After getting acclimated to some warm weather in Mississippi it was time to head north into Tennessee as the season began to round into form. As I crossed the border and headed for TPC Southwind, the rain was coming down hard. The good news is that The RGV Tour always plays in the rain. If the golf course let's the Tour golf, we golf.
Since TPC Southwind hosts the FedEx St Jude Classic every year and the stands were already going up, it was natural that I would arrive on the 18th tee needing a par to win the event. Unfortunately, my tee ball would trickle into the water and I would need to get up and down from 160 to earn the victory. With 50 feet for the championship, my putt dove hard at the end and curled into the cup on the high side. The crowd erupted in utter chaos. I jumped into the stands and high fived everyone. The people lifted me up and chanted my name. Well, at least the putt was real, the chanting my name was the stuff of make believe.
The rain would clear up the next day for a visit to Memphis Country Club. Designed by Donald Ross, the club opened for play in 1917. While the course is fantastic, it was the heavy flow of the club's showers that really blew me away. I am pretty sure it's a thing that country club's across the country pride themselves on. I nearly drowned in the flow at Merion and Memphis CC is clearly keeping up with the big boys.
Next up was Justin Timberlake's old golfing grounds at Mirimichi Golf Club. JT purchased the course in 2009 and reportedly put $16 million into renovating the course, he sold it in 2014 for $500k. So not the best of business investments for the man who brought sexy back, but some solid bones and a very eco friendly golf course remain.
At this point in time, the tour had to halt operations for a golfing emergency, a tee time at Cypress Point! Like any respectable golf nut, I immediatley hopped on a plane to golf the Alister Mackenzie gem. You can get the full scoop on my Cypress Point podcast.
After one of the most inspiring rounds of golf that I have ever played, I returned to Tennessee with renewed vigor for the road. Yes, golfing inspires me to golf more. It also helped that The Golf Club of Tennessee was next up on the calendar.
The Tennessee stretch would pick up the pace with a day of 36 at Richland Country Club and then a skins game at Greystone Golf Club. On the 10th hole at Richland, the group's forecaddie would head out to spot our golf balls on the par 5. RGV Tour pro Kris Buerkle can really pound it and he sent a screaming rope hook right at our caddie. Our man tried to jump out of the way but he was caught right in the knee and down he went. It was the first round ending injury on tour and hopefully the last. In the end, our caddie was fine and we gave him a hefty tip as he iced his knee. The RGV Tour's official policy on caddie sniping is listed in section 2.3 and states specifically "Do not snipe your caddie." Kris went before the RGV review board and was found innocent on all charges.
On the twilight half of 36, we had ourselves a skins game show down at Greystone Golf Club. Local golfing stud, Jody Barrett, invited us out for the weekly game that sees a lot of action out in Dickson, TN. Our group was filled with top notch talent, but we would not earn a single skin. However, I would capture a closest to the pin prize with a sweet little 7 iron to 2 feet. Still no aces on the RGV Tour.
Afterwards, Jody would invite us out to his farm and The RGV Tour would spend the night amongst the livestock. The generosity and the willingness of RGV Tour players to open up their homes has been simply amazing. The tour is proud to be associated with such fantastic individuals like Jody Barrett.
In Nashville for one last round, I decided to take on a local favorite at Hermitage Golf Club's President's Reserve course. Apparently, the owner of the course paid a visit to Whistling Straits and really liked the idea of sheep roaming the golf course. Because, before he could even return from his trip to Wisconsin, the sheep were delivered to his home course and they had taken over. These sheep are pretty cool but they appear generally disinterested in your golf score.
When visiting Tennessee as a golfer, one should not leave the state without paying a visit to Sweeten's Cove. The course was designed by King-Collins Golf. Rob Collins is the principal architect and he has been described by the NY Times as a "golf cult hero." When I pulled up to the course and began wandering around, he was actually the first person that I met. It's a hands on place for Rob and it's clear that he takes tremendous pride in his creation located in Pittsburg Tennessee. Opening in 2014, the course is still in it's humble beginnings with a trailer for a pro shop and a modest grounds crew.
Whatever small time shanty vibes you may pick up in the pro shop fade away very quickly as you head out onto the course. The design is bold, fun, and strategic. All 9 of the green complexes allow for pin locations that can drastically change the course of play and you could enjoy the course 30 different ways before you get a sense of familiarity. In a sea of courses that run together, Sweetens Cove stands out.
With one last round in Tennessee to be played, it was Black Creek Club that drew the farewell honors. Designed by Brian Silva, the course is a modern template course set in a residential community. The Redan, Biarritz, & Alps templates all stand out and are very well done. The course is reminiscent of a Seth Raynor or Macdonald design and it is a lot of fun to play.
Overall, I would say that Tennessee surprised me as a state. There is a lot of variety here and the RGV Tour was happy to take it all in.
Most importantly the RGV Tour has now raised over $6000 for the First Tee of Greater Seattle. The best part about this total it's mostly a combination of RGV Tour Players giving small amounts. With the average donation around $35 it's a serious grass roots campaign. Thanks to everyone who has supported the tour so far.
If you are interested in being a part of the effort, click here.