons. And I?m spent...see you tomorrow.

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