Two-time US Open Champion Lee Janzen is, by all accounts, a good guy and a great golfer. It only takes one US Open trophy to prove the latter, and this guy's got a spare, having twice edged out the late, great Payne Stewart, to capture the championship in 1993 at Baltusrol and 1998 at the Olympic Club.
So ... in December 2018, my family and I were in Orlando, attending the PNC Father Son Challenge (since renamed the PNC Championship). We were staying in the JW Marriott, where the tournament is held, and on Thursday evening we found ourselves headed out for dinner and a show at Medieval Times. Our son was just shy of his 4th birthday at the time -- the perfect age for an experience like that.
Traveling with a 4-year-old is a handful, especially when you're trying to get anywhere on time. We also had my father-in-law along with us, and I was trying to shepherd us all from our hotel rooms to the car and on to dinner as efficiently as I could. So, I wasn't really prepared to step off the elevator and find myself face-to-face with -- no, not Lee Janzen ... but Stewart Cink.
He was standing there talking with somebody I honestly never even looked at. I was excited to run into him because I'd just played TPC Sugarloaf, outside Atlanta, a few months prior, and I knew that's where he lived. So, I said hello, and he graciously turned his attention to us. We talked for a couple of minutes about Sugarloaf. He kindly said hello to my wife (who still hasn't forgiven him for defeating Tom Watson in that 2009 British Open playoff) and our son, as well as my father-in-law. I was struck by how tall he is. We asked if we could take a quick picture with him, and he obliged.
It was only then that he said, "Let me introduce you to Lee Janzen."
Yes ... the person he'd been talking to before we got off the elevator ... the person who has, at this point, been standing idly by without so much as a look from us, let alone a word ... the person who has received zero attention in this conversation ... is two-time US Open Champ Lee Janzen.
My family's failure to recognize him could be excused; I'm the golf nut. And I felt like a dope. But in a moment like that, you have two options ... admit just what a dope you are, apologize and make things awkward ... or pretend like you still don't know who the person is, and introduce yourself like you don't realize you're shaking hands with a guy who has won the US Open TWO TIMES!
I went with the latter. I figured, in the moment, it was less embarrassing for me AND for Lee that way.
Of course, he couldn't have been nicer. He acted like he didn't even notice the social mis-step. And really, how absolutely gracious of him that he still greeted us so warmly. That's one of the things I've noticed in my experience meeting PGA Tour players through the years; I'm sure they all have their off moments, but I've never had anything less than a pleasant encounter with any of them.
I'll tell you one thing, though ... I'm really glad we asked my father-in-law to take the picture of us with Stewart Cink instead of handing the camera to Lee Janzen and asking him to do it!