Inside look at the fans who saw a bit of the Charles Schwab Challenge

Inside look at the fans who saw a bit of the Charles Schwab Challenge

FORT WORTH, Texas – The sounds of silence were supposed to be deafening this week at Colonial Country Club.

The sounds of crickets figured to be all the players would hear while competing in the Charles Schwab Challenge, the first of four PGA Tour events on the revised COVID-19 schedule to be played without spectators.

But what were those sounds that could be heard from one corner of the Colonial, applause and cheering of players and even an announcer on a speaker introducing players as they walked to the 16th tee?

Who said there would be no spectators this week at Colonial?

Not Pat Henggeler, whose house overlooks the 15th green and 16th tee on the golf course.

Henggeler, a Colonial member with a 9 handicap who was known in these parts to put together a good party or two at his house during Colonial Week, has created the only party in town for the Charles Schwab Challenge this week.

On Monday, he had a grandstand erected next to his house that offers bird’s-eye views of the 15th green and 16th tee. If you were watching the CBS telecast of the tournament and heard an occasional burst of applause, coming from the Henggel grand grandstand.

In what was always going to be a bizarre week for the players with the golf course eerily quiet sans spectators, Henggeler’s pop-up party has been as much a welcome oasis for them as it has been for the 100 or so people who’ve been. cooling off with refreshments from Henggeler’s outdoor bar.

One of the accidental-tourist stars to the Henggel express show was Mason Michell, who organically became the unofficial announcer.

“Mason did a really good job at it and we were like, ‘our guy,'” Henggeler said.

So Michell, equipped with a cheat sheet he creates with facts on each player, booms out introductions as each reaches the 16th tee.

The highlight of the week so far was when Michell, acknowledging the new bulked-up Bryson DeChambeau, introduced him on Friday as if he were a boxer entering the ring for a heavyweight bout.

“I thought it was amazing what they did, saying I was coming in at 300 or whatever pounds, that was funny,” DeChambeau said. “I really enjoyed that. It’s fun to have people rooting for you every once in a while. We don’t get that very much right now. ”

Michell, who just graduated from Texas A&M about starting work as an accountant, said, “Not trying to say anything controversial or anything. We want the players to come back and enjoy coming here. Phil [Mickelson] Got a kick out of us when we were talking about how he hit the bombs. He enjoyed that. ”

When 54-hole leader Xander Schauffele drained his birdie putt on the 15th green to get to 13-under and tie Jordan Spieth for the lead at the time, a burst of applause could be heard in the background from Henggeler’s grandstand, and CBS announcer Jim. Nantz said to his partner, Nick Faldo: “Remember what the noise crowd used to sound like, Nick? ‘

Mason Michell announces players on the 16th hole at the Charles Shwab Challenge on Saturday on a makeshift stand in a nearby home.
Mason Michell announces players on the 16th hole at the Charles Shwab Challenge on Saturday on a makeshift stand in a nearby home.Mark Cannizzaro

Earlier, during my visit, the first intro I heard was:

Coming to the 16th green is the 2017 Colonial winner, Kevin Kisner, ” Michell’s voice bellowed over the loudspeaker with a good dose of pro-wrestling embellishment. “And with him is’ Mr. 58 ‘and former U.S.A. Open winner, Jiiiiim Fuuuuryk. ”

During my visit to the party, every single player acknowledged his love and attention.

“I think maybe it’s starving for fans, too, ‘” Henggeler said.

“By the time they get here, you can tell the players have gone 15 holes and they’ve seen a soul but their caddie,” John Eckelbarger, who works for Henggeler, said. “Then they get here and there are 100 people cheering them on. ”

This is a labor of love for Henggeler, who estimates he spent nearly $ 20,000 for the set-up, which includes grandstand covers, large-screen TVs, fans to combat the 100-degree temps, a bartender, booze, food and portable toilets. .

Henggeler does not charge money for admission. The people there are friends, co-workers and neighbors, some of whom have offered donations which Henggeler said he plans to give to charity.

The only negative to the program, as far as I was concerned, was the complete lack of social distancing among the people who were there. There, too, was no sign of a face covering on anyone – other than myself – during my visit.

Apparently, when it comes to face coverings, Texas has not gotten the memo on masks.

“I don’t think about it at all,” Henggeler said when asked about any concern with 100 people so close to each other in the middle of a pandemic. “At our restaurant (they own a Mexican place in Arlington), serving 30,000 people since May 1. Not a scientist.”

He could play one on TV, either.