Imagine the blue Caribbean Sea. Imagine white fluffy clouds racing by. Imagine 18 holes of a Robert Trent Jones golf course waiting for you every day for four days (five if you¿re lucky enough to get there early). What words would you use to describe that scene? Paradise found? Yes, but you¿d also be right to call it the second annual Montecristo Cup Pro-Am Golf Tournament at the Hyatt Dorado Beach Resort in Puerto Rico, which was held from November 29 to December 3.
The four-day event was an extravaganza of golf, clinics, afternoons on the beach and evenings filled with camaraderie over cocktails and dinners. The first night was devoted to the lottery pairing of the pros with the amateurs. The second night allowed participants to explore the resort¿s restaurants or venture into San Juan for the nightlife opportunities. Finally, a grand banquet closed out the weekend. If you were ready and willing, every afternoon could also include another round of golf on the fabulous Dorado East course.
Eighteen members of the Senior PGA Tour provided some of the golfing highlights. Dana Quigley, Tom Wargo, Walter Hall, Walter Morgan, Gibby Gilbert and Jim Thorpe were just a few of the players who traveled to Puerto Rico for the event. One of the pros¿ favorite courses, Dorado hosts the Senior Match Play Challenge each year in early November. In the pro tournament segment of the Montecristo Cup, Thorpe destroyed the course on Friday with a 64, and followed it up with a 68 to take top honors at 132. Paul Parajeckas¿s 135 earned him second place, while Quigley and Hall tied for third at 141.
The celebrity contingent included some notable stars, who also happened to be devoted cigar lovers. Rush Limbaugh took a break from the incredible presidential election story to come play. Seymour Cassel returned for the second year in a row and wowed the crowd with his ability to party all day and all night, and still play golf. And George Hamilton provided everything from a beautiful entourage during the after hours to a running exhibition of how to play golf while always being the perfect gentleman.
But no one came just to watch. They wanted to play with the pros in the pro-am part of the tournament. After each foursome was assigned a professional golfer the opening night, Thursday was devoted to a practice round, using the shamble format, in which the best drive can be used, including the pro¿s, and then each person plays their own ball into the hole. That same format was used on the tournament¿s final day. On Friday, the format was a straight scramble, in which each shot was played from the best ball position, although only the pro¿s drive could be used. In each case on both days, the amateur foursome could use the pro¿s score if it was lower than their adjusted handicap score.
There was a lot more than just golf. First of all, cigars. Every time you turned around, someone was handing out the entire product line of cigars from Altadis USA, formerly known as Consolidated Cigars. The smokes included Montecristo, H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta, Santa Damiana, Hamiltons and Onyx. Each evening, the Hyatt Dorado Beach pulled out all the stops to provide great food and drink. Friday evening was left open, so the group could choose from the restaurants at both the Dorado Beach and the adjacent Hyatt Regency Cerromar Beach. By 10 every evening, the dinner tables would begin to thin out, and it didn¿t take long to find a full contingent of Montecristo Cup participants at the Cerromar¿s casino. On Saturday night, Daniel Boulud, of New York¿s four-star Daniel, and Bradley Ogden, of the Lark Creek Inn across the bay from San Francisco, turned on their chef¿s expertise with a truly exceptional meal. Throughout the weekend, Beringer Vineyards, one of the corporate sponsors, poured some its finest wines. Other corporate sponsors included Bacardi, which provided a full complement of its rums; Executive Jet, which flew in some of the jets for a display at a nearby airport; and Hyatt Hotels & Resorts.
Saturday offered the best weather of the weekend, with clear blue skies and a light breeze that stiffened as the day progressed. The tournament format reverted to the shamble style of the practice day. At the end of the day, the foursome of Anthony and Rocco Chiovitti, Vince Giancona and Chuck Hansen, paired with Parajeckas, carded a 106 for the first-place prize, and the Montecristo Cup team trophy.
In the end, the second annual Montecristo Cup tournament was an incredibly enjoyable experience. The golf was great. The setting was
perfect. And, the people who came and played contributed to a wonderful four days. The Senior Tour pros were only half joking when they said that they¿d have to be careful who was invited for 2001 because there might not be enough amateurs to go around.
If you¿re interested in helping to fill those ranks, the next Montecristo Cup will be held at Hyatt Dorado Beach from November 28 to December 2. Call 800-683-8800, ext. 1180, for more information.v