Thursday, 25 June 2009

Homeward Bound and Matron takes up Golf, Social Golfer Ratings Update, Conclusions and the Brew Story. One final Hooray, Pairs Victory!

Once Twice, Three Times a Champion - Someone Must Love Me!
Homeward Bound and Matron takes up Golf, the Social Golfer Ratings updated Florida Section, Conclusions and the Brew Story. One final hooray, Pairs Victory at Championsgate.

We are heading for home with an extra case of baggage in tow. Karen after many years as a golf widow has taken up my offer to spend some of my winnings on a set of ladies clubs, and damn fine value they are too courtesy of tour sponsors Edwin Watts. First problem is Karen doesn’t know if she is right or left handed. She writes, irons, paints, bowls and thumps me left handed but plays Badminton and Crazy Golf right handed. After whacking a few balls both ways we all concur she is orthodox and no Phil Mick!

We visited Polo Golf Club, a fine little par 3 on a retired community where Karen once parked her buggy in a bunker on her first ever visit to the golf course. She had also come across golf protocol on this visit when ordered to wear appropriate golf attire (too much bosom on display). So, armed with her own clubs and unbridled enthusiasm we hit the course. She is keen and with the driver hits a mean ball occasionally, shorter iron and the putter she has a touch like a bull in a china shop, but she wants to hit the range when we return and that bodes well for me as I need all the practice I can get.

I have had a wonderful time golfing in Florida this time and have updated the Florida section of the Social Golfer site as follows, following my experiences this time: Bay Hill and Bella both receive the Albatross award. Both were memorable days on fabulous courses right up there with the very best. Both only miss out on joining The Gary Player at Sun City and Royal Melbourne and New South Wales golf clubs in Australia as top rated “hole in one course” on the grounds of cost and accessibility to play. Quality unfortunately does cost and can come with exclusivity but I am certainly grateful I had opportunity to play these superb tracks.

I have played, for the first time, the following courses, all within an hour of Orlando and my home: on the Space coast, at Verio, the Duran Golf Club and In Titusville, the Great Outdoors Golf Club. I would rate both Eagles. At Duran, the Greens were quite exceptional whilst at The Great Outdoors, I felt the course merged superbly into the surrounding wildlife parks and produced several holes of particular beauty and challenge.

On tour I played Stoneybrook West and Metro West for the first time. I would rate both as Birdies as the former in particular suffered from the difficulties of the hot weather and the course was not in particularly good condition . Metro was enjoyable but the greens very poor, which was a pity because it has several interesting, beautiful and challenging holes.

Since my original book and following many visits, I feel obliged to upgrade Mystic Dunes and both Championsgate Course, the National and International to a Albatross Rating. All three remain true golfing challenges with well manicured fairways and greens. It is difficult to pick fault with them at all except cost, they are again expensive when compared with many of the other fine tracks in the vicinity. I have pleasure in upgrading three fine courses on the Orlando Trail, Ridgewood Lakes with the Greens that are probably the best maintained in Orlando – certainly if not the hardest, then the best quality I have played anywhere.

Providence, which has matured over the past two years into a fine value-for-money experience. After a quiet opening four holes, the course blossoms into a challenge through 6 to 9, with high risk or reward par 4s, a quite beautiful par 3 the 8th and a challenging par 5, 9th. There is no let up as the back nine has it all. My only criticism is the bland 17th par 3 which is totally innocuous when compared with the rest of a thrilling and enthralling back nine, and finally Celebration, always highly rated, like a fine wine improves on every visit. Quality Greens, slick fairways, well maintained bunkers.

These three epitomise the quality of Florida Golf available at very reasonable rates. There are, I am advised, many more exceptional courses which I will visit around Orlando in time and hopefully on the Tour. I also would like to expand my knowledge of the Gulf Coast to Naples beyond that fine municipal/ public course Lake Venice which receives an Eagle award.

I only rate the courses where I consider I have had the full Social Experience... including ease of getting there, cost, full use of facilities, pro-shop, changing rooms, 19th hole etc... I rate as follows:

Top Ranking Hole in 1...out of this world, a truly unbelievable over 200 courses played on all five continents
I have only awarded this to 4 places: Royal Melbourne, New South Wales GC Sydney, The Gary Player Country Club in Sun City and The Emirates in Dubai.

At the moment I have not given any in Florida the ultimate accolade, although I am sure when I have opportunity to fully experience, The Doral, Sawgrass and Innsbrook to name but a few this will change.

Second Ranking…The Prestigious Albatross Award…exceptional, very enjoyable, would recommend as a must-visit if you have the opportunity.

In Florida, I have rated, Bay Hill, Bella Collina, Mystic Dunes and Championsgate in this category. With regard to two, only cost and exclusivity stops them from a possible higher rating, so good are the courses.

Third Ranking…The Eagle Award...very Good, would always revisit, great value.

On the Orlando Trail, Celebration, Ridgewood Lakes Kissimmee Bay Country Club and Providence are worthy recipients as are The Club at Eaglebrook Lake Venice and The Great Outdoors from a bit farther afield.

Fourth Ranking…The Birdie Award…a quality club and course, good value...

In Florida I have found most clubs and courses fall at least into this category: Falcons Fire, Highlands Reserve, Stoneybrook West and Metro West. And that is why I believe Orlando is a must-visit for any Social Golfer – good and great courses abound at every turn at remarkable value if you look around and most courses have offers on to make playing even greater value.

This trip was really about two things for me: initially to put myself in a competitive environment on a regular basis and to see how I performed on the Edwin Watts Tour, and to continue to promote and expand the social golf concept and promote social enjoyment and interaction through golf.

With regard to the former, this has without doubt been an unqualified success – I have performed beyond my expectations, once I accepted that there is no triumph in golf that the proper attitude is to forestall disaster and to simply limit the effect of bad shots my scores tumbled. My advice to Brew and my missus...forget the flag till you have a simple tap or rap in!

I firmly believe for anyone outside a scratch or very low handicapper this is the winning philosophy: hit it hard, find it, hit it hard again. aim at first somewhere in the direction of the green where there is little trouble and whack it in that direction, when in reach aim for the whole green, that’s the target not the hole, then when on, aim for the dust bin lid, anywhere within a putter length will do, then rap it in…

It’s really a scenario for good bogey golf but it served me well this trip. Two victories is testament to the success at my level of this philosophy. I make a final observation which intertwines with the social aspect of golf. By nature of the word, competition relies on competitors and if you are successful, then they are not. The true worth of any competition can be judged on the strength of character of the competitors, the camaraderie that they bring to the event. I have played against many fine people with whom I hope I have now formed lasting friendships and that would be a more fitting testament to my performance than two trophies.

The Social Golfer’s Mission Statement is promoting social enjoyment through golf and I can genuinely say, once again this glorious game has introduced and given me the opportunity to meet a wide range of individuals and I can only hope they have taken away as much enjoyment as I have of our small interaction on a green field in sunny Florida. Some, such as the lads from Denver, Rob from London, and Mike from Tampa may never pass my way again, but as with every one I play, they will have a permanent reminder of me by way of the book – about which I have, without exception, received great feedback.

Some contacts, I am delighted to say, I have – and hopefully will for many years – keep in touch with. Jim from Connecticut who has sent me some of the best tasting teas I have ever had the pleasure of drinking, proving the Yanks did learn something from the Boston Tea Party. Fred my US Marine, The Hudsons and Brew have kept in touch by this marvellous tool, the internet.

But it takes two to tango and social enjoyment must be reciprocal. I am not, I am told, the easiest person to get on with, however on the golf course I hope all this changes and I enhance the experience of those I partner or play with, whiling away the hours with anecdotes, enjoying all the impressive play, commiserating as another one bites the dust. I received the following two emails which I part attach which made me feel great and all my efforts worthwhile.

From Fred, my scramble partner with John and Don at the US MARINES event:"the consummate golfer...a true golfer who doesn't excellent student of John's game of whack f*ck" "not a consummate golfer, but a true joy to be out on the course with...someone I can emulate if I ever become a real man...he improved my game, because if I didn't play to par he'd kill me" "I liked Sandy (Ian) since he reminded me of my days in the Marine Corps – always attacking the beach...Ian should have worn his bathing suit as much time as he spent on the beach...Ian was a joy to play with, I only wish I could understand him"I was in the sand a lot that day , but like many Americans, Fred can obviously only understand BBC English, not Northern Twang. From Lathan Hudson, songwriter, fine golfer, good father and genuine all round good egg:“We are so disappointed we won’t get to see you on Saturday. Let us know your itinerary when back in Florida because we surely want to play golf with you again as soon as possible. You are a class gentleman and fun to be around”If that’s how I portray myself on my travels, I will take that! Finally, I leave this trip with the story of the guy who inspired me most. I thought I had it difficult till I read this and I offer this as encouragement to all individuals who suffer illness and disability, and to all of us who are feeling down because of the economic climate as a reality check as to what is important. From Brew:

“I'm unclear what I’ve told you previously about me and my injuries (I have declarative & procedural memory deficits). Your remarkable recovery from stroke is truly inspiring. I am amazed and impressed. I have already directed a stroke survivor’s family to your website (the stroke survivor is still unable to communicate). Like you, the survivor was an avid golfer pre-stroke.

I always enjoy any activity in which I choose to participate. Having said that, I’d like to explain my additional motivations for avid participation in adaptive athletics in general, and specifically the great sport of golf (!) I am a severe Traumatic Brain Injury survivor. Due to diffuse axonal shearing, MOST structures in my complex neural network were greatly impaired. Resulting from a near-fatal automobile accident in March of 1990, I've used diverse adaptive athletics to recover from MASSIVE brain damage for almost two decades.

For the last 19+ years I’ve re-taught myself to walk, talk, swallow, feed myself, bathe myself, read, write, THINK, I was legally blind for a period, I was paralyzed from the neck down at one point, the eclectic list is long and sordid. I have no doubt your experience with stroke produced similar challenges.

I’m rebuilding my once decimated brain, neuron by neuron – synapse by synapse. I am doing so through copious independent study on numerous topics, and ardent participation in multiple diverse athletics. Rigorous engagement in adaptive sport promotes re-growth of neurons (neurogenesis) and rewiring (neuroplasticity) of my once decimated brain.

Written in late 2007 as part of a successful grant request from the Challenged Athletes Foundation, the document below is as concise a summary as I can write about my journey pursuing excellence through adaptive sport.

I attempted golf soon after I was released from the rehabilitation hospital. In ’91-’92 the golf swing was far too complex for my damaged brain to comprehend, let alone execute! I have worked, hard, for the last 19+ years to rehabilitate so I may return to the great sport of golf.

A multi-sport athlete, I could have chosen to apply for a number of 'tools' (sports equipment) to further my neurologic rehabilitation. I chose golf. Armed with a generous Challenged Athletes Foundation equipment grant, I selected, and was custom fit, for 2008 Ping G10's. As a survivor of severe brain trauma, the great game of golf is a pinnacle of mind/body integration. The Florida Open, in which I had my #1 English caddy guiding and encouraging me, marked my official return to Golf.

I consider golf the equivalent of a graduate degree from a prestigious university for neurologic rehabilitation. Though an avid golfer pre-TBI, I know I’m a ‘newbie’ to golf and have much to relearn and perfect. I’m thrilled, after almost two decades of intense rehabilitation, to have finally begun my reintroduction to golf. I intend to go as far as I can through golf.

As you will see in the document below, my experience with adaptive sport as therapeutic modality is extensive and diverse. The title sums up my use of adaptive sport to pursue rehabilitative excellence. Though I have much to relearn, I have (finally) reached a point where I may again pursue the great game of golf! The life we lead creates the brain we have.

I, Charles Manning Brugh, am a survivor of a near-fatal automobile accident that left me with severe “permanent” brain damage. As a Traumatic Brain Injury survivor (comatose 2 weeks), I‘ve been forced to rebuild my entire persona – mind, body, and soul. Of my own volition, by promoting and enhancing neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, I have determined how to affect the wholesale remapping and restructuring of my intricate neural network. I use diverse adaptive athletics and copious independent study to effect phenomenal neurologic regeneration. Essential to sustained rehabilitative success is physical, psychological, and cognitive fitness. Inherent multiple challenges of adaptive sport promote health and fitness in these critical attributes concurrently. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) continues to challenge in ways I never knew possible. I spend an inordinate amount of time, effort, blood, sweat, tears, pain, and money rehabilitating my cognitive, physical, and spiritual health. Am I "all better"? Far from it. However, I continually improve – with limitless potential.

Adaptive sport is phenomenal therapy. Substantially enhancing quality of life, the athletic challenges of adaptive sport are central to my determined efforts to prevail over near-fatal Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Extensive and diverse, my expansive personal experience with adaptive sport and purposeful outdoor endeavours span nearly two decades. Since my motor vehicle accident of 21 March 1990, my athletic/therapeutic repertoire includes:

Adaptive Golf – Adaptive Water Skiing/Knee boarding – Sailing; in 2004 I lived on a 100ft, hand-built, 3-masted, wooden tall-ship for 5 months anchored in the ports of Jonesport, Rockland, and (briefly) Cutler, Maine – Climbing walls (indoor & outdoor) – Multi-day bicycling tours – Sea-kayaking trips – White water rafting trips (multi-day) – Canoeing trips (multi-day) – Camping (throughout central and north Florida, Michigan, and the Colorado Rockies) – Horseback Riding – Adaptive Surfing – High & Low Ropes Courses – Fishing (fresh water and salt water) – Off-road Mountain Biking – Rock Climbing – Parasailing – Adaptive Alpine Skiing – Wheelchair Rugby (Brooks Bandits/United States Quad Rugby Association – Atlantic South Division) - Wheelchair Tennis (First Coast Tennis Foundation/Brooks Wheelchair Tennis League) – Competitive Handcycling – Adaptive Rowing (Jacksonville University/Brooks Adaptive Sport and Recreation Program)

Neurophysical skill needed to compete in adaptive sport is extensive, and, at times, overwhelming – particularly for a Traumatic Brain Injury survivor such as myself; timing, eye-hand coordination, balance, information processing, fine and gross-motor skills, communication, visual-spatial relations, attention, judgment, memory, perception, and reaction-time are all required cognitive abilities. With enough purposeful effort, repetition, and focused attention, cognitive and neuromuscular skills are reacquired and enhanced. I am rarely satisfied – constantly I raise the bar. I fondly refer to this as my ‘achievement addiction’. While I never subject others to the same level of scrutiny, in any endeavour I hold myself to the highest of standards. I am my own worst critic. I am my own best critic.

I possess an aggressive spirit. I am also highly competitive. For the first 17 years, multiple physical and cognitive deficits necessitated competition primarily against myself in unrelenting efforts to rewire and reconstruct my being. For nearly two decades, I have used adaptive sport to promote and enhance neuroplasticity and neurogenesis in my traumatically injured brain. I have progressed to a point my rehabilitative focus again includes competition against other athletes. Competition brings out the best in me. Training, rehabilitation, and competition are complementary endeavours. For this reason, athletic training, practice, and competition are central to my continued rehabilitation. I now practice and compete with others challenged by disability – fantastic! Coupling self-directed neuroplasticity with the diverse cognitive and physical challenges of adaptive sport, I am overcoming severe, “permanent” brain damage to a degree few thought possible. I make remarkable progress applying my God-given intelligence, talents, and tenacious determination, to many adaptive sports. The life we lead creates the brain we have.
Charles M. Brugh

Without incredible challenge, a person is unable to achieve incredible success. This I am sure you will all agree is a tremendous story and truly reflects what the human body and mind can achieve. My achievements pale into insignificance. I am humbled in his presence, I hope we remain good friends, in good health, and that I can be a little part of his continued remarkable story.

Meeting people like Charles (aka Brew) make my campaign all the more worthwhile. I hope that he his able to join up with me when I hit Florida on my Round the World Trip next year.

And so to home, with new friends a plenty, trophies in case, a new golfer in tow to plan our 2010 trip: AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS - 2010 A GOLF ODYSSEY: Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Vancouver, California, Vegas, Florida, Bermuda. Many more courses, new friends, new challenges and stories…

See you soon! The next event is the People’s Open

POSTSCRIPT...On Saturday at Championsgate, I played my last competition on tour, the Edwin Watts, Tom Mirus Pairs. A competition held as close to Father’s Day to commemorate the late father of the current Tour Director, Tom Mirus, and a founding father of the Tour. I partnered my good pal big-hitting Lonnie, who overslept and forgot it was a shotgun, leaving me to fly solo for the first hole. At one stage it looked like a may-play with Michelle Wie, who lives on Championsgate and had turned up looking for a game only to be told no room at the Inn. I offered her Lonnie’s place but she chose David Leadbetter for more improvement to her technique rather than my , HIT IT HARD advice.

Championsgate no 16 -all of 280 yards and Lonnie drives it!

I managed to par the 13th my first a lengthy par 5 when the cavalry turned up and the young fella soon made his presence felt with some prodigious driving. He counted 15 out of 18 drives he hit the ball so well, but I contributed well in rest of game, we complemented each other so well. Highlight for me a chip and run approach at the first for a birdie from forty yards. Our two over 74 was not false we could have gone lower but it was ample to secure a two stroke victory and a third title this trip!

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