Fans throughout the sporting world always want the chance to interact with professional athletes. Golf is one of the few sports that presents that opportunity almost on a weekly basis.
“It’s an experience unlike anything else in sports,” said Jim Correll, executive director of The Ensure Classic at Rock Barn presented by Kia Motors. “You get to spend an afternoon or morning with the great names in golf in a relaxed atmosphere, and you get to know the people better.”
Angela Simmons, of Hickory, got one of those chances Wednesday during her afternoon pro-am round with Bernhard Langer. Langer is the current leader of the Champions Tour’s Charles Schwab Cup, a 10-time Ryder Cup player and former captain, and a two-time Masters winner.
Simmons got something extra from the German-born player after teeing off on the second hole of the Jones Course at Rock Barn. The right-hander, playing in her sixth pro-am tournament, received a tip from Langer. He told her to keep her right knee still during her backswing for better balance and how she needs to turn her hips instead of sliding them back and forth through the golf swing.
“It was fabulous,” she said. “Not everyone will give tips, and when you get them, they are very helpful. It’s hard to instruct in the middle of a pro-am, but it makes you feel like you mean something when somebody like that pays attention to you.”
It’s also part of the laid-back nature of the Champions Tour. Simmons said players on the senior circuit, as opposed to younger players, understand the importance of their interaction with the community and how it helps make the tournament more exciting.
“I can help them out by giving them tips,” Langer said. “They might not play better right away, but they will get better if they stick with it.”
Said Correll: “It’s pretty special. You can’t go do this with the Carolina Panthers, and you can’t have practice around the Charlotte Bobcats. They have some dream camps, but this is a unique experience.”