One day earlier this month, I met a man named Jim Choi. Choi is the manager of the Northcrest Driving Range. I owe our acquaintance to Nathan Deal, the former Congressman and current GOP gubernatorial hopeful. Deal met Choi the same day I did.
Aside from an accommodating personality and a well-appointed golf driving range, Choi happens to also possess an extraordinarily conveniently located space. The Northcrest Driving Range is on Northcrest Rd., within spitting distance of Spaghetti Junction, the giant interchange that connects I-85 and I-285 in DeKalb County.
Such spaces are in great demand by the TV news goon seeking neutral ground for an interview. In this case, Deal was traveling from his home base in Hall County to an event in Marietta. I was trying to intercept him for an interview. “Pick a spot,” said his campaign spokesman.
The Northcrest Driving Range is a two-tiered monolith which flies a giant US flag overhead. Its signage is in English and Korean. I’ve driven past it countless times. Without asking permission first, I told Deal’s spokesman to send his man there.
This isn’t unusual. Frequently when TV folks need to find a meeting spot with a potential interviewee, we lean toward parking lots. “Better to ask forgiveness than permission,” goes the oft-repeated adage of mostly-harmless private property squatters armed with cameras and driving live trucks.
Deal’s camp asked no questions about pre-arrangements. They just knew a TV camera would be there. Deal showed up at the appointed hour.
Choi saw us, approached, and asked the obvious question: Why’s the TV camera in my parking lot? He seemed intrigued rather than threatened. I told him why we were there. “It won’t take long. You mind?” I asked.
“Show my driving range on TV!” he answered.
I told him it would be in the background. Two weeks later, the scenario repeated. “Want to meet at the driving range again?” asked Deal’s press guy.
This time, Choi invited us to use a room indoors to get out of the heat. He offered us soft drinks. “You play?” he asked. I told him that perhaps, we could get some video of Deal driving some golf balls. Regrettably, Deal declined. Turns out he’s not a golfer.
This was in stark contrast to a time about five years ago when I watched a photographer at WAGA nearly come to blows with a parking lot owner who demanded the immediate departure of our live truck. The property owner apparently held a grudge against the media generically, and was taking advantage of an opportunity to act on it. The fact that the truck’s 40-foot microwave mast was raised only enraged him more.
Property Owner: Leave or I’ll kick your ass.
Photog: You can’t kick my ass. You’re too fat.
At my insistence, we left.
If Choi had such a grudge, he suppressed it with charm and grace. Next time we show up there, maybe he can teach Nathan Deal how to swing a golf club.