On several occasions this year we‚??ve had the privilege of playing with a Legend. ¬†Now Legends are just human beings, granted, but nevertheless they add something a bit special to the mixer. ¬†Today the Legend in question was one Lawrence Patrick O‚??Neill. ¬†He‚??s known to most as Larry O‚??Neill, and to his friends as Chief (he was a chief petty officer in the US Navy for years). ¬†To me he‚??s ‚??Crotchety Old Sod‚?Ě (I told him after the round I‚??d get my own back on him)!
Larry was the Director of Golf at Stanford University, which is in Palo Alto ‚?? an hour or so south of San Francisco. ¬†Some of y‚??all might‚??ve heard of it; apparently it‚??s not a bad educational institution. ¬†During Chief‚??s tenure the likes of Tiger Woods, Notah Begay and Casey Martin passed through this pretty phenomenal place. ¬†He also caddied for Tom Watson, and is more or less friends with Everyone ‚?? even some of the folks we know back in Aotearoa, and some we don‚??t know but know of (like Murray Deaker, or Mooray Deeker as Larry pronounces it). ¬†When you meet Larry you immediately understand why he‚??s a Man of The People ‚?? the old fella is ‚??a good lad‚?Ě in the eyes of men and a dangerous charmer in the eyes of women. ¬†At 76 he‚??s got more game than Russell Brand. ¬†But I don‚??t want to give the old sod a big head so I‚??ll move on.
Larry teed up a game for us at...you guessed it...Stanford University golf course. ¬†The privilege of playing it is reserved for faculty staff, current students and alumni (and guest of the above). ¬†It‚??s the stomping ground of The Golf Team, which happens to be #1 in the US more or less every year (with names like Woods & Watson on the honour boards, this won‚??t come as much of a surprise). ¬†At 8.00am the place was buzzing with that Saturday Morning Golf Feeling. ¬†
We did the pleasantries and met the fourth member of our group ‚?? a local gentleman by the name of Rick Corso, a Buick Vice-President. ¬†Rick like many others is a pal of Larry‚??s, and was unfortunate enough to draw the short straw in having to trudge round for 4 hours with us (a treacherous task he set about without complaint). ¬†¬†‚??Twas a shotgun start so we were lead out to the 9th, which must be the most difficult tee shot on the course. ¬†You‚??re required to thread a needle down an undulating dogleg right uphill fairway, with thick foliage on either side. ¬†Easy. ¬†A par each and we were on our merry way.
The Old Sod I mentioned before can still play a bit, and in fact played in a British Seniors Open not so long ago. ¬†I on the other hand was not having one of my best days (although ended up with a respectable 77), and it didn‚??t take long for Lawrence to get stuck in. ¬†The first exchange I remember went something like this: [in New York accent] ‚??Michael, were you a cricketer? ¬†You have fast hands... Jamie...I got one word for you ‚?? LOFT...‚?Ě ‚??LOFT, Larry?‚?Ě, I enquired. ¬†‚??Yeah LOFT‚?Ě, cackled the crotchety old sod, ‚??Lack of ‚??Fu*%ing Talent!‚?Ě ¬†Charming.
I waited a long time for the opportunity to sledge him back too, ‚??cos he kept flushing it. ¬†Wily‚??s probably an apt way to describe him. ¬†I better be careful what I say though, because he‚??s taking Mike and I to Spyglass Hill on Wednesday (where he‚??s a member)! ¬†To make matters worse he drained a pitch from 80 yards for eagle on our 16th hole, the 7th (pictured below). ¬†Goldy had already hit a colossal drive and a wedge to get on in 2 (it‚??s a par 5), and was looking good for eagle from 15 feet. ¬†When Larry drained his pitch the first words out of his mouth were, well, words I can‚??t repeat ‚?? but they were something along the lines of ‚??how‚??s your father?‚?Ě. ¬†Brilliant.
Rick was a perfect gentleman and told us a bit about life in the automobile business. ¬†He also puffed on a fair few cigars, the smoke from which was very seductive (although having woken up the morning after a Cuban the night before on many occasions, I know just what price you pay). ¬†When Larry shot off to give a 10-year-old Korean-American prot√©g√© a lesson after we finished, Rick very kindly shouted us a burger & chips in the grill ‚?? which was just what the doctor had ordered.
The course I should say a word or two about. ¬†Laid out in [FIND OUT], it‚??s had a good many years to mature. ¬†Beautiful big deciduous trees line each fairway, and block views to any neighbouring holes. ¬†In fact there are only two crossovers, so you very rarely catch a glimpse of anyone bar the groups in front and behind. ¬†Not only does this bring a sense of tranquility to your round (save for Larry‚??s Irish chirping), but it also adds a good measure of atmosphere to the holes, lifting your pulse a beat or two as you commence the downswing. ¬†I loved it.
In the spirit of camaraderie we played from the second to back tees, rather than the ‚??Stanford Tees‚?Ě (i.e. Tips). ¬†This shaved a few hundred yards off what would be a pretty strong course, and even from our tees it was no walk in the park. ¬†Indeed birdies were few and far between ‚?? MG and I managed only 2 each. ¬†Chief didn‚??t drain any (nor did Rick), but then again he had an eagle. ¬†
It‚??d be remiss of me not to mention that on the signature hole par 3 14th (pictured below)¬†‚?? which is played across a ravine about 165 yards to psychotically tilted green ‚?? Larry‚??s had no less than four holes in one. ¬†7 all up, in his career, and 4 of ‚??em were here. ¬†Not bad going. ¬†None of us made it to the green, and only I out of the four managed to get up and down for a par. ¬†Larry also took great delight in telling us about his eagle on the long par 4 18th too, which is also a grand hole. ¬†His playing partner on that day is a lovely lady he plays with often, with whom we had dinner tonight.
Pete & Jill, who are the old family friends that‚??ve very sportingly put us up for a couple of nights, invited a couple of pals of theirs over for a curry. ¬†This curry in question had turkey and chicken and egg in it, and was served with bananas and sultanas on the side. ¬†Very unusual, compared to the orthodox lamb saag or chicken madras I‚??m used to ‚?? but flippin‚?? delicious all the same. ¬†Sue, who‚??s the half Irish half South African that plays golf with Larry, came with her husband Johnny (a Norwegian anaesthetist, or anaesthesiologist as they call ‚??em in the US) and friend Rosie from Durban / London. ¬†Sitting around the table with Pete (who‚??s from Edinburgh, and has been friends with my dear Uncle Ian for 65 years) and Jill (who‚??s from London) was like sitting around a meeting of the United Nations. ¬†We had a blast. ¬†I think we covered everything from politics to religion to mother-in-laws to football and everything in between.
When the guests left Pete, Mike and I sat in Pete‚??s bar and put the world to rest for an hour or two with The Regimental Band of the Scots Guard and Black Watch blaring in the background. ¬†Ah the pipes... Last night Pete had taught us a few business fundamentals; tonight it was more contemporary philosophy. ¬†(He‚??s been a very successful businessman in his time, and was good enough to share a few pearls of the wisdom he‚??s acquired). ¬†There‚??s nothing like a good stimulating pow wow to round off a quality day like we‚??ve had today.
From the atmosphere of Stanford, to Larry‚??s wit, to Rick‚??s generosity and cigar smoke, to Jill‚??s cooking, to Johnny‚??s Norwegian humour and Sue‚??s Irish charm, to Pete‚??s endearing Scots brogue and business 501 lectures ‚?? it‚??s been a helluva day, Day 135. ¬†For the last 15 minutes I‚??ve been trying to Skype my beloved girlfriend in New Zealand ‚?? Angela ‚?? but the Mac is misbehaving. ¬†So I‚??m off to bed.
Thanks to Larry & Rick for a cracking few hours of golf; and to Pete and Jill for being tremendous hosts over the past few days. ¬†It really has been a special time.
Tomorrow we‚??re going to take on the eponymous Pasatiempo ‚?? MacKenzie‚??s self proclaimed masterpiece. ¬†Apparently the greens are small and have elephants in them, and there are more bunkers than Royal Melbourne. ¬†Gulp.
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