Friday Photo Post: The PGA TOUR Grill In The San Diego Airport

You’ll be reading more about this on here down the road, but for those who haven’t discovered it, I wanted to share these photos of the PGA TOUR Grill that opened in Terminal 2 of the San Diego International Airport in May.
The TOUR plans to open 20 to 25 of these in the next four to five years. The San Diego location was quickly followed by restaurants in the airports in Honolulu and Las Vegas. Boston is next.
Initially, the TOUR is targeting cities that are either PGA TOUR stops or golf hotspots for this. San Diego is obviously both.
The golf-centric restaurants offer healthy menu alternatives for travelers and each location is localized, which for San Diego means murals of Torrey Pines and memorabilia from the Farmers Insurance Open.
I hope to see the place for the first time next week. Photos for this post were provided by HMSHost, the PGA TOUR’s partner in the project.
If you visit, or have visited, the PGA TOUR Grill, please kindly drop a note in the comments.PGA%20Tour%20Grill%20angle%203[1]PGA%20Tour%20Grill%20angle%207[1]PGA%20Tour%20Grill%20angle%205[1]

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My Favorite Public Golf Hole in So. Cal: No. 5 at Journey at Pechanga

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If it’s possible to have love at first sight with a golf hole – and as  golfers, we all know that it is – I had it with No. 5 at Journey at Pechanga a year ago.

If you’ve played Journey, you know No. 5 is where the course starts to become something special.

I played it for the first time around this time a year ago, and I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I saw No. 5 for the first time.

You can’t clearly see the hole until you make the left turn on the cart path, and when you do, you discover a sight that just has to leave you in awe a little bit.

The hole is a par-4 played to a majestic mountain backdrop. The fairway is bisected by a rocky stream that drains into a lake that provides a drive-swallowing water hazard for many and divides a split fairway. At the hole, the stream, bubbling from a waterfall behind the green, wraps around the green to provide a serene setting for your putt – hopefully a birdie, but if it’s your first time, probably not.

I love this hole because it’s the perfect combination of beauty, strategy and serenity. And it epitomizes the playing experience at Journey. You can make it as tough as you want to, but the course ultimately rewards the smart play. Most holes there give you a variety of shot options, but possibly none more than No. 5.

Especially played from the white tees (298 yards), you can certainly go for the green and for the Holy Grail of an eagle. Moving back to the blacks (331 yards) makes this a less realistic play, but certainly not impossible for today’s longer hitters.

Two things to know if you’re seeking to do this: 1) make you miss right; 2) book an early tee time, but you’re probably not make this play after noon when a severe headwind is known to kick up.

In that regard, I have to play this hole with its true teeth in. Instead, I’ve been greeted by a still lake and a green light at the green. I found water the first time I tried, before deferring to safe 7-iron played out left for a short-iron approach.

This time, I pulled my SLDR Mini-Driver and found the fairway on the right despite aiming for the left (a lucky miss, to be sure). That 270-yard drive left me a simple pitch in, which I converted for a two-putt par.

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The approach from the right fairway

Under still conditions, driver/3-wood is the only way to reach the right fairway, but the left presents nearly every option in the bag, which is why I love this hole. Players of every ability level have available avenue to play this hole and succeed.

And the setting and design of the hole becomes more unique with every round I play in California. I’ve yet to play another hole like it.

I played Journey on Thursday last week and Torrey South on Friday (yes, I have a hard life). The answer I’m probably supposed to have in this space is No. 3 at Torrey, the iconic ocean-view par-3 played into the vista of La Jolla.

No. 3 at Torrey is undoubtedly the signature hole for all of Southern California and without question an incredible design and always fun to play. But it’s a par-3. There’s really only one way to play it, and the hole is short and not terribly difficult.

No. 5 at Journey is beautiful in its own right, but presents a much wider array of challenges and options.

What’s funny is that most people will read this and probably say No. 5 isn’t even their favorite hole at Journey, much less all of So. Cal. Journey has three holes played at serious elevation, mostly notably No. 6, the bomber’s delight with a view of all of downtown Temecula and beyond.

A great hole and a unique experience, to be sure, but there are only so many ways to play it. Save for the par-3 17th and the par-4 18th. Together, it’s hard to beat the finish at Journey.

But if I can only play one hole, for my money it’s No. 5. I’ve pondered a series of posts about my Dream 18 in So. Cal. I’ve not pondered the entire list yet, though it’s an exercise I look forward to, but you now know where the journey would begin – No. 5 at Journey.

 

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Behind the green

 

Friday Photo Post: Torrey Tournament-Ready and Hosting A Phenom

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      Just a quick photo today of Torrey Pines in tournament condition. Starting tomorrow, Torrey will host the Junior World Golf Championships. In the field is Tianlang Guan, who golf fans will recall was the youngest player ever to compete at the Masters two years ago at age 14. He’s still riding the celebrity of those two rounds as evidenced by the many photo opp. requests he received while playing his practice round today. And he graciously granted every one.

      The young man still seems to enjoy the spotlight and not be burned out by the attention. He happily complied with an interview request, the results of which you’ll see here at a later date.

       He also received his share of well wishes for the tournament and his future. The blog can second that. Look for his name in the local headlines in the coming weeks.

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Rick Reilly, the Road Hole and the Story That Inspired Me to Become a Golf Writer

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If you’re a golfer, you don’t need to be told what hole this is.

I’ve known what I wanted to do with my career ever since I was a sophomore in high school. I wanted to be a sportswriter.

That dream was realized shortly thereafter when I started writing for the sports section of the local daily back in Iowa. It manifested itself more fully after I enrolled at Iowa State University. I soon found myself covering college football and basketball and even the NCAA Tournament, making me realizing how attainable my sports writing dreams really were.

The fodder for those dreams was something that arrived in the mailbox of our farmhouse in rural Iowa every week: Sports Illustrated. Without him knowing it at the time, my dad’s subscription was delivering sports writing textbooks to our door, and I was going to school. I read every issue cover to cover, even when the sport/topic (tennis, curling, fencing, etc.) didn’t interest me. I wanted to learn every literary trick and secret possible from those pages and was willing to search every paragraph and sentence to find it.

My thirst for SI continued into college, where I had my own subscription. I continued to pour over every piece and dream of the day my sports writing copy might match those pages.

Where golf comes into this story is a piece Rick Reilly wrote about attempting to par the infamous Road Hole at St. Andrews in advance of the British Open. I know I’d read golf pieces prior, but this the only one I can recall. The important thing is that it probably ranks among the 10 most influential pieces I’ve ever read. At the time, I only dabbled in actually playing the game and would watch the majors on TV. Golf didn’t bat nearly as high in the sports order for me as it does now.

Reilly’s piece made me realize, however, how fun writing about golf could be.

The gist of the story, which was published in July of 1995, was Reilly making a bet with a friend that he could par the Road Hole, widely regarded as the world’s toughest par 4. So Reilly booked a room at the Old Course Hotel and set out to do it, although noting he hadn’t made one single tee time.

What followed was Reilly flailing and failing, making all the classic strategic errors players have historically made at No. 17. After each failed attempt, Reilly would retreat to a local pub in search of a sage local caddie, Tip Anderson, who knew the secret to parring the Road Hole. He had caddie for major champions – Tom Watson, I believe – and was thereby the de factor Yoda of the Old Course.

(I should note that my original intent was to paste a link to the story. The SI Vault though at the moment seems to be working about as well as Al Capone’s. I was able to find a cached version of the story, but only able to access the first page. If you want to try, the article is headlined, “Road Test.” Search Road Hole, St. Andrews and Rick Reilly and you’ll find it quickly.)

Reilly’s search for Tip, and par, continues in vain until he’s down to his final round. He finally tracks down Anderson and gleans the wisdom of how to play the Road Hole, which generally goes like this: “If you play it for a three, you’ll make a five. But if you play it for a five, you just might make a four.”

That’s probably not 100 percent, but it’s close: Basically don’t attack it and end up on the road or in the feared Road Hole bunker.

Anywhere, here’s where the story really gets my sportswriter goose bumps going. To play the hole the final time, Reilly sneaks on the course and claims to make par – using Tip’s advice – just before security escorts him off the course.

I rediscovered the Reilly’s piece years ago in SI’s online archives – to quote “American Pie”: “God bless the Internet.” –  and had revisited it often, especially since my own move into the golf writing arena basically a year ago after relocating to California.

I’d been looking forward to writing this post since I started the blog and was waiting for the British, but Reilly’s recently announced retirement from sports writing (he was at ESPN) gives this another point of relevance.

For those who of you who didn’t grow up to do what I do (have done), Reilly’s retirement probably means little to you, but for me it matters just as much as an athlete like Michael Jordan or Walter Payton calling it a career. Those who recall reading Reilly at SI probably remember his columns, which followed his days as a long-form writer. Those days are when Reilly really shined and expanded what was possible. He and Gary Smith writing bonus pieces (the long take-outs at the back of the magazine) were like having a features line-up of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. One of them, or both, took it over the wall every issue.

When Reilly was limited to columns, it was like telling Michael Jordan to only be a jump shooter. Still effective and creative in that role, but not as breath-taking as before.

Anyway, Reilly’s Road Hole piece was fun, funny, insightful and brilliantly told. For those who grew up on George Plimpton, this was Reilly doing his own “Paper Lion,” although tryying to a par a hole on a PGA course and trying to play QB for the Lions are two totally different animals of participatory journalism.

Reilly’s piece seemed a little Plimpton, a little Hunter S. Thompson, a little modern-day David Feherty and possibly a little Anthony Bourdain at present. Come to think of it, Reilly’s piece was probably the first travel story that really stuck with me as well.

I guess more than anything, the story showed me how far you really can go with sports writing and what a golden ticket being able to tell a story really can be. I’ve had my own Reilly-at-St.-Andrews moments in my career, although I’m still waiting for that moment in golf. I’ve got a few opportunities coming up, however.

Anyway, hopefully you can read the piece and, if you care, glean a little insight into why I like to do what I do and where I’d like to see it go.

(An aside: Since moving to CA, I’ve met people who have played the Old Course. My favorite story is from a local pro who told me: “You know what isn’t awesome about the Old Course? Nothing. There’s nothing that isn’t awesome about the Old Course.”)

I hope to understand that statement even more fully in the future. The closest I’ve come is playing a replica of the Road Hole at Royal Links in Las Vegas. For the record, I parred it, carving a draw around the sign welcoming you to the course right into the fairway.

Just as St. Andrews is a bucket-list course for every golfer alive, Reilly’s piece is a bucket-list read for me. So obviously if you enjoy reading about the game as much as you do playing it, it’s worth your while to track it down.

If the SI Vault works out its glitch, I’ll repost the story on the blog in full. Thanks for reading and for all the support. I’ve enjoyed, and appreciated, every word of it. It’s a joy and privilege to be able to do what you love to do.

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A Little Piece of Personal Publishing History

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This is the latest cover of Southland Golf, which scored me my first cover story out here, a feature on Callaway Golf Marketing VP Harry Arnett. I’ll get the articles and links posted at the end of the week when the digital issue will hopefully be available.

I started writing for Southland Golf a year ago and this was favorite issue yet for several reasons. I got to work with two of my former mentors at the Golf Academy (Senior Instructor Mike Flanagan and Mark Hayden, now the GM at Eagle Crest) and make two new connections (Harry and Susan Roll of the Carlsbad Golf Center) I’d been wanting to make for a while. 

Hope you enjoy the issue.

JC Golf: Drive, Chip and Putt at Encinitas Ranch Q & A

 

 

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          A year ago, the PGA instituted its answer to the NFL’s long-standing “Punt, Pass and Kick” youth skills competition with “Drive, Chip & Putt.”

          The competition culminated in the finals being held at Augusta National the week of the Masters, which got the attention of youth golfers everywhere – and their parents.

          Seeing the finalists on television at the Masters, including 11-year-old Lucy Li, who played in last week’s LPGA U.S. Open, has already sparked a rise in this year’s turnout. To handle the anticipated increase, the Southern California PGA has expanded the number of Southern California local qualifiers from 10 to 14, including one for the first time at Encinitas Ranch on July 7th.

          Finalists in the four age divisions for boys and girls at Encinitas Ranch will advance to a sub-regional on Aug. 18th at La Costa Resort and Spa and then on to Torrey Pines on Sept. 13th to compete for the trip to Augusta.

          Matt Gilson, Player Development Manager at the Southern California PGA, took a few minutes recently to answer some questions about this year’s competition.

Q. Southern California had two winners at last year’s inaugural competition at Augusta. What was their experience like?

A. Everybody had a blast. They got to meet (past champion) Adam Scott and (current champion) Bubba Watson. Going to the Master is every golfer’s dream come true. And they got everything covered for them and one parent, including tickets to the practice round on Monday. The whole package was really good.”

Q. How much has seeing all that one TV stirred interest this time around?

Sign-ups were a little slow because we were competing with school, but they’re starting to pick up. We’re definitely seeing an increase in participation. And I’ve seen kids who’ve never picked up a club before now going to the range the week before. There’s definitely motivation there with kids realizing they could end up on TV.

Q. Besides the increased number of qualifiers, how has the competition changed in year two? And what are the age categories?

Last year, we maxed out our qualifiers at 120 participants and this year it’s 200. The age ranges are 7-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15 with both boys and girls division. And those ages are determined by how old they would be on April 5th, 2015, which is the date of the national championship, so the youngest age to enter would be 6 if they would but 7 on or by April 5th, 2015.

Q. How does the competition work?

It’s a nine-shot competition that starts with putting. There’s a 6-foot putt, a 15 foot and a 30 foot. The hole is surrounded by scoring rings that provide points for how close they get. The max is 25 points for a holed putt.

They then have three chip shots, from about 12-15 yards, to a hole with scoring rings out to 10 feet and a make, again, is worth 25 points.

Then they have three swings on a 40-by-300-yard grid on a driving range. Beyond 300 yards is 25 points.

The highest total score wins and the top three in each age division advances from that age group’s qualifier to the next round. The top two in the sub-regional advance to Torrey Pines and the boy and girl winner in each division advances to the championship at Augusta.

Q. How do players or parents register, and how much does it cost?

Registration is free, and players sign up at www.drivechipandputt.com.

Q. What’s the atmosphere like at these events?

It’s competitive, but we still want kids to have fun. That’s the most important thing.

 

Friday Photo Post: The San Diego County Fair

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Just going to do a quick photo post today. That preening fellow above is on display at the San Diego County Fair, which runs through July 6th.

There are several reasons I love this fair, but I’ll just give you two.

1. The fair was one of the first things I did after I moved here, so it gives me fond memories of my introduction to San Diego. And the fair was much more rural than I expected, which …

2. … Speaks to me, because I’m a farm kid. This event takes me back to my roots and gives me a little of what I’d have in Iowa in San Diego. I actually used to show livestock in the fairs in Iowa, one of the talents you won’t discover on my resume.

Anyway, going this week makes it three years straight, which is the closest thing I’ve established out here to a tradition. So go, enjoy, eat too much and embrace a great event in San Diego.

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The Midwest – Somewhere In Middle America

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To many people I meet, this would be an answer key

          I’m from Iowa, or as it’s known in California – Idaho. Or Illinois. Or Ohio. Or really any somewhat centralized state between, say, Canada and Texas.

This blog post was inspired by people I’ve met recently from Michigan and Wisconsin who live in California and have had similar experiences to my own. And this is meant in no way to be a complaint about the status quo; it’s simply a statement of fact, one I’ve just learned to accept in my two years now of living here.

You quickly learn native Californians know relatively little about the Midwest, and this applies to some of the transplants to. For instance, someone who moved here from Connecticut years ago introduced me to friends three times one night as being from Idaho. No anyone asked me any potato questions so I just let it pass.

I do the same now when people ask where I went to school. I tell them “Iowa State” and they reply, “Go Buckeyes!” Sigh. That’s Ohio State.

And this is how it goes.

I’ve decided that my part of the Midwest may as well be called the Vowel Belt because people out here seriously could look at a map and not correctly identify Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, etc. Of this, I’m fairly certain.

And truth is, if I was from California, I probably wouldn’t know either. Why would you? Why would you ever leave here?

But that only makes it all the more refreshing when you do run into a Midwesterner out here who does know where you’re from. It feels a bit like homecoming when it happens.

The interaction commonly goes like this: You acknowledge you know where the other person’s state is, and possibly even the city they’re from. You share whether you’ve visited there or not. If you have, you share a story (for instance about going to Wrigley Field if they’re from Illinois). Then you immediately commiserate about how much you don’t miss winter, which leads inevitably to a discussion about how great life is out here. And so forth.

Sometimes it goes beyond that, but that’s the base offense.

Whereas when I meet a Californian and tell them I’m from Iowa, the reply is often silence or a blank stare, but rarely an association. And that’s OK. It just is how it is.

Compared to shoveling snow, golfing in oppressive heat and humidity and the other factors that make people flee life in the Midwest, you would categorize this as little more than an inconvenience.

Life in California is largely a day at the beach. Even when you’re from Idaho.

JC Golf Salutes Kerry Everett for his Double Eagle at Temecula Creek Inn

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                A routine round of golf for Kerry Everett in his Wednesday men’s league at Temecula Creek Inn in April turned into something rare and special when his second shot on a par-5 found the bottom of the cup for a double eagle.

                Everett’s rare feat occurred on the dogleg right 519-yard par-5 7th on the Oak nine. After a solid drive, Everett’s rescue from 220 yards found the hole, much to his surprise and his group. Shielded from a view of the green by trees, no one saw the ball go in, Everett said.

                “I knew I hit good and I knew it was pretty close to the flag, but none us saw it on the green,” he said. “When I got up there, I looked behind the green and in the bunker and didn’t find anything. Then I checked the hole, and there it was.”

                The shot was the highlight of round where Everett, a 4 handicap, shot 68.

                “It was a really good day,” he said.

                A double eagle, also known an albatross, is considered the rarest shot in golf because it takes toward good swings as opposed to just one for a hole-in-one. Golf Digest pegs the odds of a hole-in-one for an amateur at 12,500 to 1. It hasn’t established the odds for a double eagle with such mathematical certainly. Or at least a Google search on the topic was inconclusive.

                Whatever the math, Everett takes it to another level because this was his second double eagle. He scored one in Laughlin, Nev., 10 years ago, he says, when he wasn’t taking the game as seriously as he has the past seven.

                Shortly after scoring his second double eagle, Everett says the irony quickly occurred to him of what he’d accomplished without ever having a hole-in-one.

                “I’ve come close,” he says of getting an ace. “Hopefully in my lifetime I will, maybe even more than once.”

                Everett lives in Temecula and has been playing in his men’s league for a year. He regards Temecula Creek Inn as his home course and says he appreciates the challenge of the layout and the quality of the course conditions.

                “With all the trees they have, it’s not an easy course,” he says, “but it’s a very well-kept course. The greens are always nice, and a little quick, but they take great care of it year round. It’s always in good condition, which I like.”