British Writers Wowed by Wichita

TROON, SCOTLAND –- I’m suddenly the go-to guy for British writers covering the Senior Open Championship at Royal Troon. The number one question: “What do you call somebody from Kansas?”
“A Kansan,” I tell them without hesitation.July25_watson_600x446 “Where’s the windy bit?” asks the writer for The Scotsman. “Is it the whole state, or more toward the west?”
“I’d say central to west,” I reply, drawing on my long tenure as a licensed Kansas Citian. “You’ve got the Flint Hills, which is tallgrass prairie, and then you’ve got the flatlands out west where they grow winter wheat. The wind can really howl out there.”

“Where’s Hutchinson?” asks the man from The Daily Record.
“Near Wichita.” I throw in a freebie: “Lots of grain elevators.”
Why am I in demand? Because our second-round leader, Bruce Vaughan, is from Hutchinson, Ks., and one of his closest pursuers, Tom Watson, lives on a farm pond in Stilwell, Ks. So naturally the local writers want to know if the film version of The Wizard of Oz can be relied upon for pertinent details of Kansas life.
“It’s spot on,” I tell them, “except for that black-and-white business. Kansas is more sepia-toned until winter sets in, and then it’s battleship gray. You don’t get much color until early summer, when the grasshoppers arrive in great clouds and devour everything.”
The Brits take all this in and tap away merrily on their keyboards. If they ask me directly, I’ll have to confess that I am not a Kansan myself, but more of a … well, a Missourian. I can reach Kansas from my house with a driver and 9-iron, but my tax dollars go to Jefferson City, Mo., and my Border War loyalties go to Mizzou. But I see no need to make that distinction to my new friends, who are treating me like Alistair Cooke.
Watson, meanwhile, turned his post-round press conference into a seminar on the Kansas wind. “Wichita and Oklahoma City are the two windiest cities in the United States,” he said, sounding very convincing, “and Hutchinson is not too far from Wichita. That’s where T. Boone Pickens wants to put all those windmill farms and use up all of the natural gas so we can turn energy consumption to different sources.”
The writer on my left leaned my way and murmured, “Who is T. Boone Pickens?”
“A club pro,” I replied.
The Brits are writing on deadline, so I don’t have the heart to break it to them that Tom Watson is actually a Missouri native and a graduate of Pembroke-Country Day School, a Missouri institution. I’ll save that bit of trivia for some tournament where Watson shares the leader board with Hale Irwin -- the pride of Joplin, Mo.
Before I gave them “Kansan,” by the way, one of the Brits guessed out loud with “Kansites.”
I like it. (Photo: Phil Inglis/Getty Images)

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by Kevin Cunningham