Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Buick Cascada: a luxury convertible with European style – and room for your golf clubs

Convertibles. If you own one, or have ever owned one, you love ’em; if you haven’t owned one there’s a good chance you have wanted to.

Of course, if you’re a golfer, and you need room for golf bags and maybe a playing partner, a 2+2 convertible with limited trunk space may not be high up on your list the next time you're shopping for a car. If that’s the case, do yourself a favor – open your mind to new possibilities and go look at a Buick Cascada, the first Buick convertible to be sold in the United States in 25 years.

I recently had the opportunity to drive a 2016 Buick Cascada for a week. I drove it around town, took it to the golf course locally, and then drove it on a road trip to Southern California for a golf outing – and loved every minute of it.

As a convertible the Cascada has limited trunk space, and the 2+2 seating means your rear-seat passengers are not going to be stretching their legs limo-style – but if you’re not in the market for a vehicle to carry your entire foursome to the course for a weekend round or on a buddy trip to Tahoe or Monterey, the Cascada may just be the car you’re looking for.

With just me and my golf bag in the car I laid the bag down on the rear seat – which leaves the available trunk space open for a medium-sized suitcase or two. If you have two bags to carry, as I did on one local trip to the golf course, you can stack two bags in the rear seating area, or fold down the rear seatbacks and slide the bags through into the trunk space. For up to two people and two golf bags, the Cascada offers no limitations in carrying capacity.

Comfort on my long drive came thanks to the 8-way power adjustable driver and passenger sport bucket seats. The power lumbar support system allows you to trim the seat to conform perfectly to your back for maximum comfort – a feature I came to appreciate on the 6-hour drives to and from Southern California in the Cascada.

Top-up the Cascada is as quiet as any hardtop, the double-walled soft top doing an excellent job of keeping out noise – and summer heat. Sunny days with mild temperatures are great times to drive with the top down, but when it really heats up outside you’ll want the top up and the air conditioning on. The Cascada handled triple-digit temperatures with ease as I drove through Paso Robles on the way south and over the Grapevine as I returned to the Bay Area, with none of the “skull heating” you get with an old-school, single-thickness ragtop.

When you do decide to drop, or raise, the top, the Cascada makes it simple – you can even do it while the car is in motion. The top can be raised or lowered at speeds up to 31 mph with a simple push or pull on a lever on the center console. The system automatically lowers the windows and positions and secures the top, signaling with an audible “beep” that the top is locked either up or down. It’s a much simpler proposition than dealing with the vinyl and metal-linkage top on my 45-year-old Japanese convertible, that’s for sure…

The new Buick Cascada convertible, built by GM’s European subsidiary, Opel, is a sporty, luxurious drop-top that will not cramp your style whether you are taking a short drive to your local golf course or going on the road with your clubs.
The Cascada is in all respects a luxury 2+2 automobile, with all of the perks and conveniences drivers have come to expect – fully-featured navigation system, sound system that includes satellite radio, and full iPod/iPhone/MP3 player compatibility with Bluetooth connectivity. Convenient steering-wheel-mounted controls allow hands-free phone use with a few buttons on the right side, with full control of the cruise control under your left thumb.

As a driver’s car I found the Cascada to be a real treat. The turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine develops plenty of power, and works well in concert with the smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. The front-wheel drive, four-wheel independent suspension, and 20-inch wheels & low-profile all-season tires delivered a sure-footed and comfortable ride that I found struck just the right balance between ride comfort and handling performance.

A full rundown of the Cascada’s features and specifications can be found at http://www.buick.com/cascada-luxury-convertible/features-specs/trims.html , but here are the highlights:

                                 Starting MSRP    $33,065
                EPA est. mpg – hwy/city       27/20
                                        Seating for     4
           1.6L Turbo 4-cylinder engine     Standard
             4-wheel antilock disc brakes    Standard
        6-speed automatic transmission    Standard
                    Sport-tuned suspension     Standard

Taking full advantage of the cruise control system, and with no wish to rush through my time in the Cascada, I averaged 25.5 mph for my round-trip to the southern reaches of Orange County. The trip included long stretches of level highway and freeway, some entertaining twisty two-lane driving, a long climb up the southern side of Tejon Pass, aka “The Grapevine”, and of course – some top-down cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu.

Designed and built by GM’s European subsidiary, Opel, the Cascada brings a touch of Continental sophistication to the Buick line that might surprise car buyers who haven’t looked at the marque in a few years. If you have any doubt that the Cascada will turn heads, consider this: With a BMW i8, at least one AMG Mercedes, and a Maserati parked in the forecourt of the resort where I was staying, the Cascada elicited admiring remarks from the valet who parked the car.


The Cascada is a serious contender for the discerning driver who wants performance and luxury in a fun-to-drive car that will get them to the golf course, or anywhere they go, in style.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Neuroswing personal ball dispenser – lightweight, portable backsaver for driving range practice

The golf equipment landscape is rife with gadgets, gizmos, and gimmicks of all sorts – all accompanied by claims that they will cure your slice, give you more distance off the tee, help you make more putts, etc. Few, if any, are designed solely to make your practice sessions easier—despite the importance of frequent practice in keeping your golf game sharp.

The Neuroswing ball dispenser (www.neuroswing.com) is one device that is designed specifically to help you practice. The Neuroswing’s inventor, Claude Pommereau, suffered from back pain, and the constant bending over and straightening up to tee up balls limited his ability to practice. After extensive research and development, M. Pommereau developed the Neuroswing, a personal ball-dispensing device which eliminates that repetitive strain on the back.

Lightweight and easily assembled, the Neuroswing consists of a tripod base with a pivoting dispensing tube, topped by a rotating ball magazine. The Neuroswing holds 42 golf balls, funneling the balls into six slots in its rotating magazine from a collapsible, flower-petal-like basket at the top of the unit. Balls are dispensed by reaching out and pulling the dispensing tube toward you with your club; as the tube pivots out the next ball in line clears the built-in stop, dropping down the tube to the mat or turf. When you’ve emptied a slot in the magazine, you rotate the next one into place and keep going.


The Neuroswing personal ball dispenser puts 42 golf balls at your disposal with no bending over to tee up the ball.
My prototype Neuroswing came with four flexible tees, ranging in height from 1 inch to 2-1/2 inches, which are designed to poke up through the hole in a range mat. The tees are just like the tees that you normally find at a range, only the Neuroswing tees are equipped with a flexible, molded-in stop which prevents the ball from hopping off the tee when it is dropped from the dispenser.

I took the unit to the range at a local course with mats, set it up, filled it with golf balls, and popped a tee up through the hole in the range mat. This course has pretty thick mats, so I had to use the longest tee that came with the unit, and while it set the ball at a good height for my driver swing, some of the “tee it high and let it fly” types might be wishing for a taller tee.

There’s a red dot sticker on the main tube which indicates the proper height at which to set the unit, but that will vary depending upon the height of the tee you are using. It took a little bit of fussing with the height adjustment to get the ball to land on the tee and stay, and a few misfires happened because the ball dropped hard enough to flex the stop out of the way and hop off of the tee, but in general, once it was set it operated very smoothly.

I’ll tell you, it sure was nice to just reach out, pull the dispensing tube and drop another ball onto the tee, rather than bending over and teeing up a ball every time. Even though my range time with the Neuroswing was centered around evaluating its operation, I found my attention focusing on my golf swing and not the product I was testing, because I didn’t have to think about the Neuroswing—just reach out, pull the tube, drop a ball, and hit it.

The unit which I tested is an advanced prototype, and the folks at Neuroswing informed me of some planned improvements when they sent it to me. Here’s how on-the-ball they are: the few, and very minor, nits I had with the prototype are already being addressed. They are already planning modifications to the delivery piece to improve teeing precision, modification of the stop strip on the tees to be more rigid, and there will be three red height-adjustment dots, for the different height tees, printed directly on the main tube, instead of the sticker which was used on the prototype.

Bottom line: the Neuroswing ball dispenser is lightweight, easy to assemble and set up, easy to break down and stow in its storage bag—and most important of all, it works as advertised. I can’t think of much more that could be asked of a product.

Neuroswing will be launched on Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com) beginning October 14, 2014. The goal of Neuroswing’s Kickstarter initiative is to fund the first production run of its prototype product and to provide for additional research-and-development efforts. Those interested in learning more about Neuroswing’s Kickstarter launch are invited to visit www.kickstarter.com and www.neuroswing.com.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Golf Channel needs a new approach in coverage of First Tee Open


Champions Tour golf is a hard sell at the best of times. Save for the presence of some of the more recognizable big names of the past—or recent past—from the PGA Tour, TV coverage of the 50+ tour is drawing only hardcore golf fans – and even then, probably only the 50+ fans, golfers who are of an age with the players, and remember their glory days.
When it comes to the Champion Tour’s Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, the venue itself is a draw for viewers, especially with the schedule change to a late-September time slot. While mid-summer often sees the Monterey Peninsula blanketed in fog, early autumn is a time of sparkling blue skies and mild to surprisingly warm temperatures. Beauty shots of glassy waves breaking on Carmel Beach and sea otters frolicking in the kelp, interspersed between shots of towering drives down Pebble’s verdant fairways, lend a Nature Channel look to the coverage, reminiscent of the coverage of the AT&T in good-weather years.
Why then, does Golf Channel burden its coverage of the Nature Valley First Tee Open with an endless succession of interview spots consisting of on-course commentator Billy Ray Brown asking successive pairs of junior and pro players the same questions: (To the junior player) “What does the First Tee mean to you?” or “What is your favorite Core Value?” and (to the pro) “What impresses you most about this young person?”, or Dave Marr Jr. soliciting heart-felt personal life stories from the juniors.
Another cliché button that is being leaned on by the commentators, both in the trailer and out on the course, is “When I was 15, I sure wasn’t playing golf at Pebble Beach on national TV!” or words to that effect. Granted, many of these kids are very accomplished—there was more than one 4.0+ GPA among this year’s group of players, and many of them are talented in other fields beyond golf—and they don’t need to be artificially elevated by the Golf Channel announcers by the use of this device.
Golf fans tune in to the broadcast coverage of a golf tournament to see golf being played. In much the same way that dedicated runners will watch an elite marathon race on TV, because their own experiences give them an appreciation for what the world-class athletes are achieving, golfers watch the pros—even the 50+ pros—to see the best in the world playing the game at a high level. While the interview spots are a nice interval-filler, in measured doses, and appropriate given the unique nature of this event, they are over-played and interfere with the action that viewers tune in to see – golf shots.
Don’t get me wrong, the First Tee is a great program, and the format—teams of talented junior players partnered with experienced senior golfers—is a great hook for this tournament, but I think that Golf Channel is over-egging the pudding, and turning off their core viewers, by continually cutting to the interview spots instead of concentrating on the great golf being played by both the pros and the juniors. I imagine that legions of viewers (if the viewership numbers even rate the use of the term “legion”) are clicking off after about the third interview, which is a shame, because the tournament deserves viewers.
My suggestions: 1) Trim the interviews by half, 2) Vet the kids who are to be interviewed, beforehand. Most of these kids are articulate and well-spoken, but not all of them are, so find out which kids can carry an on-camera interview and which ones can’t – and, finally – find Dave Marr Jr something else to do. His over-earnest on-camera style is grating at the best of times, but he lapses into a sycophantic stupor at this event that is painful to watch. He’s not the on-camera personality his late father was, and he never will be.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Dramatic finish at 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship


With the 18th hole and the clubhouse of the Martis Camp Club in Truckee, CA, in the background,Scottie Scheffler, of Dallas, Texas, hoists the U.S. Junior Amateur Trophy after staging a dramatic comeback in the championship match to claim victory

Recreational golf is a leisurely activity – a little too leisurely, the way some people play it – but competitive golf has an inherent intensity which the calm exterior aspect of the game belies, and nowhere is that more aptly demonstrated than in the USGA’s national championship tournaments. Two national championships were contested this past week, July 22 to 27 – the U.S. Junior Amateur at Martis Camp Club, in Truckee, and the U.S. Girls Junior, at Sycamore Hills Golf Club, in Fort Wayne, Indiana – and the action in the championship match in the Junior Amateur provided an apt demonstration of the level of intensity that accompanies a national championship.

The players in the final match at a USGA national championship tournament will have played nine 18-hole rounds of competitive golf in six days by the time all is said and done, and seven of those rounds are intense, one-on-one match play. It is a measure of the caliber of the competition that the 36-hole championship matches play out so close, often coming down to the last few holes before a winner is decided.

Two accomplished junior golfers played their way through the selection process to face off in the championship match at the Junior Amateur: Scottie Scheffler, of Dallas, Texas, 3rd seed after stroke play, and Davis Riley, of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, who was T-4 at the conclusion of stroke play.

After playing 36 holes of stroke play and five rounds of match play, the two finalists were faced with 36 holes of match play, in a single day, to determine the 2013 national champion.
The young Mississippian, Riley, took the lead on the first hole with a par to Scheffler’s double-bogey, and appeared set to hold onto it until the finish. By the time the match got to the seventh hole Riley had built his lead to three holes with steady pars. Scheffler turned the tide briefly at Holes 7 and 8, making his own pars while Riley slipped back to 1-up with a pair of bogeys.

Riley led Scheffler for the remainder of the first round, moving back and forth between 1-up and 2-up a time or two, but never relinquishing the lead.

Starting the second eighteen after the lunch break, the two players came out of the blocks pretty evenly matched, each posting pars for the first four holes. Scheffler, 17, who is playing in his last Junior Amateur before he ages out of eligibilty, squared the match with a chip-in birdie on the fifth hole, a 486-yard par-4, but went 1-down again at the sixth, another par-4, with a bogey. Riley, who has verbally committed to Alabama for his college golf, held onto the lead for a further seven holes, then a small error on his part – which may have resulted from a subtle, but shrewd, tactical move by Scheffler, turned the momentum of the match in his opponent’s favor.

Both players carried their approaches at the 31st hole of the match hole high and just slightly off the back of the green, but in good position to get to the back-right hole location. Scheffler, who was away, chipped to tap-in range and was given the putt. Riley, who was closer to the flag but with a marginally less-favorable lie, chipped to a decent position below the flag, but about half-again the distance from the hole that Scheffler’s ball had been. The ball was marginally within concession range, but Scheffler made no move to concede the putt, and Riley, possibly taken aback slightly by this, pushed the putt, lipping out for a bogey-5, giving up the lead for only the second time in the match.

“Yeah it was [a momentum swing],” Riley said about the missed par putt on the 13th hole. “I felt like I still could have won [the match]. I was playing really well, my ball-striking was really good.”

At the 32nd hole, the 159-yard par-three 14th, Scheffler’s tee shot landed just right of and below the flag, bouncing forward and rolling to the collar of the green, pin high. It was a bold shot, attacking a flag which was was tucked well back and right, and a risk that could have backfired on him.

Teeing off next, Riley fired a shot which was also on the flag like a laser, but stopped several feet short, the victim of geometry. It hit the slight upslope below the hole, which killed its forward momentum and prevented it from releasing toward the hole.

Watching from the tee box as his ball tracked to the hole location like a heat-seeking missile, Riley twirled his club as he let it slide thorough his grasp, looking like a man who was watching a perfect shot perform just as he had expected it to. When the ball came up short, he was visibly upset, and slammed his clubhead into the turf as he walked to the hole.

Scheffler’s ball was in a good lie, despite its position up against the collar of rough around the green. The grass behind the ball was just thin enough to give him a good shot at the back of the ball, and he rolled in the 8-footer for a birdie to take his first, and very timely, lead of the match with little drama.

Both players got onto the green in two at the next hole, the par-five 15th, but Scheffler did it in a manner which gave notice that he was taking command of the match, late in the game but in the nick of time if he were to pull out a win in the championship.

With the hole located on a carport-sized upper tier on the sloping green, Scheffler knocked a low 250-yard shot with a hybrid club that hit short of the green before bouncing and rolling up onto the upper tier some eight feet below the hole. It was a shot of such masterful execution that the Golf Channel commentators – who included two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kaye Cockerill – could hardly find words to express their admiration. Two-putting for the birdie after Riley three-putted for par from a position much further away and on the lower tier of the green, Scheffler was now two up with three to play.

The match ended on somewhat of a down note on the par-four 16th hole, as a result of Riley calling an infraction on himself as he prepared to putt from just off the green. His ball was in the first cut of rough, just outside of the fringe, and adjacent to a pair of sprinkler heads. Riley stepped up and addressed the ball, then stepped away and called for an official, saying that his ball moved slightly after he addressed it. With the official looking on, he replaced the ball – a matter of moving it a fraction of an inch, and proceeded to two-putt. The one-stroke penalty and resulting bogey on the hole gave the win to Scheffler, 3-and-2.

The victory may seem anticlimactic, given the manner in which the final hole was closed out, but the late rally which put Scheffler in position for the win showed his mental toughness, as he came back from nearly thirty straight holes of trailing his opponent.

“I played pretty well down the stretch,” Scheffler said afterwards. “In the morning round, I gave away a lot of shots and I struggled with the putting a little bit early, then I started to figure it out.”

“You have to be mentally tough. I mean, you have to make putts. You need to perform.”

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Marin County’s Meadow Club hosts 2013 Trans-Mississippi Championship on historic Alister Mackenzie course


The 2013 Trans-Mississippi Championship, a prestigious amateur championship which is now 110 years old, was contested July 9-11 at the Meadow Club in Fairfax, a 1927 Alister Mackenzie-designed golf course in the Marin County uplands north of Mt Tamalpais. The tournament turned into a rematch of sorts for Cory McElyea of Santa Cruz and Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis, the pair that battled it out for the Cal State Amateur title last month on the Dunes Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, but the tables were turned this time around as Bryson DeChambeau came out on top.
McElyea and DeChambeau played in adjacent groupings over the last two rounds of the prestigious amateur championship. McElyea was grouped with two stalwarts from this past season’s strong Cal-Berkeley squad, the just-graduated Max Homa and long-hitting senior-to-be Brandon Hagy; the 36-hole leader DeChambeau was right behind them in a grouping with former University of Arkansas golfer Austin Cook, and UT’s Johnathan Schnitzer.
DeChambeau, a rising sophomore at SMU, was in a strong position at the start of third-round play Thursday morning after putting up back-to-back 65s in the opening rounds. A 5-stroke lead is no guarantee of a win when there are another 36 holes of golf to play, though, and it took solid, mostly error-free play to keep him ahead of his pursuers.
McElyea challenged with a hot start in the morning round, improving his overall score to 10-under by the 14th hole, mostly on the strength of an unfailing putter – he had seven one-putt greens in the first fourteen holes. DeChambeau, in the meantime, had traded birdies and bogeys and improved to -11 by the same point in his round. Though DeChambeau never rekindled the fire he had displayed on the first two days, one stroke back was as close as McElyea would get as his putter cooled off through the final holes.
Recent Cal grad Max Homa, playing one hole ahead of DeChambeau, started slowly in Round 3, and dropped as far as 10 strokes off of the Mustang sophomore’s pace at the start of the first round’s back nine. Homa ran off a string of birdies on the back side of the course and pulled back to within five strokes of DeChambeau, and he continued to gain ground as the players went back out onto the course, after a short lunch break, for the final round.
Three unanswered bogeys in the final nine reversed Homa’s momentum, however, and he finished the tournament six strokes off the lead, tied with McElyea and with Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Charlie Saxon for fourth place. Saxon had a strong final day, putting up a pair of 66’s for the lowest final-day total in the field, but the 10-stroke deficit he had carried into the closing rounds was more than he could overcome.
The two players who tied for second place, Jeremy Sanders, of Chatsworth, CA, and Austin Cook, each had a solid couple of rounds on the final day, but neither came any closer to DeChambeau than three strokes back.
The win over such a strong field is a confidence booster for DeChambeau, who hasn’t won a tournament since high school competition. He joins former SMU Mustang Golf star Kelly Kraft, who won this tournament in 2011 at Kansas City Country Club, on the roster of Trans-Mississippi champions.
“I don’t know what to say. It’s been a long time coming, but this one feels so sweet,” he said after closing out his final round, and the tournament, with a short par putt.
The standard of play displayed by the field of top amateur players in the 2013 Trans-Mississippi Championship was superb. The handsome Meadow Club course, a 1927 Alister Mackenzie design – his first in America – showcases the terrain of the shallow upland valley where it is set. Though shortish – just over 6700 yards – compared to many modern courses, or older tracks that have been lengthened to hold their own against modern equipment, the course maintains its relevance by virtue of Mackenzie’s classic design principles, and provided a worthy test of the shotmaking skills of the highly-skilled amateur players contesting this championship.
With contoured fairways, holes favoring both the draw and the fade, and well-bunkered greens which offer a selection of pin placements ranging from inviting to downright daunting, this is a typical Mackenziean thinking-man’s golf course. The length off the tee that is the hallmark of the modern game can still overpower even Dr Mackenzie’s strategically-placed fairway bunkers, but once within scoring distance the players still had to have their best short game on hand if they were to walk away from the hole with par or better.
McElyea’s cooldown just as he was putting the heat on DeChambeau is a good example. The USF senior-to-be took only 30 putts to get through the first 18 holes on Thursday; his total of 36 putts in the second round was the difference between possibly overtaking DeChambeau for the win and the eventual outcome – settling for T-4. It wasn’t just the putts that were confounding McElyea, though – he was seeing the same flag locations as he had in the morning round – a dropoff in his accuracy on approach, leading to longer, multiple-breaking putts on the complex greens, had much to do with it. McElyea appeared to be opting to play safe as the day wore on, often hitting one or two clubs shorter off the tee than his companions in the group, Max Homa and Brandon Hagy, but that strategy failed him in the end.
As for Homa and Hagy, between Homa’s hot hand late in the morning round, and Hagy’s spectacular length off the tee, the gallery for the group, which was heavy with Cal alumni, (despite being some miles away from the Berkeley campus, Cal plays the Meadow Club as their home course) were enjoying every minute. Hagy wowed onlookers with “bomb-and-gouge” golf which, when he was accurate off the tee, was extremely effective. Case in point – the way he played the 18th hole.
The final hole at the Meadow Club is a 363-yard, dogleg-right par four with a cluster of pines guarding the corner. Homa and McElyea each hit irons off the tee in both rounds on Thursday, opting for a good position in the fairway at the corner of the dogleg from which to hit a wedge to the slightly elevated green. Hagy, on the other hand, stepped up with driver in hand each time, firing a high draw that started right of the trees and curled back toward the green. A daring shot, and doubly so because it goes against both the shape of the hole and the angle of the green. The way Hagy played this hole was a gamble, but one that paid off – he was 2-under on the hole for the tournament, playing it par-birdie-birdie-par over the four rounds.
The long-hitting Cal Bear elicited admiring applause from the gallery on a couple of other holes, too. On the 400-yard par-4 fourth hole, in the final round, he drove his tee shot a good 335 yards from the elevated tee, outdriving his playing companions to the tune of 40+ yards to leave himself a flip wedge to the tucked-right flag. On the ninth hole, a straight-away 464-yard par-4 to another slightly-elevated green, Hagy punched a 365-yard drive to the right-hand side of the fairway no more than 95 yards below the flag, then flipped a high, soft-landing wedge to kick-in birdie distance. The Cal alumni in the gallery were thrilled by the displays of power this young man put on, and even the less-partisan onlookers were mightily impressed.
Not to be entirely outdone by his younger teammate, Max Homa pulled off a shot at the par-4 seventh hole in the final round that club members among the gallery – who have all played that hole hundreds of time – will be talking about for a long time. The seventh hole is hard dogleg left of 436 yards that turns the corner at about 288 yards out from the championship tees. A curious ditch, just a foot or two wide, a foot or so deep, and stepping up six to eight inches from front to back, interrupts the fairway at the inside of the dogleg. There is a generous landing area to the right, at the outside of the turn in the fairway, but the ditch is there waiting to snag a shot that fails in an attempt to cut the inside of the dogleg.

The view to the seventh green standing over Max Homa’s shot
from the curious hazard in the middle of the seventh fairway
.
Homa’s tee ball ended up in this ditch, and to a recreational player this would have been a sure “unplayable lie” situation. With about 145 yards to the flag, which was tucked hard left behind a formidable Mackenziean bunker, Homa stood over a ball that was in a narrow ditch, eight to 10 inches below his feet – and positively rifled a shot right at the flag.
The evidence of the quality of the shot could be seen in the grass at the bottom of the ditch – a shallow, perfectly-shaped rectangular divot that pointed straight at the flag. Getting out of that lie at all cleanly was a 1,000-to-1 shot, but the result, a perfectly-placed birdie opportunity no more than eight feet past a tucked-left flag behind a yawning bunker, was a million-to-one. If Max Homa takes nothing else away from the 2013 Trans-Mississippi Championship, the memory of that shot will be enough to make this tournament live on in his memory.
The textbook divot – in a ditch – left by Max Homa’s approach shot to the seventh green in the final round. He stiffed this shot to less than eight feet, and made the birdie putt.
The day I spent walking this handsome course, watching a talented field of amateur players play their hearts out for a crystal goblet and bragging rights, was a singular pleasure. The setting is superb – a shallow upland valley called Bon Tempe Meadow that is overlooked, but not overshadowed, by rugged hills. The course lies lightly on the contours of the land, as if embroidered on fine fabric and draped over the landscape. Fine views abound, but for my money the 6th hole, the second-longest of the par-4s on the course, offers the finest vista on the course.
The fairway falls away from the teeing grounds, just slightly, before rising gently to an elevated green back-dropped by a huge outcropping of native rock that is a central visual feature of the course. A small, reedy creek crosses in front of the beginning of the fairway and runs along the right side, separating the sixth from the sixteenth fairway. Trees frame the fairway – willows on the right, in the waterway, and pines on the left – and with the boulder-topped hillock rising behind the green, the sixth hole is like a little valley in its own right, a pastoral setting right out of a William Constable landscape.
The pastoral sweep of the sixth hole at the Alister Mackenzie-designed Meadow Club
in the Marin County uplands north of Mt Tamalpais calms the eye, but the green is deceptively challenging.
The bowl-like setting of the green, with a grassy slope behind the putting surface rising up to meet the natural landscape below the rocky outcrop, is tempting, and deceptive. While the backdrop appears to offer security for a shot that is hit long, the green slopes distinctly back to front, making a chip back to the flag from above the green a difficult proposition. A pair of bunkers sit behind the green, to the left and the right – and only a masterful stroke will keep a recovery shot out of the sand from rolling to the bottom of the putting surface. Another pair of bunkers frame the front of the green, narrowing the entrance and challenging the golfer’s accuracy on the approach.
From the handsome shake-sided clubhouse to the water-fronted 13th green at the farthest reach of the course, the Meadow Golf Club provided an ideal setting for the tournament, and it was most generous of the members and staff of the club to share this beautiful property with the competitors and spectators at the 110th Trans-Mississippi Championship.