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More Confessions of a Weekend Golfer: "The Shotmaker" Hits Las Vegas and the Monterey Peninsula

Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
The Blues Brothers, Jan/Feb 2008

I checked off another course on my wish list in 2007. I got to play Cypress Point in mid-November. This round followed two days of golf at Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach. With December still in front of me at that point, I'd have to say those three days on the Monterey Peninsula were a perfect conclusion to one of my greatest years in golf. I have calculated that I played 91 rounds of golf in 2007.

But even more unexpected than approaching 100 rounds in a calendar year were the letters and phone calls I received after my last story in the December issue of Cigar Aficionado. In it, I listed my Top 25 golf courses that I have played, as well as my Top 10 wish list—the courses that I would love to play.

The "unexpected" part was the invitations from Cigar Aficionado readers wanting to play with me when I'm in their neighborhoods. Some of those invites came from people who are members of courses on my wish list.

I've started a file so when I do travel to some of those areas, I can take advantage of the kind invitations.

Here are excerpts from some of the letters:

I just read your article, "Confessions of a Weekend Golfer," good reading. Anyway, you mentioned that Baltusrol Golf Club was on your wish list. I am a member at Baltusrol and would be honored to play with you. —JD

It would be my privilege & pleasure to invite you down to Philadelphia to play the East course at Merion Golf Club. —LC

I would like to invite you down to sunny Sarasota to play a round or two with me (and whoever else you invite) on what we consider the finest course in Sarasota: The Founders Golf Club. —IF

Please put Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, RI on your list. Wannamoisett is what Donald Ross called "my best layout" and is consistently rated in the top 100 classic courses in the USA. You are cordially invited to be my guest whenever you can make it. —TON

It all goes to show that we cigar guys (and golfers) really get what life is all about: having fun and sharing.

My four rounds that week were among my most satisfying this year.

Four rounds on really tough courses, the three on the Monterrey Peninsula and one in Las Vegas, Cascata, one of my personal Top 10 courses in America.

Here were my scores:

COURSE

DATE

SCORE

PARS

BOGEYS

BIRDIES

Cascata

Nov. 9

94

Two

Nine

None

Pebble Beach

Nov. 12

94

Four

Eight

None

Spyglass Hill

Nov. 13

92

Six

Six

None

Cypress Point

Nov. 14

93

Four

Nine

None

The match at Cascata, just on the outskirts of Las Vegas, was beyond amazing. The "amateur" I played with, Ed Brown, shot an unbelievable 3-under par—69—and he hadn't played in several months. I counted; he had five birdies and an eagle. Needless to say, he cleaned my clock! The worst part was I thought I had him on the very difficult par-5, 514-yard, 18th hole over water. I had a great drive and second wood shot that put me 90 yards from the green. I chipped over the water with a 9-iron (playing it safe) and landed on the green in three, 15 feet from the pin. And I got a stroke! My hole, right? Wrong.

Ed went for a long 300-yard drive over a mountain range to take a shortcut to the green. His shot went well right of his line. In bad trouble—we thought. We walked off the tee, headed toward the dogleg left and the part of the fairway we couldn't see from the green. And there is was his ball dead center of the fairway, 250 yards from the green, with a final carry over an 80-yard-wide pond. He drilled his 3-wood and the ball settled softly onto the far right edge of the green 95 feet from the pin. There in two!

I was asking myself, could he putt this one within 6—8 feet? The green was very fast. I told him I would tend the flag as I wanted to watch this important putt. He lined up his putt and his caddie told him the line was six inches left to right. He adjusted his line. He putted. The ball traveled forever—and dropped dead center in the cup. I couldn't believe it. An eagle. I walked off the distance of his putt, 32 paces. Roughly 95 feet. I was devastated. I went to putt my crappy 15-footer and missed slightly left. I was in pain. I parred the hole for a net four, and lost the hole to an eagle off a bad tee shot. Where was the justice in this game? Not at Cascata, that was for sure.

At the legendary Pebble Beach Golf Links with my good buddy Richard Cohen. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

At Spyglass Hill, I played with my good golf buddy Richard Cohen, who recently moved to the Carmel area. There I accomplished a feat that I don't remember ever doing before. I parred all four par 3s. None were very long, but they were all tricky and challenging.

As we were teeing off on the back nine at Spyglass, a short, elderly gentleman came up to me and asked if he and his friend could join us. Reluctantly, I smiled and said, "Sure, why not." I tend to get a little nervous when I have to play with strangers. And sometimes it can be very intimidating. So this short, 66-year-old "senior" whacked the ball 240 yards down the center followed by an iron shot that landed six feet from the flag, right side, pin high. He tapped it in for a birdie, as did his friend, Steve. What was going on? I asked myself.

"Where are you from?" I asked. He mentioned a few different locations. "What are you doing here? Vacation?" No, he replied, "I'm playing in the Callaway Tournament which begins tomorrow at Pebble Beach." "What do you do for a living?" I asked next. "Play golf," he smiled back.

The Shotmaker was joined by Champions Tour pro Jim Colbert at Spyglass. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

"What is your name?" "Jim Colbert." "The Jim Colbert?" I asked. "Yep," he smiled back. Just what I needed…playing with a legend at Spyglass. What a great guy! We laughed and trash-talked on every hole. He was incredibly gracious…as well as a great golfer.

When we shook hands after the 18th green, I felt pretty stupid. I hardly welcomed him when he asked to join. I apologized for my lack of class and asked his forgiveness. He smiled and told me he had a great time. Me too!

Lastly, I was playing Cypress Point and it was a real thrill. I was told no names, no pictures. But what a great course! I now understand why it is ranked No. 4 behind only Pine Valley, Augusta National and Shinnecock. And the last four holes over water are to die for. I couldn't believe the par-3 16th over this huge water canyon with a narrow landing apron. Breathtaking sight. World-class course. I can't say much more. I'm not sure if I already said too much and won't get asked back. But I REALLY loved it.

All in all, The Shotmaker's week of golf in Las Vegas and the Pebble Beach area in mid-November was not so bad. Until next time…

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