Covering the 2011 U.S. Open

I spent last week at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, covering the U.S. Open, where Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy cruised to a historic victory. I was fortunate to be among the few bloggers to receive a media credential from the United States Golf Association (USGA).

As I drove north on I-81 through Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley en route to the tournament, I wondered how I should cover the event. I write blogs, do client work and have authored a book. Covering one of the world’s most prestigious golf tournaments along with 400 or so national and international media was a new experience.

I had no plan, so I fell back on my unwritten blogging mantra. Find something interesting to say. Try to say it in an interesting or entertaining way. I decided that in order to contribute to the coverage and justify the USGA’s decision to credential me I should publish a few stories each day. I can tell you that daily sports journalism is much harder than it looks.

Here’s what I learned.

It’s hard, if not impossible, to find a fresh angle or slant when there are 400 accomplished professionals in the room. In addition, the golf world is watching the event unfold on TV and online. It’s also difficult to be first with anything. I had to pick something to write and run with it. There was little time to brainstorm or analyze topics. I had to produce.

If there was anything unique about my coverage, it was telling stories through my personal lens. Sometimes that resulted from gathering information from the golf course, fans and elsewhere on the property. Other times I didn’t leave the media center. (You can’t simultaneously be on the course and write stories!)

The USGA supplied an incredible amount of information and  emailed transcripts of all player interviews. Perhaps the ultimate irony of being at a major golf event is this: It’s easier and often as effective to cover the action by watching the giant TV screens in the media center. Some people never leave their chair except for food or bathroom breaks.

I also used the journalistic technique of starting to write my “game” story before the tournament action was over each day. That worked well, and helped me to leave the media center by no later than 8:30 or 9 p.m. (I was staying 45 minutes away and often found myself eating dinner after 10 p.m. Welcome to the life of a journalist.)

Overall, the U.S. Open was both thrilling and exhausting. There’s nothing like being there. Covering a huge sports event and producing copy on tight deadlines was a valuable experience.

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