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More Confessions of a Weekend Golfer

Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Tom Berenger, July/Aug 2007

The Match: Greg Norman and Marvin R. Shanken vs. Raymond Floyd and Rush Limbaugh
The Track: Old Palm Golf Club, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
The Weather: Mid-80s, one-club wind
The Prize: A case of first-growth Bordeaux, 2000 vintage

This was a match made in heaven. Two giant former PGA Tour professionals playing along with two amateurs (18 handicappers). In my mind our opponents had an edge, as Old Palm, a magnificent two-year-old course, is the home course of Raymond Floyd. He also is the course architect. Raymond, 64, has been playing fairly regularly on the Champions Tour this year and doing quite well. Greg, 52, my partner (the lucky guy!) has pretty much given up playing golf for a living. Rather, he is busy designing golf courses in places like Dubai, Vietnam, Russia and Jordan, among others. Rush and I were pretty evenly matched, both having the same handicap. Over the last few years we have played together in Puerto Rico and California. My recollection was he hits a much longer ball, but I had a better short game.

What I didn't know was that Rush was now playing a minimum of twice a week in Florida and has had many lessons to sharpen his game. And sharpen it he did!

The group met the night before the match—a casual dinner at Rush's home in Palm Beach. Since we all love wine, Rush pulled out all the stops by serving a 2000 Montrachet Domaine de la Romanee Conti and a 1982 Château Mouton Rothschild as aperitif wines. For dinner, he served a 1961 Château Haut Brion and a 1947 Château Petrus. Not bad for a casual get-together!

During dinner we talked about the toughest golf courses (Shinnecock), golf course design, the Don Imus affair, and who will be the next president of the United States. Rush and I listened while Greg and Raymond shared stories about their golf-world life experiences. It turns out they have been golfing buddies for about 25 years. Thus they had lots of interesting tales to tell. We had lots of good laughs.

After dinner, Rush and I enjoyed cigars from his walk-in humidor. We tried to get Raymond and Greg to join us, but they weren't interested. Thank you, Rush, for hosting such a great evening!

Raymond Floyd
We arrived on Monday morning, April 30, at Old Palm about 8 a.m. and met for breakfast. No one admitted to having a hangover from the night before, but we were not having our blood tested!

Over breakfast it was agreed that Rush and I would get one stroke a hole. Greg and Raymond would play straight up on the Gold tees (6,810 yards), and Rush and I the Blue tees (6,215 yards). The purse was also finalized. If Greg and I won, Rush would deliver to Greg a case of first-growth Bordeaux from 2000. If they won, I would ship a case to Raymond.

We moved to the first tee and Raymond threw a tee in the air. The tee landed directly aimed at him. They had the honors. We were off.

Things started off a little shaky for our team. Greg drove his first drive into a trap 100 yards from the flag of a par-4, 391-yard hole. Raymond and Rush were there in two. Greg and I were both just off the green, but neither of us was able to get up and down. Raymond parred the hole. Rush made a bogie. After one hole they were one up.


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