I've covered plenty of golf tournaments in my years as a sports writer - from high school events to the Masters.
But Thursday, I got a little inside look at the world of professional golf.
Initially, I had planned on operating as a caddie at this weekend's Western Dakota Charity Pro-Am at the Minot Country Club.
Theoritcally, I'm the perfect man for the job.
Better facial hair than Fluff and more surly than Steve Williams. I figured if things went well, I could even score some of that total consciousness that Carl the groundskeeper received for looping for the Dalai Lama.
So I set up a round hanging out with professional golfer Ian Hessels during Thursday's first round.
Actually, I didn't even really do any caddying. Hessels took a cart in the opening round, so it was really more of a ride along - sort of like how an actor preps for a role in a playing a cop in a movie. Just drive around and take it all in while they break up domestic disputes and dish out speeding tickets to unruly motorists.
When trying to decide who might let me tag along for a round, Hessels was the only guy that came to mind. Mostly because he's about the only pro playing on the Dakotas Tour that I could pick out of a lineup. He won the event in 2006 and 2007, so I had the opportunity to interview him a few times. He seemed like a really chill guy that probably wouldn't try to strangle a sportswriter who asked him a bunch of stupid questions after he made a bogey.
I turned out to be right.
We teed off at 8:16 a.m. off the first tee. Things didn't start too well. Hessels whacked his drive into the trees on the left side of the fairway. He had a look at the green, but overheated his second shot past the green. He struggled to stay around par for the first few holes as I quizzed him about everything from his warm up routine to his taste in music to what he does in the down time between tournaments.
Playing on the mini tours is a grind.
Hessels, who plays out of North Carolina, told me about how some of his sponsors had decided not to renew their patronage in the past year.
But it didn't seem to bother his game much. He's been on fire this summer and has been the most successful player on the Dakotas Tour to this date. He said he thought he'd been thinking his way around courses better lately and that had been key to his success.
Golfers sometimes get the reputation as being arrogant and difficult. Hessels certainly couldn't be categorized as either.
He was modest and sincere while answering all my questions, despite not playing anywhere near his best golf. He chatted with the Ryan, Paul and Josh, the three amateurs in our group and shot their distances using his rangefinder. He even raked out a couple bunkers for the guys.
He's really just a guy you'd like to have in your Sunday foursome, except he's the jerk who's by far the best golfer and always wins all the money.
Hessels made a crucial up and down on No. 9 to finish the front 9 at 2 over and finally started to gain some momentum. He birdied Nos. 10 and 11 to get to even par.
Pauls' brother Fred followed the group around for most of the day and delivered the line of the day on No. 12 when his brother left his tee shot short of the green on the par 3.
"You were born with my good looks, but not quite the muscle mass, there fella," he quipped, leaving the group roaring in laughter.
Just when it looked like he was taking off, Hessels' round hit another bump and made two straight bogeys. He still kept his sense of humor. When a player group behind asked him why he wasn't walking, he responded, "They offered me a cart, and Chris is doing a profile on me - How to break 80."
Hessels was on the verge of making it back to level par when he took a double bogey on No. 17. It was his only major mistake of the day. That's one thing about I noticed about rolling with a pro, they almost always minimalize their mistakes.
Hessels finished his round out with a par on No. 18 for a 3 over 75 in blustery conditions. It certainly wasn't the best opening round he's ever had. He fired an 8 under 64 three years ago on his way to a win. Despite the slow start, he's got the game and the mentality to get back in it.
(Chris Bieri is a sportswriter for The Minot Daily News. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com)