The darkest hour is just before the dawn

First, I’d like to congratulate Kristin Adams Johnson for winning the Regional Science teacher of the year award for southern Oregon.  Medford School District was kind enough to send the two of us off to Portland to receive the award and for Kristin to attend a convention for Science teachers.  We drove through abysmal weather to get to PDX.  Rain, wind, pooling water on the interstate, and bumper to bumper traffic contributed to a lot of tension en route.  Alas, we arrived safely, walked through a downpour, and very much enjoyed the ceremony at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI).  What an excellent facility and truly intriguing displays including an on loan touring version of the artifacts from Pompeii.  A timely dose of culture for a couple that admittedly doesn’t get out much.

omsi2

My quote for this blog, “the darkest hour is just before the dawn” is attributed to Thomas Fuller, but it’s one of those universal truths that is observed by many and arrived at organically and originally by many.  I actually attribute it more to Drew Emmitt and Leftover Salmon from the song Troubled Times than anyone else.  It ties into this trip to Portland for me because I was in limbo planning this trip.  I knew Kristin was going to be busy with the convention and I was at liberty to choose how to spend my day.  I really wanted to play some fantastic golf course and held a voucher for a deeply discounted greens fee at Chambers Bay, home to the 2015 U.S. Open.  But, it was about a 5 hour round trip drive and the weather was horrendous.  I had visions of full rain gear, wind that knocked poorly hit balls right out of the sky, and slogging through ankle deep water.  First world problems, but I’d gladly suffer through these conditions after a 15 minute commute, but I’m not willfully driving 5 hours to endure it.

The alarm sounded just after 5 AM in order to beat traffic.  Coffee, clothes, one last check of my golf bag, and I was merging onto I-5 into a surprisingly heavy flow of traffic.  I’ll skip a lot of the mundane details and get to the morale of the story… the weather was outstanding, the course played like a dream, and although my back was stiff from carrying the clubs and sitting in the car, I had a smile plastered on my face for two or three days.  Here’s a photo I snapped from a prominent tee box:

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For golfers who are interested, I love this golf course.  I’m not the world’s biggest RTJ Jr. fan.  I think his courses push the edge as far as the severity of slope in the fairways, number of bunkers, how tight the “A” position landing zone often plays from the tee box.  His designs are often uncomfortable for me as a fairly skilled player, so I don’t think they work for 99% of golfers.  He migrated into being less like his father as an architect and more like Nicklaus in my opinion.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy his layouts.  Eagle Point Golf Course is one of my all time favorite golf courses especially to play frequently, but it just doesn’t pass one of the more intuitive tests to me, which is how does it play for an 18 index on his very first round on that course?  Enough criticism, my point being I’m non-biased about RTJ Jr., if anything maybe biased against him.

Chambers in feel could be in the same complex as the Bandon Dunes Resort courses.  Real American Links Golf.  I love the driving range and practice area at Chambers Bay.  The morning was cold, I had a toque on my head, truthfully, I’m scared of the reverb from the first poorly struck shot.  Boom, I slap a little utility club shot down range… it catches the slope bounces hard, skips over another ridge, bounces back the other way.  It was a great reminder that I wasn’t playing parkland target golf for the day.   Hole 1 and 10 are a little too similar for my taste, but the routing is pretty awesome.  Very fortunate to have the help of AJ, who has to be the kindest caddie I’ve had the fortune to meet.  Such a positive young man, he exudes “golfer” and you can tell this kid can flat play.  His targets off the tee were perfect all day.  Probably part of the reason I love this golf course was his help.  I can handle a poor approach shot pretty well, but floundering around off the tee is painful.  My biggest criticism would be the same as at EPGC, the course is just a little claustrophobic from the tee box.  Thank goodness for AJ!  At times you get the same feeling from the fairways.  Big forced carries over mean looking bunkers and waste areas.  I know he designed this course to hold big tournaments.  I, personally, prefer an architect that builds layouts where pin positions and tee boxes can be altered to make an incredible “test”  but that can be set for member play and not result in 5.5 hour rounds.  It’s just part of what’s shrinking participation numbers in my opinion.  Once again, just different approaches.  I have a big hunch that Mr. Jones and I would run across a lot of differences in opinion if we had much of a conversation, which is fine.  The world needs differing opinions.

We had perfect scoring weather, wet saturated greens, sun, no wind, but you’re not going to go out and scorch this layout without a lot of course knowledge and being 100% “on” all day.  I hit a half a dozen shots at least, that appeared great, came of the club exactly how I wanted them to and were misjudged a little for distance.  2 or 3 paces short can be the difference between a good look at birdie and the ball rolling back to your feet.  I guess that would drive some guys crazy, but I try and laugh and enjoy the chance of a do-over.  The big question from my golf mates, “how were the greens?”  I felt the greens were fair.  Not perfect, but fair.  My advice if you’re really trying to post a score, book an early time.  I watched a few putts drop from distances that mean the greens were rolling true, 12, 15, even 20 feet.  I don’t know if that would be the case later in the day.  I left feeling a little embarrassed for the tour pros that acted like such brats about this golf course, especially the guy that won.  A little of a black cloud on that victory to me.  I’m hugely impressed by this project and give the greatest compliments to the townspeople and leadership that made it happen.  They have built a timeless classic and given golfers the world over a great gift.

Thanks for reading!  Push through the darkest hours and enjoy the dawn, friends.

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