A Nation Full of Playing Partners
And the dream came true. I'm at a nice but not pretentious club near my home in suburban Orlando. And even though my wife gets to play more than me (should I be worried that a bunch of guys court my bride, and her handicap strokes, for club competitions?), I love to go over and practice or squeeze in a quick round before work.
But private clubs are not the only golf versions of 'Cheers' -- you know, where everybody knows your name (and membership number). Public courses, often municipal tracks, have their regulars ('Norm!'). And although I love club life, I sometimes miss one of the joys of the public course player: making new friends on the golf course.
Traveling around the country as I do, I get lots of chances to remedy this. Just last week, I covered the U.S. Amateur Publinx Championship in Bremerton, Wash., across Puget Sound from Seattle. West coast events offer the best chance for me to play after work. If 'Golf Central' starts at 7 p.m. in the east, I need to satellite all my stuff by 4 p.m. Pacific time ' and it stays light forever in the northwest this time of year.
McCormick Woods Golf Club, a pine-lined gem with very nice greens, serves the Bremerton-Port Orchard area. It was raining when I started, but I didnt care; I dashed right out. Bad idea to head out without a warm-up: in the first four holes, I sent half a dozen balls into the pine forest and berry thickets.
I managed to calm myself down. The rain stopped, I got out of the rain suit, and began to enjoy the scenery. Now, there are times when I love to play golf alone. But other times, companions complete the scene. And right on cue, here were two.
Henry and Peter, two Korean gentlemen, waited on a tee for me to catch up. I yanked my drive ' I wasnt completely calmed down yet ' and Henry, the middle-aged one, said, Oh, I think thats in Peters house. He lives up there. We all laughed.
We had a good time learning about each other. Henry had just moved up from Los Angeles, and so far, so good, he said. Certainly easier to get a tee time. Peter, who looked to be about 30, said he liked the Bremerton-Tacoma area very much. But October to March, he said, shaking his head, well, you better like rain.
Peter suggested a sushi bar near my hotel in Tacoma. Henry surveyed the shaft in my 3-wood and we chatted about tip flexibility. We all at one time or another hit shots worthy of praise by the others. I left feeling a lot better about the last 14 holes than I did about the first four.
A couple nights later, after the Publinx had wrapped up, I played at Gold Mountain Golf Club, which is run by the city of Bremerton. But this is no overplayed muni ' Gold Mountain has 36 excellent holes, and one of the courses was good enough for the Publinx. I played the Cascades course with locals Rick, Mike, and Dennis, all mid-40s guys like me. In the cart with Rick was his 12-year daughter, Danielle.
It was good to go around Cascades with someone who knew where to hit it. They didnt mind that I walked as they rode. Rick and I discussed his irons and trajectory in general. Once you get out there, you realize how many students of the game there are in golf.
Danielle, eternally patient, seemed to delight in just riding along. She kept her Dads score and drove the cart, doing a brake-stand every time she needed to stop. After awhile, I got her to admit she likes soccer, but isnt much into golf, at least not playing it. So naturally, I made her hit my par putt on No. 7. She didnt miss by any more than I would have.
They take me back, these meetings with new golf friends. When I was learning the game in Pittsburgh at Oakmont East, the hilly public track near Oakmont Country Club, my happenstance companions ran the gamut from an old Japanese man (who invited me to his home for a beer in his perfectly manicured garden) to a pot-bellied fellow in a stained orange-shirt and a bucket-hat (whose habit it was, while others were putting, to raise himself up and down on his toes as he popped his entire ball into his mouth to clean it).
So many columns, mine included, are full of sentences that begin, The golf community should, as if we are picking on some shortcoming. But this is something golf does right. Public golf helps people make new friends, either formally (McCormick Woods has a weekday Nine and Dine golf-dinner event) or otherwise.
So even if youre in a club, branch out from time to time. You never know what sort of memorable characters youll meet.
Email your thoughts to Adam Barr
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.