SNOQUALMIE — So, you’ve never watched a PGA Tour Champions event.
It’s unlike any other spectator sport, starting with multiple options on how to watch.
You can follow one group for 18 holes, stay at one hole and watch each group come through or, if you’re really adventurous, you can roam, seeing as many holes and players as possible.
I love roaming. Once, I saw Gil Morgan’s drive land in the back of a spectator’s hoodie. Another time I got to the ninth hole just in time to see Hale Irwin make a hole-in-one.
That’s how I decided to sample the fan experience during Friday’s first round of the Boeing Classic at The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge. Full disclosure: I also made brief stops (purely for research) in several suites, where you can have a, shall we say, more comfortable experience for a premium price.
11 a.m.: The Mercer Island High School band is playing on the 18th fairway. It’s a huge band — looked like a couple hundred kids — and an impressive sight. “That’s a good band, kind of like the Ohio State band,” said John Cook, who played golf at Ohio State and is now a broadcaster after a successful career as a player.
11:20: A Boeing 787 Dreamliner flies over the 18th hole, turning sideways, in the traditional start to the event. It does two encores, an impressive sight even for someone who lives near the airport.
11:30: David Frost says “Good morning, everyone,” to the gallery, then laces the first drive of the tournament from the first hole right down the middle. Frost goes under the ropes to fist-bump two boys, 7 and 3. The tournament has officially started.
12:15 p.m.: I finally make it to the 10th hole after taking a detour through a long path of vendors who hand out goodies ranging from potato chips to sunscreen, and even more in various contests.
12:20: Wes Short hits his tee shot into the rough, forcing the gallery ropes to be taken down for his second shot, which he remarkably hits 15 feet from the hole. “That is so sweet,” says a fan trying to mimic Short’s swing. “That is like clockwork.”
12:36: The gallery is lined about three to four deep as John Daly is set to begin his day on the 10th hole, sporting pink, yellow, light blue and green floral pants. They would look ridiculous on anyone else, but look perfect on Daly. … About 50 yards away is the “Tito’s on Ten” tent. What are you selling the most, I ask the cashier. “Tito’s Vodka, of course.” Really? “No, it’s soda but I’ve got to say vodka because it’s tattooed on my body.” It’s true. She showed me the Tito’s Vodka slogan permanently etched into her arm.
1 p.m.: A man is taking a picture of his 9- and 5-year-old grandkids in front of the course’s only view of Snoqualmie Falls on the course, behind the tee box on the 12th hole. The area is off-limits to fans when players are on the tee box, but once they clear out, it’s time for photos and ooohs and ahhhs. … I see a leaderboard for the first time. Fred Funk leads at 4 under through five holes.
1:15: I enter the Canyon Club ($15 to enter, but free for Alaska Airlines Visa cardholders), and it’s a fun crowd. It is about 50 yards from the green on the 14th hole, a par-4 that players can reach with their tee shots, but it’s a risky shot and most don’t chance it. Fans cheer the few who try, and they chant “birdie, birdie” on every good shot because beers are half-price for 10 minutes after every birdie. Fans are still complaining that when Russ Cochran holed out for an eagle a little earlier, it didn’t count for half-price beer.
1:30: Daly reaches the 14th hole and, of course, tries to clear the canyon and reach the green with his drive. He comes close, but it hits a tree and dives into the canyon. Fans cheer wildly as he drives his cart to survey the shot, then cheer wildly again as he drives 400 yards back to the tee box. This time, he clears the canyon. He makes a double bogey, but fans act like it’s a birdie. … Leaderboard shows Funk is 5 under.
1:50: I enter the ANA Dreamliner Lounge, overlooking the 18th green. Wine and beer are part of the admission, as is a buffet. So this is how the other half lives. “Why would you ever leave?” someone asks. Why indeed. But I want to catch up with Funk, who is on the front nine after starting on the 10th hole. First, I make a quick stop at the 18th Green Skybox Suites. (I highly recommend the shrimp and grits.)
2:25: I reach the ninth hole, and Willie Wood hits his tee shot into the lake — the first of the day, I am told. … Leaderboard shows Funk at 7 under.
3:10: Walking back toward the first hole, I pass Fred Couples, Davis Love III, Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie. A fan walks by and says, “I knew I should have silenced my phone before I got out here.” Good idea.
3:15: I catch up to Funk on the fifth hole, where fans out back at a nearby home are cheering him on and dancing. He plays the final five holes in 2 under, and his lead is three shots when he finishes. Funk says fans in the yard were singing, “Play That Funky Music.”
“I said, ‘If you’re going to shout all that out, you’ve got to dance to it,’ ” Funk says.
4:38: Back in the Dreamliner Lounge, there’s a dessert buffet. I would be content never leaving, but Couples has birdied the 15th to get to 6 under and is in second place. I’ve got to catch up with him.
4:54: I catch up on the 17th hole with Couples, now just a shot back. He pars the final two holes. Still, it’s a 65, trailing only the other Fred.
It’s been a good day. I watched both Freds finish their rounds, ate some great food and saw all but a few groups. And I walked 19,571 steps and 9.23 miles. Try doing that at a football game.
Boeing Classic at a glance
Leaders of the pack: Fred Funk shot 8-under 64 and leads Fred Couples by one stroke. Five players shot 6-under 66 and are tied for third: two-time Boeing champion Bernhard Langer, Jeff Maggert, Paul Broadhurst, Doug Garwood and Stephen Leaney.
Various notables: Defending champion Scott Parel shot 69. The 2017 Boeing champion Jerry Kelly shot 67. Current tour money leader Scott McCarron shot 69. Kirk Triplett, who graduated from Pullman High School, shot 68. Davis Love III, making his Boeing Classic debut, shot 70. Kevin Sutherland, who set the course record with a 12-under 60 last year, shot 71. John Daly shot 5-over 77.
Shot of the day: Russ Cochran sank a 90-yard shot from the fairway on No. 14 for an eagle 2.
Stat of the day: The scoring average of 70.42 is the lowest in the 15-year history of the Boeing Classic. Recent rains have softened the course.
Most wanted shot that didn’t happen: If Fred Funk would have sunk his 25-foot birdie putt on his final hole, he would have shot his age (63) for the first time in his life. If he wins the tournament he will become the oldest winner in the history of the PGA Tour Champions.
Sweet revenge: In 2012, Funk set a Champions Tour record when he shot a tragicomic 12 on the par-3, 13th hole. On Friday, he birdied the hole. “I kind of shake when I go to that tee,” Funk said with a smile.
Most unusual sight: The Mercer Island High School band on the 18th fairway performing in the opening ceremonies that included a flyover by a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
Impressive tourney stat: The tournament field has 16 winners of PGA Tour “majors” such as the U.S. Open and The Masters.
Bargain: Boeing employees and retirees and their families get into the tournament free as do active and retired military personnel and their families. Identification to confirm free status may be requested.