1. The PGA Merchandise Show: The golf industry converges on the Orange County Convention Center in January each year for three days of golfing madness. The show is enormous. All the main manufactures, clothiers and accessorizers attend, but by far the most entertaining aspect are the small niche companies peddling products that you never knew existed. I did a story this year on the bizarre wares available, which included: a weed-whacker disguised as a driver, an umbrella you wear on your head, and fruit-flavoured golf tees. The show is for industry only, but if you are ever in Orlando and can sneak in, it's worth the blisters youll get for walking the miles of floor space.
2. The Isleworth Invitational: Played during the PGA Merchandise Show each January, Isleworth director of golf Marty DAngelo invites a two-man team (pro and amateur) from the leading clubs around the world for a three-day visit to one of the worlds most exclusive country clubs. This year I was lucky enough to represent my home track, Walton Heath Golf Club, alongside head professional Simon Peaford. We didnt embarrass the Walton Heath tradition, but hardly set the place alight either. Isleworths par-3 second, which could be the toughest short hole in the world, was our downfall. Former NHL stand-out and Isleworth member Dan Quinn deserved every penny of the $3,000 or so he collected there on Day 2 with a birdie, his two being the only skin.
3. Annikas stepping away party: I made my first visit to New Jersey in May for the Sybase Classic and Annika Sorenstams bombshell announcement. I felt a really sense of history as I stood crammed into the small media center at Upper Montclair Country Club on that Tuesday listening to one of the greatest to ever play the game tell the world it was all coming to an end. As always, Annika was composed and thoughtful in my interview with her, but made it clear she was stepping away and not retiring. I had the chance to play with Karrie Webb in the pro-am that week as well. Seeing a major winner up close plotting her way around the golf course was a real bonus.
4. Coupe de Presidente: A trip to the Terre Blanche Golf Club in Provence, France was one of the highlights of the year. I played in their Presidents Trophy on a golf course in immaculate shape ' the greens were near perfect and views of the provencial countryside were stunning. Terre Blanche Golf Club is one of Europes true hidden gems ' the on-site hotel and spa are tremendous. In fact, we couldnt find any faults during our visit. Despite some solid golf, a wayward driver got the better of me and my chances of bringing the Coupe de Presidente back to Golf Channel. Still it was all forgotten once the ros champagne started flowing during the five-course prize-giving dinner.
5. Larrazabal ignites the French Open: Staying on a French theme, there was no more electrifying play than that of Pablo Larrazabal at the Open de France this year. I was hosting coverage all four days and the young Spaniard was a joy to watch. If swashbuckling can be used in golf then thats how to describe his play. Larrazabal went on to be crowned Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year on the European Tour, thanks mainly to his win at Golf National. He could be a valuable character for the tour in years to come if he can keep up this standard of play and high entertainment factor.
6. TPC Snoqualmie Ridge: These were some of the most stunning views Ive ever experienced from a golf course. This summer I made my first trip to Seattle to host a Mutual of Omaha Big Break Challenge, which was held at the TPC Snoqualmie Ridge. The course is the host venue for the Boeing Classic on the Champions Tour and sits in the Cascade Foothills. No matter what I write here, I wont be able to describe the beauty of the back-drop to this Nicklaus design. Make a trip and see for yourself.
7. Buckingham Palace grounds: I toured Buckingham Palace this summer. It's a spectacular landmark ' the interior is just how you would imagine one of the worlds most luxurious and ordinate residences to be; however, what many people forget is just how much land the palace occupies in the center of one of the worlds busiest cities. Buckingham Palace has around 40 acres of grounds, out-of-site to the prying public gaze. As I stood on the back terrace looking at the huge lawn my only thought was just how perfect it would be for a mid-iron practice range. The grass was crisp, you could just imagine feathering 7-iron after 7-iron down the garden. Such a waste. I wonder if anyone has ever had the pleasure. Im going to guess no.
8. Trevino the showman: Before September of this year I had never had the pleasure of meeting Lee Trevino. I had always been told how much of a showman he was and how there is never a dull moment in his company. I was lucky enough to host the ING Shootmakers Shootout at the Boulders Resort in Carefree, Ariz., this year. In attendance was Paula Creamer, Suzann Pettersen, Bubba Watson and the Merry Mex himself. Despite the searing 100-degree heat, Trevino was on for four hours, telling jokes and stories, delighting the assembled ING clients, and entertaining myself and the players. He is a true legend of the game, old-school but still as fresh as when he burst onto the scene as Rookie of the Year in 1967.
9. Wie at Q-School: Like it or loathe it, the Michelle Wie story still turns heads and gets people talking. On Day 2 of the Q-School final stage in Daytona, Fla., you could put aside the circus and watch pure talent put together one of the easiest 65s I have ever seen. It was Wie at her best. I only hope she keeps her head and finds the guts to pull off a win on the LPGA in 2009.
10. Rhoden putting genius: Rich Lerner organizes a charity tournament each December in Orlando and Ive had the fortune to play the past three years. This time around I was paired with former MLB pitcher turned touring pro Rick Rhoden, whos putting stroke could be the smoothest Ive ever seen. He had the vacuum turned to high power on the Champions Gate greens, cleaning-up putts from all over the place. The ball seems to just float off the face. Now if only I could learn to do the same.
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