Thursday, October 23, 2008
I kept score for Rod Pampling's team today. Rod is Australian, as you know, and so is his caddy and his swing coach, who walked with us. The rest of the team was Harvey Shank (I kid you not), Rob Wise, and Dan Williams.
Cactus Dave and I played somewhere, I think it was Kokopelli [nah, it was Painted Mountain-- Cactus], and we saw the pro driving around in a golf cart, probably coming back from a playing lesson, and his bag in the back had his name on it: Craig Bunker (He's on the Golf Digest top 100 teachers list !!). Dave spoke to him: "That's not really your name, is it?" Probably not the most diplomatic way to make a first impression.
Harvey is a 2 handicap, and a Phoenix Suns executive. Hits the ball a mile, and had not a single namesake shot today. Rod's swing coach was giving him a little advice, which seemed like it will be very useful to me.
Rob is a 14-HCP VP with Discount Tire (very much like Town Fair Tire, for the CT folks). His caddie was one of his store managers. I didn't catch what Dan does for a living, but he said he plays at DC Ranch, a private club in North Scottsdale, not far from Grayhawk. He's a 4.
All three of the amateurs were long hitters, consistently in the same area of the fairway as Rod, and Rod was rarely hitting last. Their tee shots were so close together that on one shot, Rod was getting ready to hit Rob's ball, until his caddie called him off. On 4, a 3-shot par 5, Harvey hit his drive 5 yards past Rod's, both in the fairway, and then hit his 2nd shot next to Rod's, also in the fairway, and said "I figure if I stay close to him, maybe I can learn something".
The team ended up 6 under par, only 9 shots out of the lead :) For a long time they were stuck on 5 under, and on the back 9 when Dan had birdie putts on a couple of holes in a row, the standard bearer had the "6" in his hand before the putt. That was considered a jinx, but Dan took the 6 and put it in his pocket for luck. On the next hole, he spent some time under a large palo verde tree in the desert, and was hitting 6 from 200 yards out. But, on the hole after that, a par 3, Rob putted from off the green to within inches, and tapped in for a net birdie (we thought). Everyone cheered, and Dan brought out the 6 for the scoreboard. Then Harvey, nonchalantly, feeling no pressure, rolled in a 25-footer, also from off the green, for a deuce. Everyone wanted it to be 7 under, and Rod still had a birdie putt for 8 under. He missed it, but when writing down the score he revealed the fact that Rob didn't get a stroke after all, and they were only 6 under. That was the 17th hole, so we needed 9 more birdies on the last hole to tie for the lead. But, for some time before that, having fun had been the only remaining objective.
This is a very tough golf course. Last time I played it, I thought I was just playing badly, but the bunkers are enormous and very deep, and the fairways are all full of mounds and hills, so that you can hit to what you might think is a good place, and it rolls to a bad place. You need length, too, or your seemingly flat tee shot doesn't make it across the valley and you have a long, blind approach from an uphill lie. It's a desert course, so you can't go very far off the fairway and still be playable, and the fairways look much wider than they really are, because of things like trees and steep side-slopes in the landing areas. The greens are mostly very elevated, so anything that rolls off the edge can roll another 10 yards or more down a steep hill to a closely-mown collection area. There are two short par 4's, one on each 9, that the pros can drive, but very rarely does one ever hit the green, and there are no easy up-and-downs on those holes.
Everything else about the facility is first class, too: clubhouse, pro shop, restaurant, service. I would like to change my rating on the spreadsheet to a "1".