At this point, you think I would be getting used to sweating profusely every day. Unfortunately, I think it takes your body 3-5 years to acclimate to stifling daily heat and humidity. How that superintendent is wearing cargo pants in this heat, I will never understand. The good news is that I would have to be standing on the surface of the sun to actually stop golfing.
Up first in West Virgina it was Pete Dye Golf Club. What you don’t see in the pictures below is my sweaty smiling face as Pete Dye is starting to become one of my favorite architects. His body of work is vast, varied, and meaningful in the history of the game.
After a rousing round at Pete Dye Golf Club, I headed on over to The Greenbrier. Every year, the course plays host to the Greenbrier Classic and it is one of the few classic courses that remain in the PGA Tour rotation. You have got all of Seth Raynor’s hits on this excellent template course. With good versions of the cape, redan, and short holes, the course is a lot of fun to play. I birdied the 1st hole and had my eyes on the course record. In the end, I only managed to break 80.
The Greenbrier also has a meadows course on the property that I took on in during a misty morning that turned into a hot and sunny afternoon.
Just down the street from the Greenbrier is The Snead. Opening in 2004 and designed by Tom Fazio, the course is exclusive to the members of the Greenbrier Sporting Club. However, I did manage to find a tee time for a follow up round after the Greenbrier Courses.
A Virginia native, Sam Snead served as the head pro of the Greenbrier from 1946 to 1974 and is highly regarded around these parts. With restaurants like Sam Sneads’ and Slammin’ Sammmy’s in the area, you can feel the Snead vibes running deep. The Snead course also serves as an honor to The PGA Tour’s all time wins leader.
While making a bee line for Ohio, I decided to take a quick peak into Kentucky, while it will not go down as one of my favorite golfing states, it deserved a quick peak. I decided to pay a visit to the new site of The Barbasol Championship, Champion Trace and Hurstbourne Country Club.
While Champion Trace met my expectations, Hurstbourne CC exceeded them. Originally designed by Chick Evans, the course has a classic feel to it. My personal highlight of the day was when I played through a group on the par 3 4th hole. I hit my approach to 3 feet and made the putt. They had no idea that I doubled the previous 2 holes and probably figured I was just another PGA Tour pro taking a week off or something.
“Welcome to Ohio.” That is what google maps said when I entered the state. It gives me a nice greeting whenever I cross a state boundary and I always like to pump my fist in accomplishment. But I would not settle for a fist pump in the rig. I wanted some birdie fist pumps and I was going to hunt them down right away. Little did I know that I would be doing eagle pumps later on that day.
I met up with a spirited RGV Tour player named Terry Pancost and he was a fantastic host at Persimmon Ridge. After a fun front nine, we arrived at the par 5 15th. A good drive had put me in position to reach the green in 2, however I bladed my 2 iron into the creek below. At least that is what I thought happened. It turns out the ball hit the rocks below and bounced back over the creek. Sensing a rare opportunity, I pitched my next shot in for eagle. Terry and I high fived each other at least five times and we wildly celebrated the glorious fortune.
The good news for The RGV Tour is that I have family in the Columbus area and they were more than happy to provide me some home cooked meals and a place to park the RGV. Uncle Bill, Aunt Marilyn, and Cousin Dave really made Ohio feel like home for a couple of days.
After recharging the batteries and loading up on calories, I headed out for a round at Stonelick with Travis and Matt. These fellas kept things cool even though we were battling some serious summer heat.
Travis and Matt had not met each other before the round and we all became fast friends. One of my favorite aspects of the tour is bringing together like minded individuals for a spirited golf party. I often get direct messages from fellow RGV Tour players that meet up for a round after the tour has long passed through. Although it may be small, I am very proud of the RGV community.
At this point, the tour is really cooking. The days were long and 36 holes of golf was the norm. I packed in Kinsale with Greg and did Virtues on a solo mission. Then I met up with a great group of guys for Pinnacle and Wedgewood Country Clubs.
After finishing up on the 7th hole at Wedgewood Country Club, Ben Huenke was nowhere to be found. We didn’t worry about it too much as we made our way to the 8th tee box. That is were we found Ben. Ben had dug into his golf bag, pulled out a portable fishing rod, and was fishing for bass in the pond in front of the green. On his second cast, Ben reeled in the first RGV Tour bass like a true bass master.
I was obviously there with my camera to capture the magic. The par 3 in the background is good enough as it is, but the smile on Ben’s face sent him straight into the hall of legends.
Ben didn’t miss a beat, made a quick par, and we kept on the heels of the group in front of us.
While I had already played a lot of the big names in Ohio like the Golf Club, Muirfield Village, and Scioto on previous trips, I opted to mix it up with some of the clubs not on the short list. These clubs turned out to be every bit as good as some of the more well known tracks. The golf scene in Ohio runs deep! The trio of Canterbury, Kirtland, and Inverness were on the schedule to cap off a jam packed state.
Sam Snead has been quoted as saying he’d “much rather face a rattlesnake than a downhill 2 footer at Canterbury.” Conditioning like this attracted major championships to Canterbury and they have come in droves over the past 80 years. Since 1932, the club has hosted 13 major championships and Canterbury is one of only two Clubs in history to have hosted all five of the men's Major Championships that rotate sites. (The US Open, PGA Championship, US Amateur, Sr. US Open and Sr. PGA Championship).
Kirtland Country Club was up next and I had heard rumors about the back nine being one of the best in the entire state. After a satisfying front nine, I was ready to jump right in. They have a snack shack that overlooks the large photo below and we fueled up on peanut butter and Ritz crackers. After pumping our drives off of the cliff on #10, we went for a serious golf ride that doesn’t really ease up on world class quality until the 18th hole.
I can easily say the rumors did not disappoint and I would put the back nine up against any other Ohio 9. The only thing better that day was our host, AJ.
Opening in 1903, Inverness Country Club has hosted 4 US Opens and 2 PGA Championships. The RGV Tour was looking to add to the list of “major” golf events in 2018. The course was designed by Donald Ross and the tour tackled it on a sunny summer afternoon. With plenty of tough golf holes in the mix, nothing outstanding was happening until I drove it in the green side bunker on #18.
As I blasted out of the sand to a back left pin I heard the words “We better get a high kick with that bunker shot,” coming from the clubhouse porch overlooking the green. It was Twitter friend Jeff Bajorek in the flesh! Jeff and The Outpost Club had hosted an event earlier and the crew was just sitting down to dinner.
After watching me 3 putt for bogey, they invited me to join the group for an evening of laughs, lies, and mostly true golf stories. It is moments like this that make me proud to be a part of the golfing community. Almost everyone I have met on this journey has been overly generous and eager to join in on the fun.
While the finish at Inverness would have been a fitting end to Ohio, I couldn’t leave without paying a quick visit to Firestone Country Club. Everyone had told me that it was going to be a “total rain out” day, but I was not going to listen to any of that nonsense. I strapped on my rain pants and headed out there. I was the only golfer on the course that final day in Ohio and I loved every bit of it.
After drying off, I headed out to another highly anticipated state, Michigan.