By Tim Nolan
The advice was caddie-esque, with a bit of a twist: Ten feet, slightly uphill. Greens as fast as glass. Choose your weapon. There were three. After a bit of hefting, I decided on a rather bulky, ominous-looking affair. Then, as instructed, I ran it up the fat of the Champagne bottle to the neck, where it blew away the cork, the cage and the first inch or so of glass. Thus my initiation into the black art of sabreing, a specialty of Andre St. Jacques, owner of a restaurant called the Bearfoot Bistro.
And a fine introduction as well to Whistler, an offbeat, Christmas village-pretty hamlet tucked into British Columbias Coast Range, 80 miles north of Vancouver. Its all quite well organized: four golf courses (thats the new news) within minutes of the village, lifts to the top of cheek-by-jowl Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, your skiing destination (if you wish) following the morning round, as well as the town itself.
Its an interesting village, built largely en toto in the 70s and architecturally knit around a log cabin look. Its also automobile-free, I suppose to slow you down and more effectively prey on your wallet as you stroll along the unending array of stores youve heard of, and shops you havent.
The Bearfoot Bistro, with 15,000 bottles of wine in its cellar (well, one fewer now) is at the top of the eatery list, along with Araxi and the Rimrock Caf. Whistler cuisines include Japanese, Chinese, Mediterranean, French, Italian, Pacific Rim, German, Indian, Greek and yes, Mongolian. Pub fare, built around burgers, wide
selections of beer and television sets aflicker with sports from around the world, is easily found.
Whistlers charms, as well as its cold, snowy winters and Alpine possibilities, combined nicely with Vancouvers cosmopolitan feel to convince the International Olympic Committee into awarding the pair the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
The infrastructure goodies that come along with winning Olympic bids are beginning to crop up. The athletes quarters will be converted into affordable housing, and improvements along the Sea-to-Sky Highway, the main artery connecting Vancouver to Whistler, are under way. Distance between the two is only 80 miles, but at two lanes with plenty of grades, its a ponderous trip nonetheless. Ultimately, the highway upgrade will include new passing lanes and more four-lane stretches. The improvements will cut driving time between Whistler and Vancouver by about 10 to 15 minutes (from just under two hours), and it will be a safer, easier trip come the Olympics.
Whereas public transportation ranging from straightforward jitneys to lavish coaches is available, the best alternative is a hop up and back along the Coast Range via seaplane, which offers stunning views and no traffic.
Once at Whistler, the choices of lodging are far-ranging, from full-service resorts like the Four Seasons and Fairmont, to any number of boutique hotels, to less formal accommodations around town. Whistler is an easygoing, hey-dude kind of place, where ski bums coexist with visitors looking for a more lavish vacation.
Whistler may be first and foremost a ski mecca, but the summer brings its share of visitors, especially for the golf. There are three courses, all relatively new, within minutes of the village and most of its lodgings. A fourth course, in Pemberton, an easy 20 minutes north of Whistler completes the consortium called Golf Whistler.
Whistlers three courses'Nicklaus North, Whistler Golf Club, Fairmont Chateau Whistler'are kind designs. At 6,908 yards from the tips, Nicklaus North is a comfortable loop. As with many Nicklaus designs, the axis of greens often runs at a sharp angle to the fairway, creating a better half of fairway for approaches. Much of Nicklaus Norths interest comes from its par 3s, which provide hazard-free landing areas just off the greens for up-and-down shots at par, as well as birdie opportunities by challenging hazards like fronting bunkers or water. Flout them at your pleasure; its absorbing and fun.
Whistler, designed by Arnold Palmer, is beautiful to look at, thanks to an abundance of streams and lakes. Like its neighbor Nicklaus North, Palmers course asks players to frankly assess their own capabilities, perhaps look to make bogeys and up-and-down pars, and walk off the 18th thirsty and content. While not long at 6,722 yards, Whistler has water hazards that define margins of fairways, and flirting with them often results in shorter, easier approach shots.
Robert Trent Jones Jr.s Fairmont Chateau Whistler has a different feel, primarily because it is set not in the valley, but along the flank of the mountains. Elevation ups and downs sometimes render scorecard distances irrelevant. The 3rd, for example, a par-4 dogleg protected in front by a stream hustling glacier melt down into the valley, is listed at 399 yards, but it drops 160 feet along the way.
The 8th hole captures the essence of the course. Its a par 3 listed at 212 yards, falling downhill all the way. Greenside left a pond pushes in. A miss to the right and a chip back toward the water is the play. Rock blown away in construction has been left exposed, pinching the safe landing area. The front left bunker amounts to the only real bailout. All of which mingles with the rather baffling job of club selection. Its the toughest of threes.
At 6,635 yards, Fairmont Chateau seems rather short for a mountain course. Thats because at 2,200 feet, Whistler isnt all that elevated. And the areas fourth course, Big Sky Golf and Country Club in nearby Pemberton, is even lower, with an elevation of 670 feet.
Set against Mount Currie, 8,300 feet of nearly vertical rock, ribbed with ice, waterfalls and clutches of Douglas fir, Big Sky is impossible to forget. It is a backdrop that would overwhelm any golf course bold enough to challenge its primacy.
Bob Cupps solution was to succumb to Mt. Curries loft with a course that makes you think not up, but down: at your feet. He used easy swells and dips to create that most subtle of challenges: the awkward stance. Fluky puffs of breeze bouncing off the mountain further confuse matters.
Around many of the greens, shots near the edges will slide off and down into tightly cut swales, from where pitches, chips, putts, hybrid or fairway wood chips'whatever works'require perfect execution. Pretty good is not good enough.
My favorite is the 4th, a par 5 of 520 yards that offers many tactical choices. Organized around a stream that weaves its way across the fairway three times, it asks for a well-executed plan that makes the crossings comfortable. All in all, Big Skys subtly demanding design and spectacular scenery make the trip from the village worthwhile'and demands a return visit, a sentiment that easily could apply to Whistler itself.
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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88
MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.
Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.
Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.
The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.
On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.
Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.
He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.
In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.
Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.
Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M
In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.
This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.
Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.
Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.
The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.
Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout
CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.
Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.
Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.
“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”
Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.
“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”
Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break
Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.
Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.
Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.
“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”
Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.
“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”
Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.