April 17, 2009
Tobacco Road became one of our golf gang’s most memorable golf courses, during our 2003 spring training trip to Pinehurst, North Carolina.
Like every Mike Strantz design we’ve ever played, such as Stonehouse near Williamsburg, Virginia, or Caledonia Golf and Fish Club or True Blue in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, this course has a flair for the dramatic, right from the very start.
Tobacco Road’s par-5 first hole features a pair of high-rising hills on either side of a tiny fairway opening. To clear the hills requires a 165-yard carry between the hills to a mostly blind landing area. To help out those who never played the course before, a club employee stood on top of one slope, and radioed back the usually hapless results.
I chickened out instead, and hit a five-iron shot short of the hills. I then hit my six-iron and an eight-iron to reach the green in regulation. The two-putt for par was no gimme, either, if I recall correctly.
A year later, my older brother Joe also played Tobacco Road, while on a similar trip with several of his buddies. When he later told me his reaction to seeing that first hole, and how he played it, we had a good laugh.
He also chickened out.
During that 2004 trip Joe played other golf courses I had previously experienced in the Pinehurst area, including The Pit, an unusual Dan Maples design. What’s unusual about it is that the entire acreage is a former borrow pit, full of humps and hollows and scrub pines and ponds.
Maples found a way to put eighteen challenging holes on the property. Neither Joe nor I found a way to post a score at The Pit lower than 100.
Unfortunately, I’m now the only one left with a chance to better our scores at that course, or any other.
Joe died April 9 from complications of a massive stroke, at age 60.
He retired from a long and proud career as a union electrician late last summer. Before his retirement, we had played a few rounds of golf together, but in recent years our busy schedules never seemed to be compatible for another round or two together.
We chatted during the past winter about the upcoming golf season, and how his retirement would now make it easier for us to find time to play golf with each other, along with other fun things we both enjoyed, such as fishing and boating.
That’s not going to happen now.
If you have a brother, or a sister, or a best friend who enjoys the same pursuits as yourself, I’d like to suggest that you find a way to fit a playing opportunity together into your schedule, even if it means altering some of your other priorities.
You just never know when you’ll never have that chance.
A Masters visit
Avid Cape Region golfer Jack Vassalotti was able to go to Augusta, Georgia last week, and observe the Wednesday practice round for The Masters Tournament, as well as the famous par-3 contest.
Vassalotti reports that one of the day’s highlights was seeing Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player competing together during the par-3 contest. He also saw Player make a three on the par-3 course’s ninth hole, by making a hole-in-one after hitting his tee shot into the water.
The old man still has it.
Oakley’s excellent Senior Tour adventure continues
Congratulations to The Rookery’s Director of Golf for his performance in the recent DGM Barbados Open, held at the Royal Westmoreland course in the little Caribbean country from March 18-20. Pete Oakley tied for 33rd place with an 8-over-par 74-76-74-224 performance, which was good for just over 1,135 Euros for the Oakley bank account.
The event was the second of twenty-one tournaments scheduled for the Tour. Oakley now sits in 33rd place on the Senior Tour’s Order of Merit.
His next chance to improve his standing will be in mid-May, at the Son Gual Mallorca Senior Open, in Palma, Spain.