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It was not a bad weekend for "The Shotmaker." Let's put it this way: golf, gambling and all the glitter of the Northeast's hottest new hotel/casino, MGM Grand at Foxwoods. All wrapped up in one weekend. Not bad, right? The golf was almost more fun than a guy should have. It got started with me getting to play with one of my favorite golfing buddies, Champions Tour star Jim Thorpe. It got even better when we were joined on Saturday by one of his best golfing and cigar buddies, fellow Champions Tour player Dana Quigley, whom I had played with many times before and loved every time. The Saturday group was rounded out by a real American treasure, former Major League pitcher Luis Tiant, who it seemed never had a cigar out of his mouth. Michael Douglas joined me, Thorpe and Tiant on Sunday. Douglas is one of Hollywood's all-time great actors and a real gentleman, not to mention a former Cigar Aficionado cover boy in the June 1998 issue. Not a bad group, right?
The venue was great. Only three years old, the Lake of Isles golf course has been named one of the best public golf courses in Connecticut. Designed by Rees Jones, it's a tough tract with long forced carries, even from the middle tees, and pretty narrow fairways that wind between the trees of the New England coast.
There's water, island greens and lots of trouble awaiting any errant tee shots. The match on Saturday pitted The Shotmaker and Thorpe against Quigley and Tiant. What it really turned into was a brilliant exhibition of golf between Thorpe and Quigley. Dana must have made nine putts from 10 feet or longer. His putter was on fire. He shot a blistering 69 on the par-72 course playing from the gold tees of 6,862 yards. Thorpe didn't roll over … he shot a 71 and was in the match the whole way.
Tiant, a 10-handicapper, scored a very respectable 86, with 43s on the front and back. While his scores were even on the front and back nines, the 67-year-old really picked up the level of his game on the back and his shots were much sharper coming home.
The Shotmaker did show up on Saturday. But I can't say much more than that. I carded a 50 on the front nine and a 46 on the back nine. I didn't have much to brag about.
I even lost the cigar competition! Tiant smoked eight cigars during our round. The Shotmaker only smoked five. And if that wasn't enough humiliation, I smoked robustos while Tiant kept firing up much longer double coronas. His cigars were blends made for his son from tobacco grown in Nicaragua, and called El Tiante, Tiant's nickname when he was playing for the Boston Red Sox.
Now, Saturday's golf would have been enough to make the weekend memorable. But Saturday night was the grand opening of MGM Grand at Foxwoods, an 825-room hotel that is fashioned after the great mega-casino resorts in Las Vegas. The black-tie event included performances by Josh Groban, Alicia Keys and John Mayer, three of the hottest young entertainers in the world today. Not bad, right?
Sunday was in many ways more of the same on the golf course, but a totally different story for me. The Shotmaker showed up big-time. I shot a respectable 91, which included a rare birdie on the island green of the 136-yard 11th hole. It happened unexpectedly, with a 35-foot uphill putt, but it still showed a big 2 on the scorecard.
Thorpe hits a shot during the match.
Thorpe was steady as ever, shooting a par round of 72. It's always a joy to watch his easy swing and accuracy, and he seems to be in every hole.
On Sunday, Tiant came to play, too, and turned in an outstanding 81, including a 39 on the back nine. His tee shots were long, and he got up and down every time from the bunkers, showing that all parts of his game are solid.
The surprise of the day was Michael Douglas. He plays to a 17 handicap, but he was a little rusty because he hadn't had a club in his hand for a month. He was quick to make excuses on the first tee. By the fifth hole his game showed up with long drives and accurate long irons. He finished the front with a solid 45, but as the day went on, his game got stronger and stronger. He scored a 43 on the back nine and ended up with an 88 for the day.
I shared a cart with Michael as we played from the silver tees while Thorpe and Tiant played from the gold tees. We had a very enjoyable day together talking about golf, the movie business, families and life in general.
Golf is all about friendship, and this weekend was a lot of fun. Happiness is truly a four-letter world … G-O-L-F. Until next time.