Fort Wayne, Indiana is were the journey of The RGV Tour actually began 27 years ago. As a youngster, I learned to play the game at a little place called Arlington Park Golf Course. Fortunately for me, that course is still open and the head pro, Gary, is still around. The course has had zero renovations and the pro shop still smells the exact same. I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity to stroll down the fairways of memory lane.
That little green circle to the far right is where I made my first birdie 2 on a par 3 of about 135 yards. I remember it clearly. When I pass from this earth, I would like a bench with my name on it right there. “Golf Hobo Koenig made his first birdie on this very spot in 1990. He never forgot his first time.” Or something like that.
Arlington Park Golf Course is home to one of my favorite Golf Professionals, Gary Johnson. Gary has ran the show at Arlington Park since… well, since the beginning of time probably. Gary brings life to this little par 3 course and was a big part of my beginning stages in the game. To this day, I still use the chipping technique he showed me as a little kid.
Next up was a course that I had only got the chance to play once as a junior golfer. Back then, Sycamore Hills was a far off magical land that only millionaires could play. However, the owner of my father’s company had heard of my passion for the game and decided to bring me out for a round when I was 13. The only thing I remember from that round was being amazed at how great golf courses could be.
I was more than thrilled to see this place again with my 38 year old eyes. Eyes that had seen places like Cypress Point and Augusta National since then. I was not let down, although, the experience as a junior golfer was much more powerful.
One thing that The RGV Tour has not had up until this point in time was royalty. That’s right, no Kings or Queens have joined the tour. However, the tour was in for a treat at Sycamore Hills. About halfway through the round, I learned that a member of our group comes from a royal Swedish bloodline and was a verifiable Princess. Not only is Anna Appert Lund the very first RGV Tour Princess, she is also one heck of a golfer.
I also had time to take in another local favorite, Cherry Hill Golf Course. The course is well known for it’s island green 6th hole.
It was a treat to show the neighborhood kids the RGV and fly the drone over the old neighborhood. The shot below is an aerial view of the original stomping grounds. You can see the basketball court where I used to ball hard and where I lost my first tooth. On the top right is where my sister sat on a huge ant hill as a kid and got a serious case of ants in the pants. The bottom left is the site of one of the very best ‘bush forts’ the world has ever seen. You can even see the old bus stop where we would board the bus to school.
After a rousing good time in The Fort, Indianapolis and a visit to Sagamore Country Club was up next. Ryan Huffman was a fantastic host and afterwards we traded some stories in the clubhouse. Unfortunately, I did not have much time in the city and had to hustle on out to French Lick.
There are 2 golf courses at the French Lick Resort, the Donald Ross course and the Pete Dye course. Both are excellent courses and you will want to make sure you plan time to see both of them. The Donald Ross course is a classic and underrated design that should receive just as much attention as Dye’s course. However, as the Dye course is the more scenic of the two, it get’s most of the love.
The foggy morning on the Donald Ross course turned into a sunny day in an instant. We stepped right off of the 9th green and out of the fog. By the time we hit our tee shots on #10, it was sunny skies for days. After some lunch, it was time to head on over to The Pete Dye course which is just about 5 miles down the road.
Pete Dye sketched the course routing on a napkin during the initial idea phase and in 2009, 8100 yards of golf was released. The course hosted the Senior PGA Championship in 2015 and has some of the most stunning views in Southern Indiana. You can listen to Pete talk about his creation here.
Next up was a visit to the #1 course in the state, Victoria National. Recently, the course has been acquired by The Dormie Network and I was scheduled to do some photography of the course. I was looking forward to this one as Victoria National is a visual stunner.
With Victoria National joining The Dormie Network, the membership offering now includes 5 courses. Arbor Links, The Dormie Club, Briggs Ranch, and Ballyhack round out the course selection. You can read more about the deal in my post here and if you are interested in joining, just send me a message.
Victoria National has something like 80 million gallons of water on the property and I heard a rumor that the record for most golf balls lost in a single round was 90. Think about that, with an average of 5 lost balls per hole, you are most likely making multiple trips to the golf shop to reload on Pinnacles. Fortunately, our group would keep the losses to single digits.
It was on the 14th hole that I would hit what I am going to call the shot of the RGV Tour. While no words will do the shot justice, here is my version of the events that happened that afternoon.
After putting my drive through the fairway and into the brush, I was blocked out by a forest of trees and my only option was to punch back into the fairway. I spotted a slight gap in the trees high up and way to the right. I jokingly said to my playing partners. “Maybe I could just hit it over there through that hole.” I took a quick look at my lie and realized it wasn't too bad. “I bet I could get it up there if I hit a 6 iron... but could I carry it 185?” I decided to ponder the short further. “Well, it needs to take a serious left turn or it’s going a mile into the forest… but the ball is above my feet.” My decision was made. “Watch this one,” I announced to the group.
That is when it happened, that Callaway Chrome Soft left the face of my 6 iron in a hurry and headed right for the gap. Miraculously, it missed every branch. I was stunned. You could feel the quiet come over the group as they watched the golf shot unfold.
For the second act, it needed to hook real hard back to the hole and sure enough, this thing put on it’s blinker and curbed hard left. It was just as I had envisioned. It might actually make it back to the green! No way! Just look at it go. Oh my god, it’s happening.
As the ball bounced onto the green and cozied up to the hole, an eruption of screams came from our threesome. High fives happened and profanities carried over several fairways. Fortunately for us, the course was empty or we might have been asked to leave.
It is moments like this that define the game, the impossible achieved. For all of the bad shots in the game, it only takes one swing of the club to make your golf heart swoon. We all have that amazing shot that lives inside of us and when it comes out, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Just don’t ask me if I made that 10 footer for birdie.
Later on, the Tour would return to Indiana for a Notre Dame football game. At this point, my parents had joined the golf party and were in on the action. The only real good excuse for not golfing is a Notre Dame game. My mom was actually relieved that I took a day off of golfing. She told me that I needed it. We agreed to disagree.
By now, the fridge in the RGV has not been working for several months. It just so happened that I played golf with an engineer named Eric Bens that works for Dometic. Dometic is the company that makes my fridge. What a stroke of luck!
You know what happened next. We golfed hard and fixed the fridge. Cold Diet Cokes for everyone!