SONY OPEN GOLF
Australian Stuart Appleby tees off during last week's Mercedes Championships at Kapalua, Maui.
After a long delay, Mercedes champion Stuart Appleby gets ready to tackle the Sony Open
STUART APPLEBY wasn't a millionaire golfer for most of yesterday afternoon. He was just Joe Citizen with his pregnant wife, Ashley, and his 1-year-old daughter, Ella, caught at a small airport on West Maui.
The 30-minute island hop to Honolulu turned into an all-day-sucker of an afternoon as the wind -- the same one that helped him capture the Mercedes Championships on Sunday -- blew like a son of a gun to keep him bottled up with 30-something fellow passengers bound for boredom.
This is probably why Tiger Woods flies his own plane. When you're the No. 1-golfer in the world, you can afford to soar like an eagle. When you're No. 30, with one kid in your arms and another just two months off, Island Air is your ticket to ride.
Unfortunately for the three-time Mercedes winner with one luxury car in the garage, another still on the way and a third on order, that ticket wasn't punched until 5 hours after his arrival.
In between was a bevy of cell-phone messages wishing him the best, a quick McDonald's run that fed four, playing with the baby, changing the baby, holding the baby, talking to the baby, a quick nap, a quicker brush through a magazine, congratulations from fellow passengers and eventually, taking the baby to the window to watch what few planes did land on time.
Somewhere in this haze, an announcement came that Flight 1545 bound for Honolulu was due to arrive at 4:10 p.m. Appleby grabbed Emma like he would a golf bag that had been in the closest too long and raced to the windswept baggage claim to show her -- the plane, the plane, the plane.
Only the plane is broke.
"Hey Bubba, just wanted to let you know that plane ain't coming," a concerned passenger pointed out. "Somebody said it would be another 30 minutes. Didn't want you to freeze to death out here with the bags."
"They're just fooling us," was his quick reply.
By the time the plane took off, it was nearly 5. The conditions were not good. Rain and wind. Short runway. Pineapple field. But a packed plane finally joined the friendly skies with more weary passengers than a Sunday after Thanksgiving. Appleby and Co. were in the back row. Mom and baby were doing fine. Appleby was out.
"It has come to my attention that three-time Mercedes champion Stuart Appleby is flying with us," a male flight attendant announced as the plane banged down in Honolulu. "Congratulations."
Polite applause followed, before somebody in his traveling party shouted, "Don't wake him up."
How appropriate, for a 34-year-old Australian living the American dream.
Wake up? Why the hell would you? Keep on sleeping right on through to the other side of this week's Sony Open in Hawaii.
That is, if you ever get there.
By 5:30, nearly everyone on the flight had scattered to destinations unknown. They would never be together again. Appleby waited patiently for his five bags to arrive. Of course, the most important was already standing tall by the curb. Ashley and Emma went in search for a ride to the hotel befitting one of the few allowed to play anytime he wants to on the PGA Tour.
Is that great or what?
"Good luck this week," one last passenger said.
Short. To the point. Like a 3-footer worth a cool mil.
Because there were still diapers to change, a pregnant wife who needed tending and a big, bad bag of clubs ready to cut loose on Thursday. Joe Citizen was millionaire golfer once again.