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Sometimes a man has to stand on principle

I miss the times when newspaper reporters and media people in general were treated with the respect I think they deserve.

I mean seeking to inform the public of what elected officials are doing on their dime is a noble pursuit and one integral to a properly functioning republic such as ours.

Government is not to be trusted under any circumstances. Why do you think the founding fathers wrote a Constitution and included a bill of rights? If we could trust government under all circumstances n as the Bush administration is asking us to do with the NSA eavesdropping n then there would be no need for a Constitution. You and I both know that is BS. People who say they are OK with the eavesdropping because the only ones who need to be worried are those with something to hide are deluding themselves.

It’s the same for politicians. They and we in the media once ranked much higher than say, child molesters, in terms of the esteem with which we were held. The child molesters have closed the gap considerably over the past couple decades.

In the mid-80s, the last time I was regularly reporting news as the main focus of my job, things were certainly different than they are today.

I was reporting for a small daily newspaper in Georgia. We regularly received invitations to cover various events around the state. I always volunteered for any that involved golf.

Making $256 a week, I did not get to play a lot of golf in those days. So I relished the opportunity to go to media day for events like the Atlanta Open or the Dinah Shore Classic which was held one year at Stouffer Pine Isle Resort on nearby Lake Lanier.

In return for spending 30 minutes jotting down notes and taking photos at a press conference, the owners of these clubs and resorts would lavish us with shirts, caps, golf balls, overnight accommodations, mouthwatering meals (we never even heard of “cash bars” then), etc. It was a lot of fun.

It’s been about 20 years since I’ve been on one of these “junkets.” Not because I stopped being a reporter so much as what has come to be known in professional golf and media circles as the “Jan Stephenson incident,” which involved a then single, slightly inebriated,

hormone-driven 24-year-old Andy Prutsok, his camera, and a mini-skirt clad Ms. Stephenson marking her ball on a green during the Dinah Shore Classic. Use your imagination.

Anyway, I was thrilled when an invitation showed up about a month ago to attend the grand opening of the Jack Nicklaus course at Bay View in Cape Charles.

The Golden Bear himself was going to be there and, following his press conference and exhibition, we would get to play the layout.

So I loaded up my clubs and drove to the Eastern Shore. It was a little cool and windy as heck, but that did not detract from my excitement. I arrived at Bay View at 9:30 a.m. Members of the club and invited guests had to park far away from the clubhouse and ride a shuttle. Media people got to park right in front.

“This is more like it,” I thought as I approached the registration desk to find people already milling about the clubhouse with Bloody Marys in hand.

After receiving my credentials at a desk, the lovely lady told me my “press kit” would be awaiting me at my seat at the press conference.

“Ahh, the press kit,” I said to myself, PRspeak for the payola n caps, shirts, balls, etc. n that we would no doubt receive.

On the clubhouse grounds there was a huge tent set up with four buffet lines and hundreds of people enjoying cookies, bagels, fruit, sausage and ham biscuits, crab cakes, various salads, etc. The Bloody Mary station and beer truck were doing brisk business (this is at 9:30 a.m., mind you).

Nicklaus arrived via Bay View chopper at 10:15. I arrived at the press tent about 10 minutes later but all I found awaiting me was a folder with a press release in it and a computer disc of photos.

“They’ll probably have the goodies on the golf carts for us when we go play so we don’t have to lug them around,” I thought. “How thoughtful of them.”

Nicklaus had his press conference, talking about golf or something, I think. When he finally stopped talking, I managed to slip the Caddyshack DVD my son had given for me to get autographed in front of him and he signed it.

After his press conference, he put on a clinic and played a few holes.

My tee time was at 2:30 and I was astonished to find nothing on my golf cart except my scorecard. “They’ll likely have the caps and shirts waiting for us when we get done,” I said to myself.

But alas, when I got off the course about 7 p.m. after posting the worst score I’ve shot in 20 years (I had to make a 20-footer on the last hole to break a hundred. I swear some interrogator from Abu Grahib helped Nicklaus design that course), there was nothing.

They had a Bay View shirt and cap bundled for $47 in the pro shop and I was tempted to buy it n desperately wanting a souvenir from the club n but I resisted in order to make a statement. The media shouldn’t have to pay for stuff and sometimes a man just has to stand on principle.

To be semi honest, I was a little offended. If they think a free round of golf on a swank championship layout, meeting Jack Nicklaus and all the food I can eat and liquor I can drink is enough to buy me off for a positive story, they’ve got another thing coming. It takes that and a cap.

Prutsok is publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611 or at andy.prutsok@suffolknewsherald.com.