I almost never miss my life as a sports writer. That’s been pretty well chronicled in other spots on this blog.
But I do kind of miss Final Four Saturday. In part for the atmosphere, but also in part for the fun. It was kind of my unofficial start to the golf season.
With the first game of the day beginning at 5 or 6 p.m. (depending of the time zone of the host site) and no pregame access, there’s a good bit of time to kill. So what to do? Make a day in which I would have to cover two games on deadline (even the first game was a deadline event because of Sunday state edition press times) even longer by getting up early and playing golf.
So the goal was to tee off around 9-10 a.m., play 18 holes, grab a quick lunch afterwards, zip back to the hotel, clean up, head to the game, cover two games, write two game stories and finish about 11:30 p.m. At that point, I’d meet fellow reporters in the hospitality room, have a few cold beers and fall into bed totally exhausted. I did this for five consecutive years.
Most years, we played again on Monday morning (though not as early) before the national championship game. A couple of years, I played on Thursday afternoon before things really got going on Friday or I played Tuesday morning before catching a plane back.
In 2003, I played a place called Willowdale CC in Lulling, Louisiana before a night at the Superdome (Kansas crushed Marquette in one semifinal and Syracuse with Carmelo Anthony beat Texas). We were going to play on Monday, but it poured that day. On Tuesday, I played the very solid Money Hill Golf and Country Club across the lake in Abita Springs, LA. I also had a nice lunch at the Abita Brewery brewpub before catching a flight back.
In 2004, my friend Herb and I played a very solid public course in San Antonio called The Republic before heading to the Superdome to see UConn and Georgia Tech win games. I think UConn beat Duke and GT beat Oklahoma State, but I’m too lazy to look it up. I remember flying to Austin instead of San Antonio that year because I got a better fare. I played The Golf Club at Circle C in Austin on Thursday, we played the very strong The Bandit (Keith Foster design) on Monday and I played Briggs Ranch (a Golfweek top 100 modern) before heading home.
2005 saw the Final Four in St. Louis. I played GC at Pevely Farms after landing, Stonewolf GC Fairview Heights, IL on a cold Saturday and Gateway National (which is quite good) on Monday afternoon before North Carolina beat Illinois.
In 2006, the weather was a little sketchy in Indianapolis. I played the quite good Trophy Club just northwest of Indy on Thursday afternoon. On Saturday morning, my buddy Herb and I joined some of the people from AP in playing at Brickyard Crossing, the upscale public course that has a handful of holes inside the track of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That was a really cold round. There was no golf on Monday or Tuesday because of cold and rain. That was a bummer because I had a hookup to play at Crooked Stick on Tuesday.
The trip to Atlanta in 2007 was my last Final Four and I got three rounds in. I played Cobblestone GC, a pretty good public course in the northwest suburbs on Thursday. On Saturday morning, we joined the AP guys and played a place called Eagle Watch GC, which is one of the Cannongate clubs. On Monday, my friend Herb and I played at Wolf Creek, a pretty decent public course near the airport that was designed by Mike Young.
So I’m not going to lie, I kind of wonder where I would be playing if I was in Houston right now. I’m sure I’d be knocking it around somewhere. That doesn’t mean that I wish I was in Houston right now. I’m in a much better place.