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(Rick Hickman / American Press)<br>

(Rick Hickman / American Press)

Gazzolo Column: Racing home at city championship

Last Modified: Friday, July 26, 2013 2:52 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

There are very few times when Lake Charles reminds me of my old home in Southern California.

Yes there is heat, but back there it is a dry heat.

And I don’t recall many mosquitoes, at least not ones so big that they require a runway to land.

But once a year, at the strangest of places, a little taste of So Cal comes to the Lake Area.

It might seem like a bit of a reach, but for about the final 85-90 minutes of the Lake Charles City Golf Championship, the cart path at Mallard Cove does look a little like the 405 freeway at rush hour.

While it’s not cars being raced through lanes of traffic, there is a race on.

Folks lose a little control as they get behind the wheels of those golf carts.

I have seen a few fender benders, long stares from one driver to another and even a selection of words exchanged, though nothing really that heated.

It starts at about the 13th hole, a nice little par-4, 387-yarder that has water on the left which the fairway bends around.

Unlike my days outside of Los Angeles, I have yet to see anybody driven into the water hazard by another cart, but I’m not counting it out next year. Things get pretty aggressive as the sun begins to set and more than a few adult beverages have flowed.

By the time you cross the street for holes 15, 16 and 17 there is little room for one to maneuver one’s self. You have to slide between carts, or trees, just to keep pace with the leaders — you know, the guys out there golfing who all these folks are following.

There are no sirens on any of these carts, but there does seem to be some etiquette in the madness.

Those golfing in the final group are usually left alone, able to get a free path to their next shot.

This is lost a little on the final hole, but we will get to that in a minute.

On those three where a street crossing is required, it seems the best thing to do is hang back and then, in one giant move, find a hole to force your cart through just in time to get a glimpse of the next big shot.

After these three holes have been played, the real madness begins.

It takes a moment or two for the horde of carts to get back across the street, oftentimes leaving drivers of actual cars to wait.

Sunday it was some guy in a Jeep Patriot who looked equal parts amazed and annoyed by what he was seeing.

It must have looked like ducks crossing the road to him.

His was a common look among drivers in Southern California so I know it well. Often it comes with an attached hand gesture, but not so in Lake Charles. At least none that I have seen.

As the golfers close in on the 18th tee all sense of reality seems to get lost on the average cart driver, but they must make a quick decision.

Some hold back and wait to race for their spot near the green after the tee shots have been taken, but most do not.

And that is just the first choice.

There are two ways to go from tee to green on 18 and folks make their choice quickly.

Some race up the golf cart, speeding to what they hope is the best spot to watch the final putts.

Others, perhaps more daring, go up the road, around the backside of the green until also finding home.

By the time the golfers hit their approach shots toward the last green, most of the dust from this drag race has settled down. But that leaves an interesting sight, as carts circle the green to get one last look at the leaders.

After the final putt has been made, the dash to be closest to the door of the clubhouse is the last race of the day.

Safely, all carts make it back to their barn before night falls.

Some are much more of a mess than others, but that’s the case with cars as well.

It might not be completely the same as a traffic jam in a big city, but for a few minutes each year it is a race to get home.

• • •

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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