Small ropes divide two largely different worlds. One which is desolate, still and filled with players footsteps. The other is lively and roaring with chit-chat and sweet tea sipping. At times, the physical distance can be inches but the true divide exists in the small fairways between our ears. Players and patrons both drip sweat from the scorching temps found in the sand hills of North Carolina in the first week of June. However, the players feel a different heat. The heat of competition.

One that I’ve felt before, but did not feel as I walked the fairways at the U.S. Women’s Open on Thursday. This was the first time in my professional career that I watched from the sidelines. The last time I attended a U.S. Women’s Open was in 2009 at Saucon Valley Country Club. At the age of 11, I was raw in my playing experience and looked on at the players in wonder. I physically walked from outside the ropes, but in my mind, I was already envisioning myself as a competitor – picturing the shots I would hit and how I would strut down the fairway. With five LPGA starts behind me, this year’s experience at the U.S. Women’s Open offered a different point of view.

I discovered a completely separate world that existed outside the competitive environment. I picked up on things that as players, our focus blinds us from. I watched as swarms of people selfless worked away so players can shine bright in the limelight. An army of USGA officials volunteer their time, knowledge, and expertise to conduct a championship properly. Players who already have a place in the history books give back to the game so the future stars follow in the coming chapters. Carol Semple Thompson, a USGA legend hailing from Pennsylvania, announced players on the first tee, and Donna Andrews, a former Tar Heel, made the introductions on the ninth tee. Out of the many times, I’ve heard my name announced, this is the first time I realized the joy it brought them to be there and pass on the game to the next generation. An act of honor and kindness that we younger players should feel obligated to carry on.

On the flip side, I saw countless young girls formulating dreams of their own. Dressed up as players they hope to emulate. They wait patiently for autographs, pictures, and potential high fives. Patience is what is required to be a patron. As a player, eighteen holes flies by. Our downtime is filled with hydrating, eating, score taking or jotting down yardages. When it comes time to move, we walk wherever we want. However, from the outside of the ropes, there is an endless amount of wasted time. Waiting for players to get to their ball, waiting for players to hit the ball, waiting for players to pass the crosswalk, and waiting in line to get a bottle of water. While players look for shortcuts to the hole, spectators search for shortcuts to the shade. All things that as a player we take for granted.

If there is one thing that I took away from my day at Pine Needles is that there is a lot as players we take for granted. We arrive on sight with tunnel vision – failing to notice the swarms of people working round the clock so we can do what we love. I don’t blame players for walking around with blinders they may not even realize they have on – it’s the result of the toasty temps of tournament golf. I just hope, at one point every competitor has the opportunity to open their eyes to the arena that extends beyond fairways and greens.

I know when I return to competitive golf I’ll look at events differently. All the hard work of others won’t go unnoticed and I’ll be reminded of what a privilege it is to walk pristine fairways for a living.