Sandy Oliynyk: From Editor to Golf-Cart Gofer

When I tell acquaintances I’m the editor of Practical Horseman, they usually say, “Oh that sounds so fun” or “That is really cool.” And it is. For example, at last week’s Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, I attended the press conferences with the day’s top riders, had access to front-row seats in the photographer’s pen for several cross-country fences and attended a Saturday-night dinner by event sponsor Rolex, at which I ate like a queen. I was also Jim Wofford’s golf-cart gofer for his annual Friday-afternoon course walk, which we sponsor. As he has in the past, Jim planned to talk about a fence, hop into a golf cart and lead the 350 or so spectators to the next fence in Pied-Piper fashion. My job was to pick up the cart from the media center and meet him on course. I arrived to collect the cart and photographer Amy Dragoo, who was going to videotape the walk. Keys in hand, we waited patiently for the service elevator, so slow it reminded me of watching the last bit of syrup drip from the bottle when you’re really hungry. Five minutes later, though, we were in the cart. Amy put the key in the ignition, hit the gas ? and nothing happened. She tried again. Nothing. As I rode the really slow elevator back up, my stomach did a flip-flop, knowing that Jim and the crowd would be gathering at the first fence. Arriving on the second floor, I asked the media center’s Patrick Field for help. He looked at me and said, “You just turn the key on and hit the gas.” “Um, we tried that,” I said. With a slightly dubious look, he rode down in the elevator with me and headed for the golf cart. Climbing in, he pressed the choke a few times, turned the ignition and pressed the gas pedal. The golf cart shot forward. (Note: If a golf cart hasn’t been warmed up, you need to press the choke a few times, though according to Patrick, not too many because it will flood the engine.) With words of thanks, we took off but slowed to walking pace to weave around the meandering trade-fair crowds. Finally we got to the fence and heard Jim giving instructions to the crowd, “When my golf cart finally arrives, you’ll follow me to the next fence ? ” The flip-flops in my stomach picked up a notch. I must have looked slightly panicked because as we drove to the next fence, Jim joked about the time he went through three golf carts at The Fork competition. Soon though, we realized the cart was going much too slow. Looking back, Amy announced a flat tire. Soon I was heading back to the media center for a replacement golf cart, going as fast as I dared among the crowds. Somewhere along the way, though, I took a right where I should have taken a left and ended up just outside the FEI stabling area where many of the four-star horses were being hand-grazed. I was so tempted to stop and watch these amazing athletes just being horses, but as I already was failing in my golf-cart duties, I figured I’d better not. Back at the media center, Patrick gave me the keys to another golf cart, and I headed out. I put the key in the ignition, but it wouldn’t turn. I tried again ? and again ? and again. After another painfully slow elevator ride up, during which I tried unsuccessfully to get my growing hysteria under control, I rushed up to Patrick, my face crimson with humiliation. (I mean, who can’t start a golf-cart?) and announced, “It won’t start.” A flicker of incredulity crossed his face, which he masked amazingly well as he followed me back down to the cart. Turning the key in the ignition, he stepped on the gas and the cart shot forward. As I took my place behind the wheel with a sheepish thanks, Patrick said, “It’s been raining, so don’t get the golf cart stuck in the mud. It’s deep.” I thought, “Really, do I look that stupid?” then realized I’d better not ask that question out loud given the circumstances. I weaved around the trade-fair crowds again and found Jim entertaining the crowd at Fence 7. After a few more remarks, he hopped into the cart and headed to the next fence. The golf-cart drama was over. After this, I thought, editing a magazine should be easy! Read Nancy Jaffer’s postcard about the 2011 Rolex Three-Day Event here.

Prac’s Associate Publisher Kathy Dando on the golf cart.
Jim Wofford describes a fence to his course walkers.
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