On this epic adventure there are days on which our manner can best be described as ‚??flustered‚?Ě. ¬†Like yesterday. ¬†On the flipside there are also days when clock hands seem to tick round that bit slower; when we are really at peace, and have the time to take in fully what we are privileged to be doing. ¬†Today began as one of the flustered beasts, but quickly changed character into one of life‚??s true, gentle pleasures. ¬†That‚??s thanks to a few very generous and laid back southern gentlemen (one in particular) who made us feel like royalty at Augusta Country Club on Day 163.
Yesterday was a fantastic day, on a number of levels, but it certainly put us behind the 8 ball. ¬†I awoke this morning to the weirdly familiar sound of a mate‚??s voice on Skype ‚?? our very good friend Edward (the one that cant putt) had called from Oxford, England, to deliver some good news. ¬†The man got a Distinction for his thesis (not surprising). ¬†While we‚??ve been out playing golf and immersing ourselves in, well, the world, he‚??s had his nose in the books adding even more letters to his already unhealthily long name. ¬†Different strokes...as they say. ¬†But if I may: a public congratulations to The Man ‚?? a top effort.
Anyway we were knackered when we rushed out of Houndslake CC at 7am. ¬†And getting lost in the back roads between Aiken, South Carolina and Augusta, Georgia (just over the Savannah River) didn‚??t do wonders for our mental health. ¬†I hate being late. ¬†
Len Allgood ‚?? our kind host for the day ‚?? was waiting patiently in the pro shop when we rolled in half an hour late (stressed, sweating and obviously embarrassed). ¬†I felt awful. ¬†But he instantly put us at ease and reassured us we were in no hurry. ¬†It was at this point that the rhythm of the day changed very much for the better. ¬†Len is the perfect Southern Gentleman. ¬†He‚??s the father-in-law of a fine chap who goes by the very unKiwi name of Kirby Yawn. ¬†We‚??ve not had the pleasure of meeting Kirby but he‚??s been very kind in helping us with contacts in the area. ¬†Len‚??s also a retired Superior Court judge and now spends his time running his own firm (which goes after insurance companies on behalf of hospitals!). ¬†Long story short: lovely guy.
We‚??d heard a lot about Augusta CC in recent weeks ‚?? particularly yesterday, in the company of Nick & Gary, who are also members here. ¬†It‚??s a Donald Ross design; the first we‚??ve had the privilege of playing. ¬†It also sits right next door to the eponymous Augusta National (you can see Amen Corner through the trees from #9 of the CC). ¬†You wouldn‚??t believe, walking the fairways, that you‚??re in the middle of a busy town (population of greater region: circa 500,000 ‚?? second in size only to Auckland if it were in New Zealand). ¬†So peaceful...
568 apologies must‚??ve been fired our way today about the condition of the course. ¬†Incredibly the greenkeepers here have to aerate the greens every now and then, to keep that uber sensitive bent grass happy...(hopefully my sarcasm isn‚??t lost on y‚??all through the online medium). ¬†Notice I‚??ve started saying ‚??y‚??all‚?Ě. ¬†Just so happens that the first 2 weeks in June are the worst time all year to visit, for that very reason. ¬†We told the members exactly what we tell everyone else who apologies for the condition of their course: we‚??re not bothered. ¬†Playing all this golf we can appreciate the design and atmosphere of a layout regardless of a punched green here or a scarified fairway there. ¬†Sure it‚??s nice to putt on Wilshire Country Club-like greens, but there‚??s more to life... ¬†Hell, it‚??s a Donald Ross course!
The 3 of us had a very relaxing, and very enjoyable few hours between the pines. ¬†It‚??s the sort of course I‚??d really love to walk ‚?? despite it‚??s significant undulations ‚?? because it‚??s just so dam pretty. ¬†But when it‚??s 100 degrees and 90% humidity, Shanks‚?? Pony isn‚??t really an option. ¬†Another day in the cart.
The place really had atmosphere. ¬†I don‚??t know whether it‚??s the huge pines; or the red flags set against the deep green background; or Ross‚?? distinctly coffin-like bunkers; or, even, whether it‚??s because a certain course that holds The Masters is a stone‚??s throw away. ¬†Whatever it is ‚?? and it may just be that the people there are so friendly ‚?? I found myself constantly pausing to take it in. ¬†
We all played some good golf in spells. ¬†Mike actually hit 15 greens and shot 74, despite not looking like making a lot of birdies. ¬†Not bad going though. ¬†I was about par until a 3 putt on the par 5 8th, after which it was downhill thanks to lip outs, block cuts and missed 4 footers. ¬†No one but myself to blame. ¬†Len hit his driver straighter than I think I ever have ‚?? as a 6 marker he‚??s pretty solid.
Stopping at the half way house (twice) provided temporary respite from the heat. ¬†And a chance to sample the local delicacy: The Augusta CC Chilli Dog. ¬†Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, let me tell you. ¬†When the building was redone several years ago, the members‚?? only plea was that they didn‚??t get rid of the chilli warmer used for their ‚??dawgs‚?Ě. ¬†I can see why.
From the moment we arrived to the moment we left the carpark, everyone at the Country Club embraced us as if we were their own. ¬†I didn‚??t count but there must‚??ve been 20 or 30 guys that came up and introduced themselves ‚?? on the range; on course; in the Grill Room; in the Locker Room; in the pro shop ‚?? and gave us words of encouragement about our undertaking. ¬†Really gives us a buzz, that kind of enthusiasm. ¬†These Southern Gentlemen don‚??t have their reputation for nothing. ¬†
Which leads me to Len‚??s generosity. ¬†Not only did he have us to play as his guests; buy us a famous Chilli Dog and a beer in the half way house; treat us to lunch in the grill room afterwards ‚?? he also (in view of the impact that our repair bill for Dodgy has had on our financial situation) pushed a few hundred bucks across the table ‚??so we could buy ourselves dinner‚?Ě. ¬†We were both embarassed and humbled, as you can imagine. ¬†(I can safely say that his kind contribution to our expenses will go further than just ‚??dinner‚?Ě - hell, that‚??ll probably last us until the UK leg!). ¬†
To come back to what I said before, today really was one of life‚??s true, gentle pleasures. ¬†The course was beautifully mature and well laid out. ¬†Popping our Donald Ross cherries lived up to expectations and then some. ¬†Len was a truly gracious and generous host. ¬†And the members at Augusta CC acquitted themselves as True Southern Gentlemen. ¬†Thank Y‚??ALL for one of the best.
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