JP coming to you from back on tour. In San Francisco, amongst the action. Brace yourself.
I awoke atop a couple of sofa cushions on a mate's floor in Berkeley, a block away from the infamous campus. (You would have seen that yesterday we went for a reccy and saw, among other things, a huge protest about some racist laws proposed in Arizona - this place really does live up to its billing). Wolfed down some of Fi's home made sugar free muesli (she has to make it herself, because the Americans seem to want to put sugar in everything, at least according to Fi); caught a ride up to San Rafael with Fi's mate who works up that way; and had coffee with our mate Robert Kaufman, a local chap who has various fingers in various pies in the California golf industry.
Rob's been in contact with us for a few months now, and kindly jacked up a few games for us this week in his hometown. At some pretty sharp venues I might add. Today was Meadow Club, Dr. Alistair MacKenzie's first design in the US. Didn't he do well, all those years ago in 1927.
Thankfully the bitterly cold and wet front that made its unwelcome presence very known yesterday blew through overnight. When we stepped out of the flat blue sky was flirting with us through the trees. Then it rather boldly revealed itself in its entirety, and stayed with us all day. As the snowboarders say, "bluebird".
The drive up from Robert's place to Meadow Club takes you through some of the more affluent parts of North Bay, and in particular through the mellow little town of Fairfax. Leafy, clean and relaxed - a good vibe. Apparently you pay a bit to live there though - couples starting out can expect to pay upwards of US$600,000 for anything down in the valley, and double that if you're on any kind of hill. We just appreciated the scenery and turned our minds to the task in hand.
Meadow Club's clubhouse is a grand affair, the only descriptor for which I can find is American. Pardon me for clarifying, but I mean American in a good way. Of course. Anyway without digging myself a bigger hole, it's huge; fits well into the semi-alpine surrounds; and provides a pretty special backdrop to holes 9 and 18.
Jim O'Neal, the Head Pro, met us in the pro shop. What a tremendously nice human being he is. (For you golfers out there, a tidbit of trivia - he and his brother are the lads behind Ballyneal, a 2006 course up in the "mountainous desert" of Colorado, designed by Tom Doak). Jim chatted away for half an hour or so and - despite initially mistaking us for Australians - couldn't have made us feel any more welcome. So thanks Jim, and co.
Standing on the 1st tee I must admit there were a few nerves. After 2 weeks off I wasn't sure which way the ball was going to go (hopefully not backwards), so just closed my eyes and guessed. It went on the fairway, which was very obedient of it. Robert hits a good ball, and delivered a true blow down the middle too (one of several crackers he got away today). Mike lost his ball but improved from there.
The track's definitely got a MacKenzie feel about it - especially when you look at the bunkering (which you can't help but do). Pretty simple design, in that it's not contrived or tricked up. Fairways can be wide, but placement is important and you want to stay away from the bunkers (or even worse, from the bunker lips, which are hairier than Hugh Davies - a good friend of ours that has lots of hair). Greens were slick and undulating but not monstrous. Trees were mature, which makes for a pretty serene setting. Especially when you add into the mixer deer, wild turkeys and soaring hawks. Really it was like playing in Yellowstone National Park.
But I won't bore you with too much golf talk. A video is being put together in due course with some footage, so you'll get to see for yourself. In the meantime below are a couple of snaps that should give you a taste.
4th green in the foreground; 5th in the background
Pretty tight tee shot on number 6
9, a very strong par 4 (at 464 yards), which happened to play into a slight breeze today
14 - a 200 yard par 3 that's all carry
17 - stroke 2; tight; and the site of my 2nd birdie
Robert and me with 17 green behind us
18 green - a wonderful finish
The rest of the day, apres golf, has been spent arduously in search of...a car. Obviously this is something we need in order to get ourselves from here to New York in 62 days (via Dallas, New Orleans, Florida, and the rest). I should say, a reliable car. Many emails have been sent and phonecalls made - and we even test drove a huge Dodge Ram Van that a few French students are trying to pawn off before they go home next week after finals - but at this point we're still carless. Not careless; carless.
Robert was very tolerant in allowing us to perch at his dining room table for said 5 hours, pending the arrival of Dan (who dropped us up at San Raf in the morning) to pick us up and return us to Berkeley. I'm as confused as you are. Anyway thanks Robert for your tolerance; as I said, having 2 mad Kiwis camped out in your living room for an entire Tuesday afternoon trying to buy a car is probably not something that happens every week. When we get the car, we'll take you for a spin (I hope we get the Dodge, you'd like it).
This being Berkeley we went out for some vegan / vegetarian / happy dinner, at a place called Chick-pea-o's. Good value and we've single handedly saved the planet. Or a poor cow. How Berkeley.
Rito emails must be sent and other things arranged, so This Is The End, as Jim Morrison said.
Until Tomorrow, JP
P.S. J: 77, M: 81, R: 88
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