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Murietans Don Thames and Gary Ramsden are competing in the U.S. Golf Association's Senior Amateur Championship starting Friday near Orlando, FL.  Don has pledged to share a diary with Rancho Murieta as time allows.

Lake Nona, FL
Wednesday, Sept. 29

Lake Nona is a classy, private enclave that is home to wealthy golf enthusiasts and several touring golf professionals from all over the world. It would be my kind of place, to be sure, except for the fact that I do not qualify for either aforementioned example. However, since I did qualify for the USGA Senior Amateur, I am thrilled to be here.

After a gracious welcoming by USGA staff, I was off to practice my amateur trade in a world-class facility. Before me was a monstrous practice putting green, several chipping and pitching areas equipped with flawless turf and a driving range filled with TaylorMade balls and perfect lies.

The bugs were of immediate concern due to their sheer numbers. According to one friendly member, “The hatch just occurred a week ago.” They were called “Love Bugs” and they invaded every place that a golfer would customarily call sacred. They swarmed your head. They littered the seat of the golf cart. They buzzed and landed on the ball. They even tried to fly into your mouth and nostrils. They earned their loving name because they are in a constant state of togetherness, which I suppose is their way of mating. The only apparent silver lining to their existence is that they don’t bite.

I was happy to discover that Lake Nona Golf and Country Club eyeballs well for me. I mean that the course does not curve or wander in a direction dissimilar to my ball flight. The landing areas from the tee are fairly generous and it does not appear visually intimidating. The Tom Fazio design seems to suit my shape better than Pete Dye designs. Pete is too Dye-abolical.

Before teeing off, the starter informed me that I might encounter some members who measure their round not by par, but rather by speed of play. Five holes in, I noticed four players in four separate carts gaining on us fast. As we let them through I recognized one of the speedsters as Lou Holtz of football coaching fame. I introduced myself and was correct in thinking that he would be a nice guy. I also knew that he is an authority on competition, sports psychology and motivation. So I asked him for a tip for the week and he told me this. “Remember why you came here, and that is to win. Remind yourself of that on every hole. Play every hole like a par three. Cut it up and decide how you want to approach the green. It is better to be 175 from the fairway than 150 from the trees.“

He then reached into his wallet and pulled out his card and told me to call him for any reason. I thanked him for his time and the tip and said I hoped to see him again this week. He rode away telling me that “We just hired a new greenskeeper and the course is the best it has been in years. Remember that the 12th green slopes left but breaks right. It’s the grain.”

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