Wednesday, 20 May 2009


This weekend saw the Tour move South to the much vaunted Southern Dunes Resort for its most prestigious Two Day Event. I had once again practiced in earnest, two sub 80 rounds at Championsgate - albeit of the front tees not the championship ones - had, I felt, put my game into the best shape since I arrived.

Southern Dunes is highly rated here in Florida, a purpose built conurbation which has many rental homes frequently visited by UK visitors. Indeed, five years ago Matron and I had looked at properties here but as it is a further 10 miles from Disney and (more importantly) at that time there was a premium on most properties of about $100,000 as views of the course came at a price, we decided on the cheaper (and in our opinion better located) Bridgewater development were we currently live.

I had never played the course although I was acutely aware of its merits and the inherent difficulties it possesses. It has over 220 bunkers, is more akin to a Scottish Links than any other course in the Area, and its Greens are notorious for their difficulty and unpredictability. Truly a fine test for the tour's principal event. My four ball featured last year's one day event winner Randy Stephens and Flight Leader Wayne Weaver, three events, three victories and big hitting Nathan Gonzales.

Nathan, Wayne and Randy

The First Hole at Southern Dunes Resort

The Saturday round was very peculiar, Wayne and myself quite probably played better tee to green than Randy but his knowledge of the course was better and he also had better management around the greens and much more secure putting. I three putted 7 times as did Wayne... Saw him post 90 six shots better than I and amazingly ten better than Wayne. Nathan stuggled on the greens so much he 4 putted at least 5 times. It was still somewhat of a surprise that at the end of the day I was indeed second to Randy two shots clear of third and 4 clear of the menacing Wayne who I knew would come back strong on Sunday.

I teed of on Sunday with Randy and third-placed youngster Lonnie Laoretti… an impressive striker of the ball whose father is a scratch golfer who had won the US Seniors Open in 1982 and currently owns The Great Outdoor Golf Course out near Cape Canaveral where the shuttle is launched. In view of this I had a mindset of protecting second as opposed to contemplating winning the event. I made a major decision and went back to my old putter in a desperate attempt to solve this woeful aspect of yesterday's round. Lonnie came out all guns blazing - such a powerful hitter he had birdie opportunities on all the first 4 opening holes and failed to take any. Randy and I scrambled manfully and by the 8th, the scoreboard read the same as at the start. At the turn, I had narrowed Randy's lead to 5 after a lengthy par saving putt at the 9th…

7th Hole at Southern Dunes Resort

I led Lonnie by one and he was fast moving up, Wayne was still three adrift of me. I was playing steadily, driving well and had not three putted at all so as we approached the tenth, second place was still on my mind. I managed a sand save on ten which cut Randy's lead to four and opened up a two stroke lead over Lonnie.

In my opinion the whole course of the contest changed on the 12th, a dog leg par 5 of 540 yards. I had out drove my partners splitting the fairway and they had both pulled theirs left some twenty yards behind me facing a blind shot over the water to the dog leg green some 250 yards away. The safe pay for both was a lay up, chip and two putts - an easy 5, I could have a go so advantage to me. Quite simply however, Lonnie played the finest shot I have seen on this trip to about 8 feet from the pin for an eagle opportunity. This seemed to get into the head of Randy who for some unknown reason took on the dog leg and left it short in the hazard, he then hit his approach into the bunker and turned in a gut wrenching 8. I made a very important decision to play conservatively and laid up, chipped and posted a safe par. Thankfully, Lonnie missed his eagle putt but tapped in for a birdie.

As we approached the 13th Randy's lead was now one over me and two over Lonnie. On the 14th tee, a cagey small par 3 of 130 yards surrounded by 12 pot bunkers, it was game on as Randy (following a great par save at 13) was two ahead of both of us. Two holes later I would have the tournament in the bag. Both guys put their tee shots into the bunker probably both under-clubbing. I took an extra club aimed long and hit a majestic shot. I had an easy par, they both took 5 and suddenly I was joint leader. On the 15th after a safe tee shot I hit a 6 iron to eight feet, rapped in the birdie opportunity, both guys took another double bogey after three putting and suddenly I was three up on Randi and four up on Lonnie with three to play.

On 16 I stretched my lead over Randy to four and realised a bogey bogey finish would be sufficient. On 17 Lonnie lost his ball and with it any chance of second place, Randy finished par, par to keep second place from Wayne who had already posted an 88 in the clubhouse. I was pleased for Randy because I believe he deserved a place. He probably never saw me as a threat as I think he felt Lonnie would make a charge and I somewhat sneaked in under the radar. I also hit the front at the right time, with so few holes left that they could not respond. It says something for his character that he finished as well as he did, when he was obviously suffering with his back nine performance. So like Faldo did to Norman in the 96 Masters I had overturned a 6 stroke deficit to clinch the title and the $300 dollar first prize.

A great day concluded with the news that in game 7 of the series Magic defeated, nay thrashed the holders Boston in the NBA playoff to move into the semi finals.

The tour now moves North to Victoria Hills, were I made my debut last year. Very poorly I may add but after a 3, 2, and 1…. Wheres Dust Bin!... The only way is down… But I remain confident of further success if I can maintain this form.

We are going to Miami this weekend for Matron's birthday and she has told me to put my clubs in just in case. The Blue Monster at Doral beckons I think!

Thursday, 14 May 2009


Last weekend was the only weekend apart from Matron's birthday when we are off to Miami, I was not golfing, so inevitably I knew before we left the UK this was going to be a fraught one as Matron would want to do something inexorably connected to shopping or spending. As last week progressed and her decorating and tiling neared completion, mutterings from the bathrooms included a new dining table and chairs, new lamps, carpets, rugs, laminating all at some stage or other. So I played the Mount Dora card.

Mount Dora is a quaint old-fashioned town north of Orlando about one hour from the villa, with a plethora of antique shops, curio shops good restaurants and plenty of bars. It is one of her favourite places and a must-visit on every trip. Furthermore, because on the weekend of my birthday she had a severe mouth infection and had been on antibiotics and steroids so we had cancelled our planned trip, I suggested celebrating my birthday now. She readily agreed but with the proviso on the way back we visited Altamonte were the furniture shops are...

So we booked in to the splendidly located Lakeside Inn overlooking (not surprisingly) Lake Dora and our room had an impressive vista which took in the lake and showed off the idyllic sunsets - romantic and therapeutic even to someone like me. The place is still as it was in its halcyon days of prohibition in the 1920s and that remains its principal charm although it could do with a touch of sprucing up, it is remarkably good value. For 200 dollars for the weekend, you got a room, 90 dollars in food vouchers and a free bottle of wine. I strongly recommend it!

Mount Dora has not escaped the ravages of the economic downturn and we did notice several empty shop units that previously had been well stocked, and prosperous looking trade outlets at which we had often acquired useless or essential bric a brac for the home, depending on whose view you took. Thankfully, all the local bars and restaurants seemed to be thriving. Firm favourites of ours are The Frost Mug and The Goblins Market. A few years ago for no apparent reason, the Mug relocated in the Mexican, The Mexican in The Irish Bar which in turn relocated at the original Mug Site but as an English Bar. It could only happen here. Two minutes from the centre is the massive Flea Market and Antique Mall, Rennigers. Essential visiting if in town.

As you can tell Golf takes a back seat when visiting Dora, however my research for future visits, shows within 5 miles a bevy of Florida’s finest, principally Mission Inn, Eagle Creek, Deer Island, Plantation, Mount Dora, Black Bear. Purely for research, my clubs will be joining us on my next visit.

America is in the middle of a sporting frenzy as the playoffs in ice hockey and Basketball reach a thrilling conclusion. My local team ORLANDO MAGIC … Go Magic GO GO!!!!!!!!!!!! Are into what I think is a quarter final against last year's defending WORLD CHAMPIONS…THE BOSTON CELTICS. Yes, although primarily a North American competition a few interlopers from Canada are tolerated, only our American cousins would have the cheek to call it a World Championship.

Orlando are, I think, the Liverpool of basketball. A champion team of a few years back whilst Boston more like Man Utd. This week I caught the back end of a thrilling match in Orlando. We had been trailing throughout but took the lead 94 to 93 with a free throw, see I know all the lingo, with just ten seconds of the fourth and final quarter on the clock left. Some 22 minutes later, I kid you not; we are left gut wrenched as the Boston guard with 0.02 seconds left dumps an outrageous shot in our basket.

Those last ten seconds took that long to complete, with full time outs, twenty second timeouts, advertisers have a field day. The phrase it’s never over til the fat lady sings was clearly invented for the American audience, indeed she can sing 4 songs before the last ten seconds play is concluded. Fear not Magic fans I later find out these ties are best of 7 and it’s only 2 to 2. Perhaps Messrs Wenger and Benitez need to mention this to the FA and UEFA. Over 7 legs they may have a chance of deposing the Scots Grandads’ charges.

I decided this week to do a little bit of spending, with my winning prize money from my second place and birthday money, I made the reasonably sensible assumption that my poor iron play this trip is down to my old clubs and so decide to change. I visit a local discount store and go for an entire Adams combination, 3 and 5 wood, 8 irons, 2 gap wedges and a new bag for less than 300 bucks…

I am delighted and off I go to Providence to test my new equipment.

Providence is just five mins from the villa and a fine set up it is too. For just 40 dollars including a compulsory cart there is no finer value in town. I play a reasonable first 9 but after the turn I blitz my American colleagues with a burst of 6 holes I play at one under thanks to a near miss at the Par 3 175 yard 12th were I hit a 5 wood to 7 inches for a tap in birdie, the previous group inform me it lipped out. Never been as miserable over a birdie. Still I end up with an 82 all shots counted, win 50 bucks of my three playing partners, and have not played a better back nine two over since my stroke.

Roll on Southern Dunes...GO ADAMS GO!!! Money well and truly spent, we don’t need a new table anyway...

Wednesday, 6 May 2009


This weekend was always going to be one of the highlights of our Floridian trip. On Saturday the 2nd May it was my second tour event at Stoneybrook West on the Edwin Watts Tour and on Monday I had been invited to play at Arnies Place Bay Hill in the 12th Formet Foundation Charity Event. With that in mind and the fact that matron was busy decorating, I decided to play several rounds preceding this critical weekend.

On the Monday I had arranged to play Ridgewood Lakes and on the Thursday preceding Celebration Golf Club. Also, during the week I received an invitation to play the prestigious Ginn Bella Collina Faldo-designed private club on the Friday. Truly a fine build up to this major weekend challenge.

The Lakes is only ten minutes from the villa and a firm favourite of mine. 18 quality holes, a fine test, great quick greens always excellently manicured all for just 35 bucks including buggy, what value! I played solo so used it very much as a training exercise, played two balls and scored 85 better ball, indeed I struck the ball as well as I had in a long time...still no birdies and in truth not many chances but steady bogey golf.

(2nd hole par 5 at Ridgewood Lakes)

On the Thursday at Celebration – possibly the best municipal or public course in Florida – I was paired in a foursome with three great lads down from Colorado, and they were fantastic company all the way round.

(14th hole at Celebration)

Again the course was impeccable, greens a touch slower than Ridgewood but the round every bit as enjoyable for 60 bucks...this is a must-play course if you are in Orlando. I started well but after a bogey par start I had he misfortune of losing a ball in the bunker at the super par 5 third. I hit a great drive and 5 wood and left myself a sand wedge in which according to my playing partners unfortunately hit the front bunker about 2 inches from the lip, just 8ft from the hole.

All four of us then searched said bunker but the sand was so soft it must have simply enveloped the ball. After that I really struggled but it could not detract from the enjoyment of the guys’ company. One of them had more trouble in the bunkers than me on the 18th, a par 5 where the green is surrounded by four bunkers and a pond. Rommell (as I had nicknamed him) put his approach into the front left bunker, after 6 shots and visiting every bunker he hit his 9th into the water and was relieved to take a drop, but then over-hit his chip into the first bunker he visited. He picked up at this stage or I am sure would still be there.

Friday saw Karen and me visit Bella Collina as invited, she had a spa treatment and I virtually had the full course to myself and what a truly wonderful place it is.

The Tuscany-Style Clubhouse which at the top of the hill is visible from all aspects of the course, forms a spectacular and memorable backdrop and does not disappoint with the quality of facilities. The course is enchanting. It really is as good as it gets. The Greens were as good as Mystic Dunes another impressive Orlando Golfing Experience.

(7th hole at Bella Collina)

Rarely have I enjoyed a round more. I nearly had an eagle, had a couple of birdies and broke 90...I was on a high all afternoon. It really is a pity because it is a private club most visitors will not get chance to play this wonderful course.

On Saturday I was back on the tour and in a confident mood. I birdied the first and really failed to take advantage of this. Stoneybrook is a golf community course whereby the course meanders through the residences. This can make the course drives seem daunting as any pull or slice would leave you in someone’s garden!

(Stoneybrook West, 1st hole, 420 yards straight. I drive 260 then 4 iron to just 6ft hole putt. A birdie and I'm on my way!)

The dry spring here (they have had no rain for months) had seriously affected the condition of the fairways and greens and approaches and chips were a lottery. Everyone seemed to be struggling but I managed to put a decent run together from the tenth to 14 5 holes with 3 pars and 2 bogeys but followed by an 87….. 6 over burst where I did not really believe it not hit a bad shot. A bogey at the last saw me fail to break 100 so it was not with much hope I handed my card in but it soon became clear that in every flight the scoring was horrendous and my score was good enough for second place and my first pay check of $75.

(Dano, Alberto and James at Stoneybrook)

Third at Duran, Second at Stoneybrook puts me in second place in the flight behind run-away leader Wayne Weaver but on-track for promotion and the finals. The next competition is a two day event in Southern Dunes in a fortnight and I am looking to continue my improvement in the placings.

(Edwin Watts Tour, a proud seciond place - I'm in the money!)

On the Sunday I attended a gala dinner at Bay Hill for the Formet Foundation. Arnies Place really is something special. Our room in the lodge overlooked the 9th Green and I really began to feel as I suppose an invited player would at the Bay Hill Invitational.

(The Formet Foundation lovely volunteers)

On the Monday, I partnered two great players as well as gentlemen, the Cunningham cousins, Rob from Orlando and Jim from London.

(The Social Golfer team - your host and the cousins Cunningham on the 17th tee, out first of which I rolled in for a 20 footer for a Birdie 2)

We started on the par 3, 200 yard 17th one of Mr Palmer’s favourites, Jim hit the green and left a twenty footer which I nailed. On the 18th around the lake, the scene of Tiger’s fist pumping in 08 and 09 as he nailed winning puts, I hit a 5 iron approach to 5 foot which Rob gets for a birdie, birdie star. We are on fire and by the 8th our tenth we are 8 under, but after that we slip several opportunities to finish 10 under.

(The majestic 13th at Bay Hill, we Birdie this to go 10 under after 15 holes but sadly enough it wasn't enough)

We meet Arnolds caddie and have a great day but I certainly felt the weakest link although at no stage did the guys who played superbly, made me feel that. The course is a test, a quality place befitting of Arnolds association. It had several memorable par 5s around the lakes, although apart from 17, I thought the par 3s disappointing. Greens were testing but consistent and its always great to walk in the footsteps of heroes…The course is open to all but of course at a price. If money is no object or concern and you have £600 to spare, then you can book a room with a view and play the course. Quality and the experience does unfortunately come at a cost here.

A memorable week...a rest now...more shopping and I will recharge my batteries next week.


There are advantages and disadvantages to involving your spouse on social golf trips. From my perspective the main advantage is that she lets me go where I want and has no comments on the golfing side at all. The downside is that any non-golf days inevitably lead to shopping days out.

On this trip I left the week between the first event and the Bay Hill Event pretty clear. I did not want to get golfed out, needed to buy a car as car hire here in Florida is getting so expensive and – much more importantly – I needed to buy the tiles, paint etc, that matron needed to enable her to decorate the bathrooms whilst I was tied up with five days golfing next week. That’s the type of guy I am you see, ensuring that she can do the things she enjoys whilst I am working hard on the golf course.

Buying the car was much more problematic that I’d expected: the car colour was as important as its mileage, comfortable seats as vital as engine capacity and fuel consumption, but eventually we agreed and bought a silver 4-litre Buick DeSABRE. Now here’s something peculiar that could only happen in the States. They have no Car Tax preferring instead something called a tag, but what’s different is that you pay this annual fee on the birthday of the owner, nothing to do with the car, so on each birthday now, Mr Pedder, tax collector on behalf of Mr Obama will send me a tax bill instead of a birthday card. How nice of Barack.

Having bought the car, Matron needed a sat nav system as well and so I acquired a Tom Tom as she only wanted the model that she was familiar with, not the much cheaper Garmin version. I set this up and tried to put a male voice on it but again ended up with sat nav Sarah, which effectively means if I switch it on I am nagged at in Stereo, SARAH and MATRON both having a go at me.

Sat Navs are just not suitable for male drivers, who quite frankly know their way round better, including all the short cuts and ways to avoid congested areas etc. But, that doesn’t stop Sarah – backed up by matron – telling me what to do. Within half an hour I had taken the North Bound Interstate instead of South a 25-mile detour that was avoidable if I had ignored them both. That’s my view anyway. An hour later it sends me through the Prepaid Toll charges which costs me a $100 fine…. So I switch her off but unfortunately I cant do the same with matron. She has a much better relationship with Sarah who seems to give her clear, concise instructions without any problem...

However when on the I4 coming back from Bella Collina there suddenly started a sequence of large beepings from the dashboard we both became concerned. Stopping the car, examining the tyres the boot, the bonnet, the doors, the windows, all seemed in order we could not understand it, nothing was flashing on the dashboard. We recommenced and it started again, we hit some congestion and it stopped but when in free traffic again it restarted. This went on for 3 days, I read every manual, but it only happened when matron drove, then it dawned on me it was Sarah. Every time Matron broke the speed limit she immediately chorused a dad a bum bum bum……..

Of course matron accused me of setting it up, felt it would be better off set to stop me driving so slow and simply turned up the radio and carried on driving at whatever speed she wished. A 4-litre car for matron makes her feel like the I4 is Silverstone I think…