NEW YORK -- Sometime after midnight on Sunday, a confused delivery man slowly drove down East 17th Street. He stopped in front of a group of seven guys out on the sidewalk, rolled down his window, and asked, "Pizza?" For a group of hearty Tiger Woods fans, some much-needed nourishment had finally arrived.
"We told them the address and they said, 'What apartment number?' We said, 'No apartment number,' Cameron Hammond of Milford, Conn. said. "'What do you mean?' 'Just go to the front of Barnes & Noble. We're standing in front of it.' The guy couldn't believe it."
Well, would you believe it? People camping out in front of a bookstore? On a freezing night in March? But that's exactly what this group did to ensure a spot at Tiger Woods' book signing on Monday afternoon. The best part? Most of them were meeting for the first time.
"It brought all of us together," Hammond said of the group's love of the 14-time major champ. "We weren't friends before, but now we are."
And now they were all sitting together, waiting anxiously for their favorite golfer to show up after buying a copy of The 1997 Masters: My Story and getting one of 300 (appropriately) red wristbands.
Truth be told, the guys probably could have just showed up to the store when it opened that morning and gotten into the event, but they were rewarded for their extra effort with a spot in the second row of a packed upstairs at Barnes & Nobel's Union Square location.
And no one deserved it more than Nick Bowers, who drove six-plus hours from Pittsburgh after leaving work the day before and didn't sleep a wink on the chilly sidewalk.
"The excitement kept me going," Bowers said.
And it made the sitting around tolerable. Those with a wristband got to come up on stage and briefly meet Woods while he signed their book. While they waited, there was plenty of time to think about what they would say to the golf legend.
"I'll just say thanks for the memories. I have all the memories from watching Tiger's tournaments as a kid," Raymond Melendez of Brooklyn said. "Tiger is golf. So to meet him is a dream come true. I'm going to be speechless."
Melendez said all he needed to make it through the night was some pizza and a 12-pack of Coke that stayed cold outside. He hands me a can to prove it and I can confirm it's still cold. I can also confirm after he insists that I drink it (I think he noticed me sweating) that this group of diehard Tiger fans are some of the nicest people I've ever met.
Woods showed up about 10 minutes late, but greeted everyone with a warm smile. He looked extremely fit wearing a tight gray Nike long-sleeved shirt. And then he sat down in a wooden chair to sign autographs for the next 90 minutes -- probably not the best thing for someone recovering from back injuries.
"It's tough to go from out there to all of a sudden you can't move, you can't swing the club," said New Jersey's Bob Shea, who brought along a copy of Tiger's instruction book and a special edition baseball card commemorating Woods' landmark win at the 1997 Masters. "But he's a good example for people. He's a good example for the everyday golfer that says, 'Hey, I can hit it.'"
Those who got a book (or two) signed came away satisfied. Will Ansah of Manhattan said Woods "seemed like a really nice guy" and was happy to hear he planned on reading his book to his son when he was old enough. And Woods asked him if people ever tell him he looks like Chris Tucker (he does). Sigmund Seignious of the Bronx took the day off from work to meet his idol and beamed while showing off his signed copies.
And Woods took one look at Bowers' Pirates hat and asked, "Are you from Pittsburgh?"
After getting his book signed, Bowers headed straight to his car for the long haul back. But as he recounted his brief brush with greatness, he flashed a wide grin.
"Totally worth it."