There‚??s a good chance that Chapter 1 of The Book is going to be dedicated to The Westhampton Experience. ¬†We were shown the light by Jeff LeVeen and his brother Andy ‚?? two top drawer punters from New York. ¬†Jeff contacted us some weeks ago offering his hospitality, but at that time it was looking like we were overbooked for our last week in the US. ¬†As fate would have it other plans fell through and I‚??m dam glad that they did. ¬†Because in Jeff and Andy we‚??ve found two solid guys that I know we‚??ll keep in touch with for a long time to come.
Westhampton is unsurprisingly the Westernmost spot in the area known as The Hamptons. ¬†It‚??s significantly more understated and ‚??normal‚?Ě than its Eastern cousin, although certainly no shanty town. ¬†Our instructions were to meet Jeff at his pad out there, where he spends time in the summer (he lives down in Jersey most of the time). ¬†The drive was a different experience for us. ¬†Our mate George Eberle, who was our good host yesterday at The Creek, has kindly lent us his spare Toyota Land Cruiser for the remainder of our time here, since we‚??ve sold Dodgy to The Swiss. ¬†Talk about trading up. ¬†The Land Cruiser has a GPS system that talks you through every turn ‚?? quite a different experience to having Goldy barking directions at you from the Google Maps picture on his laptop! ¬†George you are a Saint.
Jeff met us at his house, and took us down the road to the local deli, for the first instalment in TWE. ¬†An egg and sausage breakfast sandwich, and a gallon of iced tea to wash it down (I say gallon but it was probably only half a gallon). ¬†A very good start to the day indeed. ¬†The deli was an unpretentious one; it reminded me of my local on King Street in Newtown, Sydney, when I lived there for a summer between years at University. ¬†A long counter housing unimaginable treats and blackboards up above with myriad sandwich options. ¬†Not one of those wallet emptying upper crust flash delis where everything is marked up at 800%; you‚??re scared to move in case you disrupt the perfect display evidently laid out by an overpaid consultant; and you need to sell a vital organ to buy a loaf of ciabatta. ¬†
We hopped back in Jeff‚??s gangsta Jeep and soon found ourselves at Westhampton Country Club. ¬†We were introduced to a number of the staff, including the very affable Steve ‚?? who hails from the Sutherland area of Scotland, and who spent 10 years working at Cape Kidnappers in our native land. ¬†Steve‚??s going to be in our neck of the woods next February, so we‚??ve teed up a couple of games of golf to look forward to. ¬†As we‚??re prone to doing.
While changing our shoes in the locker room LeVeen Brother #2 turned up. ¬†Andy‚??s several years Jeff‚??s younger, and is a shot lower on the handicap index. ¬†The Brothers LeVeen had played in a Member / Member event last weekend at the club but not covered themselves in glory ‚?? a subject that surfaced on several occasions throughout the day. ¬†Andy would tell you it‚??s because Jeff burned the candle at both ends all weekend, and couldn‚??t hit a shot. ¬†Jeff would tell you the same about Andy. ¬†Regardless of who you believe, it‚??s clear that too many Rumdy Dumdys had something to do with it. ¬†Nothing like a bit of brotherly banter.
Andy and I played together against the infidels. ¬†Things were looking good too when Andy blazed a drive down the 1st fairway, just short of the creek; pitched on to 25 feet; then casually rolled in his birdie putt to get the scoreboard heading in the right direction. ¬†Personally I think those Frank Sinatra black and white brogues he was wearing had something to do with it ‚?? it‚??d be impossible to play bad golf while wearing those things, because it just wouldn‚??t look right. ¬†
The course is a Seth Raynor design, a chap whose work we‚??ve come to appreciate over the past few weeks. ¬†Our first Raynor experience was at The Country Club of Charleston. ¬†And at The National we probably experienced a bit of Raynor too, given he was C B MacDonald‚??s understudy. ¬†Clever fellow.
Right away at Westhampton his mark was apparent. ¬†Relatively straightforward off the tee; the bunkers are well sanded and don‚??t have severe lips; and large, almost square greens, with funky undulations. ¬†The 3rd green (pictured below) sits in a punchbowl, much like the 16th at National. ¬†Local knowledge from The Brothers LeVeen and from our caddies was key. ¬†My caddy Tyler may have been 8 feet tall. ¬†I‚??m sure if he gets sick of going to college in Vermont and snowboarding and all that good stuff, he could just go and play in the NBA (when I say ‚??play‚?Ě, I mean stand by the hoop; catch the ball; and drop it in the hoop above the hands of the despairing guards).
Below is a photo of a deep bunker I found myself in (the only place on the hole that you really don't want to go - something Jeff kindly mentioned after I'd hit it there).
The Goodies took the front 9 3 up, as they well should. ¬†Jeff and Michael were in disarray, and their challenge was beginning to fall apart at the seams. ¬†That‚??s until Jeff muscled his first drive into a fairway on 14 then casually steered a wedge to 10 feet. ¬†All of a sudden the match was on and big Jeff had a glint in his eye. ¬†Brotherly rivalry being what it is though, Andy wasn‚??t going to take any of this sitting down. ¬†So on the 17th hole ‚?? a 200 yard or thereabouts par 3 with a ¬†green 70 yards long ‚?? he struck a pure rescue club (a club that no self-respecting Kiwi bloke would ever use, as they are generally reserved for the pleasure of women) to the middle of the green. ¬†Driving the nail into the coffin, once and for all.
The boy dun good, and until the 18th didn‚??t have a double bogey. ¬†With that women‚??s club in hand again he blocked his second into the car park and unfortunately allowed a blot to appear on an otherwise glorious card. ¬†His shoulders must‚??ve been sore from carrying me all day, so it‚??s not surprising that he eventually came unstuck and showed human weakness. ¬†The match aside (actually, included), we had a hell of a time walking round with the lads. ¬†Their good humour and rivalrous banter was refreshing. ¬†And the centrepiece of The Westhampton Experience was a true pleasure. ¬†[If I don‚??t mention Jeff‚??s swashbuckling tee shot on 18 I may get an abusive email ‚?? the photo I took of the ball soaring off into the distance, down the carpet, will most likely grace the cover of The Book.]
Parched after slogging it out in the heat for the best part of 4 hours, we found solace in the air conditioned comfort of the Men‚??s Grill. ¬†It was here that we would experience the next instalment of TWE: the Rumdy Dumdy. ¬†Those South Sides ain‚??t got nothing on this thing. ¬†I‚??m not even going to try to explain what‚??s in this concoction ‚?? the barman explained briefly but I was deeply focused on drinking the thing and not on his recipe ‚?? but suffice to say it‚??s a sour rum cocktail that like everything should be enjoyed in moderation. ¬†One and we were out of there. ¬†Via the pro shop that is, where Jeff very generously insisted that Michael and I take away a souveneir to Represent Westhampton CC for the remainder of our journey and beyond. ¬†Despite wise counsel from The Brothers LeVeen (not to mention a few angular jabs), I settled on a dapper navy cardigan bearing the Westhampton flag. ¬†To say they had reservations about my sexuality from that moment onwards would be like saying Australia has no water ‚?? namely, a significant understatement! ¬†I happen to think it‚??s a dam fine garment, yes Sir. ¬†And Graeme MacDowell just won the US Open wearing one. ¬†I rest my case.
Jeff zipped us back to his pad, to pick up his togs (Andy‚??s wife kindly procured a couple of spares for us), then we hopped in Jeff‚??s fully restored 1978 Toyota Land Cruiser Convertible ‚?? tunes blaring ‚?? and set sail for La Ronde Beach Club for the next instalment. ¬†A dip in the Atlantic. ¬†After the famous egg and sausage breakfast sandwich; golf at the Country Club; and a Rumdy Dumdy, nothing could‚??ve been more fitting. ¬†TWE was really living up to its billing, and then some. ¬†In the basking afternoon sunshine we body surfed and doggy paddled around trying not to swallow salt water (without success in my case). ¬†Then we hung out inside the beach club for a while; met some of the locals; then retreated back to base camp to freshen up for dinner.
I wish I‚??d had our camera with us when we arrived at the place we had dinner. ¬†Right out of one of those early James Bond films. ¬†I half expected a younger Ursula Andres to appear from the sand in that famous bathing suit, waltz up to the bar, and order a martini. ¬†She didn‚??t appear, sadly. ¬†We found ourselves out on a deck overlooking the dunes and the ocean behind, with a Pina Colada in hand. ¬†Scores of folks lined the tables and bar stools ‚?? some decked to the 9s in their glad rags; others in shorts and a t-shirt ‚?? and the atmosphere was quite electric. ¬†An acoustic Beach Boys-like band were strumming away over in the corner. ¬†And all was well.
Jeff being the kingpin that he is somehow managed to get us the best table in the joint, right on the corner of the deck between the main seating area and the bar ‚?? in full view of the dunes and the band. ¬†Martha (Jeff‚??s wife) and Grayson (Andy‚??s pregnant wife) were vintage company, as were the Brothers it pains me to say. ¬†A spaced out dude called Evan was our waiter (we‚??d already heard about his aloof nature based on Jeff‚??s past experience), and thankfully he had a lucid moment long enough to remember our orders. ¬†Seafood starters; a bunch of pizzas; and a couple of key lime pies to share for desert ‚?? a very relaxed affair. ¬†¬†
The Westhampton Experience will be forever etched in my memory as a very happy one indeed. ¬†The Brothers LeVeen went out of their way to make it so. ¬†Jeff and Andy were true gentlemen, generous hosts and, most of all, a lot of fun. ¬†I‚??ve promised them The Wellington Experience when they make it to the Land of The Long White Cloud, but will have to really put my thinking cap on if it‚??s to measure up in any way, shape or form to TWE. ¬†Thanks lads!
Postscript: Jeff & Andy tragically lost their father when The Twin Towers fell on September 11 2001. ¬†Below is a photo of a memorial plaque laid by the 17th tee commemorating the life of their father Jeff, and 3 other members of the club who lost their lives that day.
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