At risk of sounding like a braggart, 2014 was one heck of a great year for me and the game of golf. The previous 3 years have taken me to many major championship and bucket list courses, and while I didn't come away from 2014 with bag tags from Pinehurst or Pebble Beach, I close out the year with an abundance of something far more valuable... Great memories of great golf with great friends and family.
The year began at TPC Sawgrass, home of the Tour's self proclaimed "5th Major," where I joined seven other golf geeks for a weekend at one of the great venues of the game. The round was filled with several bright spots - birdies at holes 7, 8 & 11 - before the Stadium course eventually took its due. A pair of ProV1s found the water on the iconic 17th hole leading to a quintuple-bogey 8. The card was wrecked, so too were my dreams of a career round at a world-ranked course, but the rest of the festivities soon washed away the pain I encountered at the island green.
Highlight: Dinner and ping pong in the Champion's Locker Room.
From the home of the PGA Tour to that of The King, the next stop in 2014 was a father-sons outing at Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge. We teed it up at Arnie's place just a few weeks before the Tour came to town, and the course could not have been in any better condition. Of course, that also means it was playing exponentially harder, and my scorecard reflected it. In the end, I was soundly defeated by my brother, RJ, however given the glorious day that we had, it was hard to be too upset over the loss.
Highlight: RJ clanging his tee shot off a grandstand on #17 and bouncing nearly onto the green.
Next up was the Quarry Course at Black Diamond Ranch. A mainstay on my list, but an invite I had never been able to score, Black Diamond's Stay & Play package made this infamous Tom Fazio design available to me for the first time. My regular foursome made the trip to tiny Lecanto, Florida and spent the better part of an afternoon with our jaws wide open. The quarry holes at Black Diamond are unlike anything else in the state of Florida, and made for easily the most memorable round of golf we had experienced together. Naturally, I lost to RJ again, but at least I didn't get the label of "thumbs up guy."
Highlight: A 6-iron to 6 feet on the 13th (See: thumbs up pic).
In April it was back to Sawgrass, where RJ and I hoped to settle a score that was nearly a decade in the making. We split our two previous matches here with one win apiece, and 9 long years had passed since the two of us had teed it Sawgrass together. I came into the round confident, assuming my two rounds on the Stadium within the last year would give me a decided advantage. The match came down to the final putt on the final hole, but one of the best birdies of my life could only earn me a tie.
Highlight: French toast and Starbucks on the clubhouse terrace, and the birdie on 18th.