Friday, November 19, 2010

Magical Golf Week

Lake Buena Vista - It's the last PGA Tour stop of the year and I arrive at Orlando International for my magical golf week playing in the Children's Miracle Network Classic for the 2nd year in a row.

6 day until show time so there's plenty of time to get in a little golf practice in the DisneyWorld area.

Saturday my buddy Bob joins me for a round at Lake Buena Vista and I break 90 - we're off to a good start.

Sunday there is a chill in the air and my caddy Jeff who plays on the Golden State Tour joins me for a wonderful round at the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club - voted one of the Top 3 clubs you can play in Florida. First tee Jeff snap hooks one into the weeds and I hit a beautiful draw down the middle - who's the pro here? Driver, Gap Wedge, easy par, easy game. This course starts you off easy and then hold on...shoot a 93 in the wind.

Monday back to Lake Buena Vista and we play it from the back tees and I break 90 again, feeling good about my chances in the Pro-AM.

Tuesday we're signed up for practice round on Disney's Magnolia course - this course just looks right to my eye, big fairways and big greens. We zip through the front 9 and we see Rich Beem cut in front of us on 8 and the whole course backs up. PGA Tour Member Jerry Kelly who had been playing behind us catches up to us on the 10th tee and we tell him about Rich and Jerry says; "Those damn pro's think they can cut in anywhere..." And we immediately love Jerry. He says if its slows down he'll wave us up. We had already teed off, so we watch Jerry blast one down the middle, ride out and hit his next shot to the middle of the green. Jerry is practicing putts from all over the green and waves us up. Well I just couldn't aim at him so I'm in the left bunker. I get up to the green and enter the bunker and Jerry goes; "What are you waiting for? we're going to play the back nine together..." Jeff and I play excellent golf with Jerry on the back nine to the point on #16 after we both put our par 3 shots inside his and he goes; "I'd be in trouble with this group..."(as in he'd be losing $$ if he was giving us strokes)"

Have to say that was one of my most enjoyable nine holes in my life and just the right amount of pressure I needed to be ready to play in the Thursday-Friday Pro-AM inside the ropes. We take pictures after the round and hope to pick him in the pairings party tonight, after all last year we played with Troy Kelly (no relation) but think that's our destiny.

Tuesday night at the pairings party we pick 7 from last and choose Dean Wilson and Alex Cejka. (editor's note': In hindsight Roland Thatcher was still available and he shot 63, 64 in the 1st two rounds but we played with him the year before and he shot 75 and missed the one of my friends joked he plays a lot better without me...very funny)

Wednesday practice round on the Palm course and almost have a hole in one on 16 so I'm feeling good about my game.

Thursday showtime on the Palm course with Dean Wilson my partner for today and Spencer Levin also in the group. I go the putting green for 40 minutes, off to the range, bunker, shot game practice and more putting. We get to the tee and because of the fog tee times are delayed by an hour. So its back to the putting green. Finally its our time to tee off. "And from New York, New York its Brian Thomas" We start on #10 and hit my 3 wood remembering there's a lot more room down the left side and we're off...when two of the ladies from the Chrildren's Miracle Network Telethon's yell "We Love You Brian..."and Dean Wilson makes a joke that I have a bigger gallery than him. On the Palm course the only hole I'm worried about is our 3rd of the day the par 3 #12 180+ yards that the day before a PGA Tour official is on the green trying to determine pin placements and I shanked two off into the woods in his presence. I hit my 4 iron over the flag to the fringe and I am relieved...chip up and make my 3 for 2 and I'm ecstatic. So the adrenline is flowing so much that on the par 5 #13 over 2 lakes I hit my biggest tee shot of the week just in front of lake #2. I'm left with 177 yard all over water and just to be safe hit the 4 iron and WOW! I cleared the lake and the ball rolls up on the fringe pin high. There in 2! Putting from the fringe and just miss tapping in for Birding just missing the natural Eagle, but it's still a 3 on the score card and we're in the red numbers. On the par 4 #14 I hit a big shot into the wind but land in the left fairway bunker with my ball right against the lip on the left side. I'm 205 out into the wind and I can't stand in the trap, so I bend my knees and take a big swing and put my ball on the green...and I'm thinking to myselft"I don't know whose this guy is but I love his golf game..." You know its a good day when I didn't lose a ball until after14 holes. Dean Wilson looks back and says Wow! I end up at -4 under par and Dean is EVEN par. Since Dean is Hawaiian he likes my joke about my idea for Mexican/Hawaiian restaurant called "Mucho Mahalo" much better than he like his game on Thursday and Dean fails to make the cut.

Friday its an early tee time on Magnolia, but my Pro AM partner Alex Cejka withdrew from the tourney. This take a lot of steam out of my effort on Friday, but we get to play with Mike Hulbert from the Champions Tour and have a great round. Missed another Eagle and lots of birdies on Friday. Funny the other pro Greg Owen and I are both wearing the same Adidas Aqua colored shirt. Sorry Greg.

Final tally I finished 7th...seventh from last. But did so much better this year.

Some of the restaurants of the week:

Narcoosee's at the Grand Floridian - great steaks and wine list and view of the fireworks in the Magic Kingdom.

California Grill - atop the Contemporary Hotel - amazing food and a wine list I love with lots of my faves from Napa.

But the one that stands out is Flying Fish Cafe in Disney's Boardwalk area. Their seafood is amazing including the
Signature Flying Fish Cafe Potato-wrapped Red Snapper - Served with Cream Leek Fondue, Veal Glace and Red Wine Butter Sauce. - $36.00
Signature Flying Fish Char-crusted New York Strip Steak - Served with Wilted Greens, Grilled Asparagus, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Classic Sauce Foyot - $42.00
But the real highlight was the wine. "Pahlmeyer Flight"
  1. Jayson by Pahlmeyer Chardonnay '07. The second label of the winery. 100% native yeast, barrel fermentation, followed by malo-lactic fermentation.
  2. Jayson Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir '06.
  3. Jayson Napa Red '05. A Merlot based Meritage blend.

And on Sunday there was time for one more last round of golf and we had the Palm course all to ourselves and my playing partner was John Schneider - yes that one from Dukes of Hazzard. What a great guy I would tee it up with him anytime.

So I'm a miracle maker for another year but real special thanks goes Al, Craig, Steve, Bill, Pat and everyone at the Children's Miracle Network working together to make a difference in the lives of Children. This year with radio station WCBS-FM in NY we raised over $250,000. Kevin at Disney Golf, Carrie Bronson at WDW Fishing excursions who was our cute guide on Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon. And to my caddy Jeff Wade - who plays on the Golden State Tour - hope you make it on the big tour one day!

It was a very magical week in Orlando and hope I get the opportunity again next year...