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Beauty and Reality on the Tour

On the driving range of the orchards golf club in South Hadley, Massachusetts, some of the golfers participating in the U.S. Women's Open are whacking practice shots at the horizon.

Several of the Korean players are reaching it.

When you stand on a driving range where exceptionally proficient golfers are practicing, it's easy to believe that you should take up golf. As you watch these machines of the perfect swing whack shot after shot off the tee, you can fall effortlessly into the misapprehension that the natural tendency of a struck golf ball is to fly straight to the place where you want it to go...a cruel illusion if there ever was one.

Wandering around the greens-world of a golf course populated by healthy young women who look as if they all belong precisely where they are, you might also be forgiven for assuming that all is well in this particular part of the planet.

That's not quite right, either. Even as this year's Open opened, some of the neighbors were complaining about damage to the wetlands adjacent to the golf course, new roads nobody but the golf fans wanted, and bleachers that backed into the back yards of some of South Hadley's residents.

Always the "opportunity" to host a big sporting event has been, if a blessing at all, a mixed blessing. An event that brings great golf to a small town also brings traffic, officious officials, and hundreds of miles of electrical wiring to trip over.

Is the event worth the rigmarole?

It depends on whom you ask, I guess. I hope the USGA's promises to restore the South Hadley landscape when their tournament is over are not empty. I hope the new road doesn't end up compromising the wetlands. I hope the bleachers, once disassembled, leave no trace.

And I hope that the people who are concerned about these things somehow find the time to make their way out to the practice tee to see these women whacking golf balls...each shot an image for the perfection that is routine for them, and is nearly impossible for almost all of the rest of us, and is therefore beautiful, and true, as well, and temporarily desirable beyond explanation.

This program aired on July 2, 2004. The audio for this program is not available.

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