Takefuji Classic 2005-Las Vegas NV

My player this week is Jan Stephenson

Off Weeks: Before I get to my trip, Saturday found me wondering the course following Annika’s group for a couple holes until running into Doug Brecht one of the rules officials. He was stationed between the second and sixth fairways and, figuring a conversation with him was more interesting than the golf,  I sat down for a spell. Found out that his wife (former tour player Stephanie Lowe) was planning to attempt the qualifier for The Open. If she makes it, Doug will be on the bag. One thing for sure he guaranteed, there won’t be any slow play in his group. This is a major bug-a-boo with all the officials. He’s also looking forward to hanging with all the caddies during the week.

The trip: I know I’ve said it before but everyone should drive across country at least once but at a more relaxed pace than I just did. Three days and 2555 miles later I arrived at “The Nerd’s” place in Hobe Sound FL. Didn’t feel like sightseeing just getting the drive over with but I did see a few interesting things along the way. 

Louisiana found a family, mom talking to a state trooper, standing next to their auto which was lying on it’s side. Looks like it kissed the guard rail and rolled over. Reminds me of the time I was coming back from the course in Houston many moons ago and the traffic suddenly stopped. After hitting my brakes I looked at the rear view mirror to see if the driver behind me would do the same. Not quite. It was a pickup truck and just before coming to a stop, the driver turned left which caused it to crawl up the cement wall divider, hesitated in mid-air and gently rolled over. No injuries but he sure had to be embarrassed like hell.

The long bridge traversing the Pensacola Bay found a work crew repairing  part of the open decked steel bridge. We slowed down to a crawl which gave time to read the sign being held next to the one of the welders. It read “Free car wash exit now” with an arrow pointing over the bridge. You got ‘a love a DOT employee with a sense of humor.

Midway FL found me fill’n up at a Pilot gas station and the next pump had a guy doing the same to his pickup. Mine was set on the automatic check-off when it reaches full but he decided to hold the pump handle manually. He must have been mesmerized by how how fast the price was climbing cause he failed to realize that his check-off failed to work and gas was pouring out onto the ground. I gave him a quick heads-up and the petrol gusher was terminated along with on hell of a fire hazard.

Tallahassee FL found a hitchhiker on an on ramp flipping off everyone whom passed him by. Oh, the inhumanity!

Finally, with just a few miles to go on I-95 I was hit with a bright light out of nowhere. A motorcyclist flew by at an estimated 130-150 mph! I was going to call 911 but I figured he’d be 10 miles down the road before they could do anything.

The aftermath: After sitting on my butt for what seemed an eternity, and with a dead cruise control for the entire trip, I just needed to chill for a day and put my brain to rest.

Bingo may be a hit with the retirement crowd but is it really necessary at a McDonalds? Stopped in for breakfast and noticed about 20 snowbirds were having the same. All of a sudden the query of “Are you ready for some bingo?” rang out. With a resounding “Yes!” the game began. I was planning a little quiet time with a newspaper but found the calls of bingo numbers annoying. I guess the profit of 20+ meals out-weighed the bother.

Morelia update: Rick charted the Tres Marias course the week after we played Mexico City and is in the process of creating the first draft of the yardage book. It will then be sent to George Lucas (Gorgeous George) who will add the  finishing touches. This course has a unique feature on the 15th hole. It’s set to be played at 443 yards and has a 77 yard deep green! Rick will need an extra page for this one. 

He also stated that we’re getting ripped off for the hotels and lined up an apartment for less than half the price. He’s an adventuresome sort.

April Fools Day: Played an April Fools joke on myself and decided to club-caddie. Rick’s Winter haunt, The Dye Preserve, needed some extra guys and since I could always use a little supplemental income, went over. 

My loop started out with three ladies, two down and one up. THE BAGS YOU PERVERT! Two on a cart and one on my back. They didn’t play like Annika but much better than Mrs. Havercamp. “That’s a peach hun”. It was easy work till the fourth lady showed with five holes to play. I now had two up and now remember why I don’t caddie during the off season. Not much fun but the pay made up for it. The club may need me on the weekend for the member/guest but I’ll  pass.

Headed home and all of a sudden the cruise control started working. I was going to pick up a used one from a bone yard in Indio CA but something told me to hold off. It may just be the set switch. Having it checked on Monday.

The flight: Almost missed it! Usually we fly out on Sunday after a week off but this time necessity (cost and flight schedule) made Saturday the departure date. Somehow I lost track of the days and left Rick’s on Friday and got a room in Macon GA. Unfortunately, Macon is over 300 miles from Nashville, my departure city, and my flight left at 7:10 AM.   Do the math. Luckily my roommate, Dave Hirashima, called around 8:00 PM wondering where I was. Then it hit me. I needed to be in Nashville that evening! Quickest packing job I ever did. After a long drive, punctuated with an hour sitting in traffic just North of Atlanta due to bridge construction, I finally arrived at 1:30 AM. WHEW!

Monday, the wait: Arrived without a bag lined up and with at least 10 other caddies looking for work I knew this would be a “long row to hoe”. Plan A was to get to the course on Sunday with hopes of catching some early birds. Plenty of players were there but mostly Monday qualifiers getting in a practice round. On to Plan B. 

First one at the course on Monday but seemed many of the players were sleeping in or have not arrived as of yet.  As the morning drew long, I never saw so many new faces. Caddies everywhere and I didn’t know any of ’em. Looks like the trend is to hire a pretty face regardless of his experience. I played a practice round with some new guys in Phoenix and they were clueless. I thought 28 years on tour and I’m working the lot! Disgusting and a bit demoralizing. Wound up empty for the day. On to Plan C.

Tuesday, the snag: Not quite the first one there but pretty close. All the guys without work commiserate with each other in the vain attempt for the search for employment. We know there are few viable candidates but someone just may “snag one out of the lot”. This time it was me. Did you ever have a “feeling” that you need to do something? Call it ESP, a hunch or intuition but that’s what happened to me. It was 2:30 and we’ve been sitting in the caddie area since morning. Then something told me to head for the parking lot. Lo and behold there was Jan Stephenson pulling her clubs out of the trunk. Off I went. An offer to take the clubs to the practice green followed by a quick inquiry as to her was working for her got the answer I was looking for. “No one”. I was in.

Lately, I’ve been listening to that little voice more often and there’s definitely something to it. Give it a try. You may be presently surprised.

You heard it here first: We were on the range and Jane Crafter, whom is commentating for ESPN this week, stopped by. Talk of the recent Senior Ladies Japanese event, which Jan had participated in, soon arose. Seems it was an astounding hit and plans of plans of adding another in Australia next year are in the works. That would make 4 official events along with 3 pro-ams. If two of those pro-ams were to turn into regular tournaments the PGA would recognize The Ladies Senior Tour s an “official tour”. This would be a major coup.

The conversation turned to the condition of the course which will play hard and fast. Many short irons will be played and barring extremely windy weather scores will be very low. Jane added “the ball will running like a drover’s dog”. Always searching for new colloquialisms, she decided to add that one to her repertoire.  Listen for it during the telecast.

Wednesday: Practiced for a couple hours and our day was done.

Remember all those guys looking for bags? One happened to be Rick “The Nerd” whom had Penny Hammel lined up till Amy Alcott knocked her out at the eleventh hour. Penny was is in the tournament winners category which allows two spots each week. After knocking Penny out, Amy withdraws after the deadline and the spot went to the next alternate. Amy, you’re a peach! Rick still may have work though. He has Pam Kerrigan whom is the first alternate and Beth Bader may not tee it up due to a sore back from moving a TV last week.

Las Vegas casinos  abound with great food deals and the Westward Ho, where many of us are staying, is no exception. 27 oz margarita for 99¢, a full breakfast for $1.99, shrimp cocktail also 99¢ and last but not least the 3/4 lb mega dog for the paltry sum of $1.49. Now, we all know that red hots aren’t made of the best there is to offer. In fact, the mega dog ad should boast “Contains more ears, snouts and other byproducts than any other dog” but I digress. Where am I going with this? Well, after yesterday’s 11 and 1/2 hour day I was not in the mood to stand in line for my evening repast. I headed for the deli, home of the mega dog, and ordered one with kraut along with a beer chaser, doused it with mustard and relish and started in. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had a dog but this monstrosity was better than expected. I’m ashamed to say “I can’t believe I et the whole thing!” Surprisingly, no burps, farts or other gastrointestinal maladies.

Jan is the only LPGA player whom is totally immersed in designing golf courses. She just doesn’t slap her name on another’s work but takes on the complete project form zoning to planning and all the way to completion. She learned her craft with tutoring from Pete Dye’s course shaper. Her company, Jan Stephenson Inc., is currently working on projects in South Carolina, Alabama and Maryland.

Thursday: The morning’s blustery winds turned docile and there was more red to be seen than in a caddie’s eyes after pulling an all-nighter at the tables. Jan shot a very respectable even par, once she was able to hit the fairways with her tee ball. The first few were blocked right so she started to work the remaining right to left and didn’t miss very many.

We were first off number one in the afternoon which means we were the pace setters. Unfortunately, we had one of the slowest players on tour, Young Kim, and our first nine took 2 hours 25 minutes. On this course it seemed like an eternity. I think she’s numero uno on the rules official’s slow play list. As a result, we were timed for about 4 holes on the back but of course everyone sped up and no penalties were assessed.

  • Holes to remember and not: Number four is a 365 nothing par four but Chris Johnson found herself near the OB wall and in the trees. She decided to punch a low runner toward the green and threaded it through a four yard wide space between two bunkers onto the putting surface. A 35 footer was left for birdie which she nailed without a second thought. I told her that was a “dear diary” birdie. Jot that one down for a keepsake.

On the flip side, number nine was her Waterloo. It’s a short par five with water guarding the front and both sides of the green and with her length, would only leave her a medium to short iron. Her tee ball found the right fairway bunker which negated going for the green so she laid up. A bit to far as it turned out, leaving a less than full sand wedge. Most players hate that shot. A very uncommitted swing chunked the ball into the water. She then went farther back to drop leaving a full shot. That one was yanked left into the water again. Frazzled, the next shot was bladed over the green hitting the cooler of the greenside scorer. Her pitch back was bladed again into the water in front of the green. Dropping in the same spot, Chris finally made it on and two putted. How good is your scorekeeping? The total will be at the end of today’s update.

The sponsor has a $10,000 hole-in-one contest on the 17th for Sunday only. Know what’s funny? That’s the same amount the caddies will be shooting for in our hole-in-one contest in Williamsburg!

Kudos for the two Monday qualifiers. Mikeala is -5 and Marisa -4.

We have the same parings tomorrow instead of repairing by score. They do this for Japanese TV to highlight some of their players.

Figure Chris’ score? She took a 12.

Friday: Didn’t hit it very well and finished +2 for the day and the event. A couple thin bunker shots shook Jan’s confidence resulting in a few very heavy ones. Not getting it up and down out of the traps made the difference. All in all, it was a pleasure to work for Jan and’ I’d do it again in a minute. She is a class lady. Her next event may be Williamsburg.

It took 16 holes but we finally were put on the clock again. The difference in Young Kim’s playing time was truly amazing. I think she pulled a club in less hen 10 seconds on the eight hole but rushed the putt and made bogey. That’s what happens when you try to speed up way ahead of your normal routine.

The Westward Ho is about a 15-20 minute walk to the course along Riviera Blvd. This morning’s trek took me past 5 up-chucks, marking a heavy night of drinking for some unfortunate donors. The trail of vomit was punctuated by one unique thick ‘n chucky deposit. Could have been a mega dog but I didn’t thoroughly examine the splatter for lack of time. Like I would have anyway! Not exactly what you wish to see immediately following breakfast.

Saw a Sony digital camera in the Fry’s Electronics ad and would like to pick one up before heading to Morelia but until I make a few percentage checks it’ll have to wait.

Sat down with Chris and her caddie Wayne after the round and reminisced of days gone by and filled her in on Flipper’s escapades. Plenty of laughs all around.

Hey, it’s tax day. Did you file on time?

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