How on earth could our last game in Dallas have crept up on us so quickly? ¬†Yesterday we hacked it round Los Colinas then spent a couple of hours out at Colonial ‚?? and the day, before we knew it, was gone. ¬†Well, it was gone after another one of Phil T‚??s gourmet steaks, I should say. ¬†And one of Mel‚??s sumptuous cakes. ¬†Yes we‚??re spoiled.
Another Kiwi fulla (in fact, another Maori fulla - the other being Phil, not either of us obviously) joined us today. ¬†Jase is a mate of Phil‚??s from way back ‚?? they grew up playing together in Taupo ‚?? and has lived here for 11 years or so (married a Kiwi-American). ¬†He‚??s been a pro in his time, but now spends his days with a company that lays artificial greens (like the one Phil has in his backyard). ¬†Sounds like a good living, from what he was saying
The 4 of us boosted out to TPC Craig Ranch (as you might‚??ve guessed, a big ranch owned by the rather wealthy Craig family) on the outskirts of Dallas. ¬†It‚??s on the north side, where they‚??re banking the city will spread in the years to come (hence the outrageously huge hotel that probably doesn‚??t get filled every night...if you get my drift). ¬†¬†This time we travelled not in Dodgy, but in another Dodge, of a more recent vintage. ¬†It ‚??had balls‚?Ě as we would say back home ‚?? meaning there are a few horsepower under the hood. ¬†
Craig Ranch is quite unlike Los Colinas, in terms of its atmosphere. ¬†Where LC is urban, CR is rural ‚?? and obviously all the more peaceful for it. ¬†It‚??s also leased and by the TPC network, whereas LC is a license deal (which has various implications in terms of who staff are employed by; how they interact with you, etc). ¬†
The course itself is a bit of a brute, and plays really long if you‚??re not hitting your driver well (as I wasn‚??t). ¬†From the PGA Tour tees, the slope rating is 77.3 (par 72), if that gives you a hint. ¬†Being the masochistic monkeys we are ‚?? and given we were playing with a couple of pros ‚?? of course we had to take ‚??em on. ¬†Ha. ¬†All good fun.
To mix things up we also played a couple of formats new to Mick and me. ¬†First, we played an ‚??Atlanta scramble‚?Ě - whereby the 2 balls on the left take on the 2 balls on the right (from the tee). The scoring is complicated to explain in words, but I‚??ll give it a go: If A+B are on the left, and make a 3 and a 4; and C+D are on the right, and make a 5 and a 4; A+B score 34 and C+D score 45, meaning A+B each get 11 points for the hole, by taking their score away from C+D‚??s. ¬†Hopefully you get the picture. ¬†If someone on the winning team gets a birdie, the winning margin is doubled. ¬†In this case A+B would get 22 points each. ¬†Your partner often changes on each hole, unless everyone‚??s hitting the same tee shots every time! ¬†It‚??s a game in which you can get pulled along with a bit of luck, even if you‚??re not playing/scoring well yourself. ¬†I managed to be in second place at the turn, despite having the worst gross score by some margin. ¬†In the end I was 3rd and Mike 4th, which meant lunch was on us!
The second game we played ‚?? concurrently ‚?? was the zoo game. ¬†Jase had promised us in the car that we were in for a treat, but wouldn‚??t let on until we left the 1st tee block. ¬†The nerves... Then the stuffed animals came out. ¬†Camel for going in the bunker; killer whale for going in the hazard; snake for 3 putting; gorilla for lost ball (which never surfaced). ¬†The animals most often change hands throughout the round ‚?? always with a big smile from the donor. ¬†Real mind games going on. ¬†At the end, the person with the most animal usually shouts lunch, or ponies up with $100 or so. ¬†Adds extra colour to the day ‚?? a lot of fun.
In the sheds we had lunch and a much needed Arnold Palmer (iced tea and lemonade) or two. ¬†Our Kiwi banter was lost on the poor waitress, who didn‚??t quick pick up on our satirical quips. ¬†No matter. ¬†The club sandwich may just have been the biggest sandwich I‚??ve ever seen. ¬†When the waitress delivered mine, and asked straight away if we‚??d like anything else, I replied ‚??another one please‚?Ě - complete deadpan, she thought I was serious, and suggested I wait until I‚??ve finished the first one. ¬†Classic.
On the way out we came across these beasts ‚?? pictured below ‚?? being Texas Long Horn cattle. ¬†I‚??m sure their beef tastes just like the stuff back home (maybe not, actually), but their horns are something else. ¬†Very exotic.
All in all, another glorious day. ¬†Loved staying with Phil & Mel ‚?? they were amazing hosts ‚?? and meeting Jase, who was good for a laugh or six. ¬†Could definitely have spent another few days here, but the show must go on (and Phil has to head off to Washington to...well...play). ¬†Thanks guys, if you‚??re reading this ‚?? we really appreciated your hospitality, and look forward to seeing you in December back home. ¬†
Tonight we‚??re off to New Orleans, driving overnight and playing tomorrow lunchtime. ¬†Might have time to check out The French Quarter in the morning if all goes to plan.
It was another early start to make our way in Dodgy to the TPC Las Colinas Golf Course ‚?? part of the Four Seasons Hotel complex here in Dallas.
The Hotel licenses the TPC brand from the PGA Tour and so Phil Tataurangi was able to arrange for us to play here.
Phil also took the lead and drove Dodgy to the Four Seasons and was blessed to experience what it feels like to turn up in a flash car park in Dodgy, tell the guy on the security gate you‚??ve come to play golf and then try and find a park amongst the BMW‚??s. Pure.
This track recently hosted the HP Byron Nelson Championship as part of the PGA Tour (which spends a three week loop here in the twin cities that are Dallas / Fort Worth). Supposedly it is a real hotspot during the week where locals come to party, holler and generally come to ‚??be seen‚?? ‚?? sounds a bit like the races back home. Except here it is 35 degrees (Celsius) every day and you‚??re surrounded by a luxury five star hotel and all the accompanying bells and whistles.
The course was redesigned prior to the 2008 championship (won by Aussie Adam Scott) by D.A Weibring..¬† Scoring here is traditionally very low, and the fields here are generally very strong. The professional golfers were personally invited to play in this tournament by the great man Lord Byron himself prior to him passing.¬† So the lists of past champions on the halls include Tiger, Phil, Ernie Els, Sergio, Parnevick etc.¬†¬† Since Lord Nelson‚??s death the fields haven‚??t been as strong and with Tiger not including this event on his schedule any longer some have now described this as a ‚??have-not‚?? event on tour.
I was pleasantly surprised by the course. Despite it adjoining a hotel, having been redesigned in the last couple of years and having the TPC initials before its name the course seemed very settled and, at times, subtle and traditional.
The greens were small and you needed to exhibit some shotmaking to get the ball on in regulation.¬†¬† A parkland course, like many in the US, there was not a lot of roll here, and with the par 70 course playing nearly 7200 yards it was tough going.¬† Last week the PGA Tour stopped here and Jason Day¬† (the young Aussie) won with 10 under par.¬† ¬†
Phil explained why the scoring was not red hot ‚?? there is normally a strong wind blowing across the course. Which explains many of the holes, for example the 528 yard par four third.¬† Stop and think about that ‚?? 528 yards. So if you bomb a 300 yard drive you‚??ve got 230 left. It‚??s not downhill either, the tee shot plays between a lake on the right (and OOB if you go way right) and bunkers on the left. The green is raised with tight lies most of the way around it.¬† 5 was the best score here amongst us all!
The course was pretty brutal today because it was still fresh from being in tournament condition and the rough was incredibly long and wiry.¬†¬† On a couple of occasions we nearly lost balls that had trickled just off the fairway.¬† Advancing it 100 yards with a wedge from the rough was not uncommon.
Another good fun hole was the drivable par four 11th at 330 yards. The green had two shelves, the lower one on the left and the upper on the right. The pin today was just at the bottom of the slope on the left half of the green. Despite Phil and I getting pretty close to the green with our drives, we still couldn‚??t give ourselves a decent putt at the birdie, such was the nature of this ridge running through the green.
The finish here is special. Starting with 14 ‚?? a dogleg right par four (pictured below) that plays into the prevailing wind that tends to blow any poorly struck ball down and left towards the water. Then 15 is a tough par four if ever there was one ‚?? 500 yards + again and into the prevailing breeze.¬† 16 is an uphill par five, and then 17 (also below) is a par three over water¬† - take a guess at where the pin goes on the last day of the tournament.¬† On all of these holes the redesign has included mini amphitheaters around the greens and plenty of space for corporate seating and grandstands.¬† This is stadium golf. And today the stadiums were still up so you could almost picture yourself playing amongst 40,000 screaming Texan fans. Well not quite..
Making this finish even better was having the best seat in the house watching Phil in action carve it up. 4 birdies in 5 holes on 13 ‚?? 17 made for memorable viewing and was good enough to snake us in the skins by a handful (after he had no skins through 12 holes).¬† This was easily the best golf that I‚??ve seen first hand so far this year ‚?? and we‚??re all hoping to see Phil carve it up for a few days at a tournament in the near future!
Throughout the round we shared thoughts on golf course architecture with Phil who, like us, takes a huge interest in what makes a golf course tick.¬† He shares many philosophies with both of us, and also has an eye for more traditional golf course design.¬† Phil, as a pro who has played the game all his life, understands the angles a bit better and is in the psyche of a pro whilst also understanding what an amateur would do.¬†¬† Standing on the 18th he explained to us that this hole used to be a dogleg par four with a tree named after Byron overhanging on the inside corner and blocking out any tee shot that was slightly pulled. Now it is wide open with a lake and water feature on the left making for a more dramatic view for the TV cameras. This would have cost plenty, but then again this is the Four Seasons! ¬†Into the wind this is a tough finishing hole, one where last week Jason Day, with a 2 shot lead got the ball up and it was knocked into the pond but he still scrounged a 5 to win.¬†¬† I finally strung a couple of shots together and made birdie (after being sledged by Phil for taking an iron off the tee) the best way to leave the round smiling.
After golf we headed for a bite to eat and then off to watch the PGA Tour at Colonial. Unfortunately my new shorts split so I was left only to wear pants ‚?? loudmouth pants ‚?? hear how that went down with the Texan folk in JP‚??s upcoming post.
Dinner was back at base camp with the Mel and Phil ‚?? another kiwi bbq (Phil can cook steaks pretty damn well) and a slice of home (tuimato sauce included).¬† They‚??ve been amazing hosts and just what the doctor amidst our mammoth drive cross country.
Golf on Day 147 was always going to be a low key affair. ¬†At 3pm on Day 146 we rolled out of Phoenix and onto the 10 Freeway heading east...towards Dallas. ¬†Google Maps clocks the journey at 1068 miles. ¬†It felt longer.
Add to the mixer a hint of uncertainty - over Dodgy's long haul capabilities - and you have an interesting episode in the saga that is puregolf2010. ¬†Against all the odds it was quite an enjoyable 22 hours. ¬†Travelling in Dodgy is like travelling business class on a long haul flight, in some ways. ¬†There's plenty room; a bed to lay your head on; a built in chilly bin (in this case stocked full of Starbucks espresso cans, red bulls, powerades and anything else that might keep us awake); and a quality stereo. ¬†The engine purred gracefully too, masking Dodgy's true...longevity.
Outside the tinted windows were cacti rising 30 feet into the air, boulders the size of shopping malls and wide open expanses of Not Much. ¬†Everything's huge in these parts (including the trucks that do their best to block every road sign from view).
Anyway we arrived in Dallas early afternoon, and did a brief interview¬†(scroll to "Norm Golfer" segment, on Thursday) with the local radio kingpin, Norm Hitzges (who by fortunate coincidence loves all things Kiwi and is pals with Phil T). ¬†A good yarn it was too, even though I nearly keeled over half way through from the suffocating heat within a parked Dodgy oven. ¬†
Relief was the overwhelming emotion when we reached Phil‚??s place ‚?? after getting lost in the labyrinth that is the golf complex he lives in (we were looking for ‚??eagle street‚?Ě; found ‚??par street‚?Ě; assumed the next street would be ‚??birdie street‚?Ě so drove straight on and missed the turn (there was no "birdie street" - no logic to the street naming system here). ¬†Both of us were pretty delirious, and probably not much chop on the conversation front when we arrived ‚?? but after years on the road Phil and wife Mel could relate to our plight and so were very understanding. ¬†And welcoming.
We met son Kahu (9 years old) and daughter Talia (a few years his younger). ¬†Lovely kids. ¬†Kahu‚??s going to be a real ladies man, and he‚??s got a bit of sporting prowess about him too (not surprising when you look at mum and dad). ¬†As soon as the bags were unloaded from Dodgy we got out into the yard and shot some hoops with Kahu. ¬†With a 180 dunk (to an 8 foot rim) in my arsenal, I may as well have been Michael Jordan (at 5 foot 10 inches Phil can't reach the basket unless he uses a stepladder...). ¬†Then there was a bit of table tennis on the back patio; then a few putts struck on Phil‚??s practice putting green. ¬†This would‚??ve been my dream house as a kid.
Golf was the last thing I felt like doing ‚?? in 40 degree heat ‚?? but...well, you know...we sort of have to! ¬†Phil tentatively hopped in the driver‚??s seat of Dodgy and zipped us down to Lake Park Executive, a little 9 hole municipal course in Dallas proper. ¬†The course wasn‚??t much to write home about, but it was perfect for our needs. ¬†Because it was a par 3 course it was also great for Kahu to showcase his dynamite short game (which ended up being the decisive factor in bringing victory honours upon him and yours truly). ¬†The wee fella had his best 9 hole round ever, with 41 (previous PB 46) ‚?? despite a disappointing 8 on the final hole, which he was visibly gutted with. ¬†He‚??s got his father‚??s competitive streak.
Father and son took turns at caddying for the other on each hole. ¬†Father gave son a few tips. ¬†Son wasn‚??t particularly receptive, but desperately wanted to impress Father. ¬†The episode reminded me a lot of my early playing days with my dad out at Lundin Links in Fife, Scotland. ¬†I never listened to a word he said, and got hopelessly frustrated if things weren‚??t going my way. ¬†All part of growing up.
Back at Tataurangi base camp we fired up the BBQ and grilled a few steaks ‚?? well, Phil did, and he did it like a seasoned chef too. ¬†More than just a pretty face. ¬†One beer; one steak; and a couple of veges was bliss and enough to send me to sleep. ¬†It was gutting, initially, to learn there was only one bed (it was Goldy‚??s turn), but the sofa proved to be more comfortable than a King Size at The Ritz ‚?? and being as shattered as I was, I would‚??ve slept like a log on a bed of nails.
A long day. ¬†And a very warm welcome by a Kiwi family. ¬†Day 147...
At long last Mike and I got a look at the segment Sports Inc TV filmed of us for the HSBC Golf Show back in NZ. ¬†Some of you may have already seen it on Sky Sports but, because of international broadcasting rights, etc, we didn't get a peak until Phil Leishman The Great Man Himself And My Fantastic and Victorious Playing Partner On The Day uploaded it to YouTube (I don't imagine he did it himself, he's too old for that sort of technological prowess) and flicked me the link.
So here it is. ¬†Brings back a few good memories of a quality day at Titirangi. ¬†Seems like a long time ago now!
Alistair McKenzie is renowned as one of the best golf course architects of all time.¬† His stable includes Augusta National, Cypress Point, Royal Melbourne and many other famous courses.¬† McKenzie spent a couple of days a few decades back having a play at some land West of Auckland, and the output, Titirangi Golf course is something special.
I must confess that before this year began, I had barely heard of Titirangi GC. Yet, on our travels we have consistently heard that this little McKenzie track is, without a doubt, one of New Zealand‚??s best.
Looking at the card, Titirangi looks like a walk in the park. It is short ‚?? par 70 and barely 6000m long off the black tees. But the typical McKenzie design requires strategy and placement.¬† You don‚??t stand on the tee with your driver and smash it as hard as you want. Tee shots require careful choice of iron or fairway wood, often with some shape, to place your ball in the best place to approach the green.¬† It is a feature of the design that holes can seem simple when played well, but monstrously difficult when not. ¬†¬†The course was in awesome nick, playing fast but very fair. The greens were glass and the moral of the story today was do not leave your ball above the hole!¬†
I will briefly mention a couple of features of the course. The par 3‚??s are beastly. 170m + iron shots to a green, surrounded by bunkering and native kiwi scrub. And the greens are intense. For example the 7th green has three tiers and when you get above the hole (as Jamie did today) you need to exhibit sheer brilliance to stop the ball on the tier below (as Jamie did today!).¬†¬† Golfers with far more talents than Jamie and I would be very content with pars on each of the short holes at Titirangi. The stroke 1 hole, the 12th, is an awesome hole cut through the bush and measuring no less than 420m off the tips. Another par to Jamie on this hole effectively saw the end of the four-ball match as with it, he and Phil Leishman went 4 up. Not ideal. ¬†I can't do the course justice in a short blog, but to give you an indication it is up there with Paraparaumu for me as one of NZ's best.
We were joined today by not only Phil Leishman, but his camera crew shooting footage for the UBS golf show.¬† Fortunately the producer, Pete, is a regular at Titirangi and proved to be a walking course guide which was crucial.¬† We were also joined by Craig Heatley. Craig brought The First Tee to New Zealand in 2005 and is the Chairman of the Board of TFT. He would make for a great mentor ‚?? a self made man who started out running a couple of mini golf courses, went on to start up the Rainbows End theme park and then brought Sky TV (cable) to NZ in the late 80‚??s. But importantly, Craig is a down to earth guy who was only to keen to share with us some of his experiences. Craig is a fanatical golfer, and spends a fair bit of his time heading the media committee at Augusta GC. I guess he has to make sure that characters like Leishman behave when filming at that iconic event. Craig is a handy golfer as well and has won a couple of pro-am tournaments in the US playing with both Freddy Couples and Phil Tataurangi. However today, he was paired with me and we were smoked by Phil and Jamie. Phil made the most of his 9 shots, and his peculiar and somewhat gay 'putting dances' were frequently followed by his ball dropping in the back of the cup for a "four, net three" (and some cheeky quip about the match score). JP also played some good golf and was looking at a handy score until he hit the self destruct button on the 15th.¬† Perhaps this had something to do with the entourage who joined us from that hole on.
In sum ‚?? the match score was 5/4 to JP and Phil, but Craig and I ‚??pressed‚?? on the last four holes and won our money back (read ‚?? we did not have to eat weetbix). I held on for the stablefords to beat JP on the day. Scores 81 (33)¬† - 85 (30).¬†
Today we started a wee filming exercise we will do when we play with some of the characters along the way. Have a look at Puregolf2010 TV, edition 1, below. ¬†We welcome suggestions of questions to ask people on the way around.¬†¬†
P.S A huge thank you to the guys at Titirangi for hosting all of us today. ¬†
P.P.S I have used my judgment to edit Phil's 3rd question from the video below...