Monday, June 25, 2012

Round #29: Connecticut - The Course at Yale

The shortest route from New Jersey into Connecticut was on I-95 along the Jersey shore. It was not necessarily the fastest route with heavy, stop & go traffic the entire route. You understand why the traffic is congested as you pass within eyesight of the ship loading docks in Jersey and the New York City skyline. We drove over the George Washington Bridge, crossing the upper end of Manhattan Island, and cutting through the Bronx as we traveled north toward Connecticut.
The next morning I was reminded of my past life while I sat eating breakfast in a New Haven hotel. A group of business men were eating breakfast near where I was sitting. The Top Dog in the group was dressed in a sport coat and tie, even though the afternoon temperatures were predicted to reach 95 degrees. I assumed he was not THE top dog in the company or he would be wearing a suit. The 2nd Dog in Command was wearing dress slacks and a dress shirt with no tie. He introduced the rest of the group to the Top Dog. The 2nd Dog Wanna-Be was wearing kaki slacks and a dress shirt with no tie. The Pack Dogs were wearing kaki slacks and polo shirts. The group dynamics suggested the Top Dog does not spend much time running with the pack, as he acted  uncomfortable during breakfast. I was dressed in my standard uniform: dress shorts, a Nike Dri-Fit golf shirt (tucked in), and tennis shoes. My suitcase does not contain any dress slacks, dress shirts or leather dress shoes. Those days are in my past; but many of the golf clubs I play at have dress codes that require collared shirts (tucked in); shorts are permitted must can not be denim or cargo pants. It is a dress code I can live with.
The Course at Yale sounded interesting when I looked at the Top 10 list for Connecticut. With my first contact I learned that I would be allowed to play the course if I were  “introduced” by a Yale alumni. I just happened to know such a person: Glenn Baker. I have known Glenn for over 35-years but did not enjoy a close working relationship with him until we were together on Pat Pinkston’s Staff in 2005. What makes that even more unusual was that Julie & I used to live a short distance from Glenn’s brother in Port Byron, Illinois at the same time Glenn lived down the block from my brother Joe’s family in Moline. With one phone call from Glenn to the pro shop, I was set with a tee time. I never knew he possessed such power; he did not have to accompany me on the round or do anything aside from dropping his name. I was impressed.

Round: #29
Location: New Haven, CT
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #6
Date: 21 Jun, tee off at 9:00 AM
Conditions: sunny, 5 MPH wind, 85 degrees
Yardage: 6,122
Lost balls: 0
Score: 77 on a par 70
I arrived early for a 10:00 AM tee time. With no driving range to warm-up on, I proceeded to the first tee where three men were getting ready to tee off. They asked if I wanted to tee off ahead of them; I offered to join them which turned out to be a wise decision. I teed off with the group and we proceeded down the first fairway.

383-yards par 4 hole #1

Although none of the three men were Yale graduates, Paul Johnson was a former Dean of the Law College. That made for a fairly strong tie to Yale and I suspect he did not require an “introduction” to obtain a tee time. Paul was retired from a career that included positions as a bank president and the CEO of a hospital. He spends winters in Florida but returns to the New Haven area for the summer season. 
Riding on the golf cart with Paul was Bill Crain. Bill spent 35-years in the consumer products business before retiring. His experience was varied as well: food, toys, leather goods and apparel. 
Noland Murphy was driving the cart I rode on. He retired 9-years ago from a Bell Telephone subsidiary. Like Paul, he spends his winters in Florida and the summer season in Connecticut. His son works for the phone company today; one of his daughters works in massage therapy and his 2nd daughter teaches yoga. Noland has 9 grandchildren, the oldest of which is 27-years old. With a name like Murphy you might think I was playing with an Irish man. In spite of what his name might imply, Noland’s ancestry was more American Indian than any other nationality. 
Paul and Bill employed a “side saddle” approach to their putts. Instead of standing beside the ball and swinging the club side-to-side when making a putt, they placed the ball between them & the hole before swinging the club away from their body toward the hall ( I missed getting a picture of their side saddle putting technique). Both men were quite effective with their putts. At one point in our round, the topic of wedding anniversaries came up. I thought I was doing well having been happily married for 41-years. I was just a youngster in the company of these men: Paul has been married for 50-years, Bill for 51-years, and Noland for 52-years.

Paul, Bill & Noland 
As we began to play it was very apparent the golf gods were still helping me on the course. I shot 3-pars in a row before carding the first bogey. After my tee shot on the par 3 hole #5 stopped 3-feet from the cup, I dropped the birdie putt to go back to even par. I finished the front nine with 3 more pars to shoot my lowest score ever for 9-holes: a 1-over par 35 on the par 34 front nine. We encountered plenty of water hazards, wet lands and tall grass on the front nine that I managed to avoid with good tee shots. 
 View of the green side bunkers on the 344-yard par 4 hole #2

 379-yard par 4 hole #3 tee

 426-yard par 4 hole #4

138-yard par 3 hole #5

Hole #9 had a pond in front of the green. This is not an unusual obstacle to encounter on a golf course. As we walked out onto the tee box, Paul made this hole more memorable than most after remarking: “it is said this pond contains thousands of golf balls, hundreds of golf clubs, and one golf cart”. I am quite familiar with such ponds that can absolutely ruin a good round of golf. All four members of our group safely landed over the water with our shots, none of which landed on the huge rolling green.
 196-yard par 3 hole #9

The green extends beyond me to the bottom tip of the Yale flag (note the huge valley in the green!)

Paul was very consistent in hitting tee shots in the fairways. We all got a good laugh when he finally hit one off-line, only to have it hit a rock and bounce back into the fairway. On a course that possessed some of the most severe elevation changes I have encountered, it was nice to rely on Paul for his knowledge of the course. 
 360-yard par 4 hole #10 (view of the approach shot to the green from the fairway)

340-yard par 4 hole #11 (view from the green back toward the tee box)

 196-yard par 3 hole #13

395-yard par 4 hole #17

I did fail to take Paul’s advice on the par 5 hole #18 tee box after he suggested I hit my 3-wood off the tee. I hit my driver and the shot looked to be in trouble after landing on the far right side of the fairway leaving little room for the 2nd shot over a steep hill. Lady Luck was still with me as the next shot landed in the fairway atop the hill. As if that were not enough, I experienced Paul’s type of luck after sending my 3rd shot long over the green headed toward the practice green across the road. The ball struck a tree along the roadway and bounced back onto the front edge of the green. I 3-putted for a bogey. I consider any final score below 80 as phenomenal for my level of ability. I walked off the 18th green with a record round for me. My luck began when I paried up with a fine group of gentlemen on the 1st tee box and lasted through a lucky bounce on the 18th green. I fell in love with Yale!
 542-yard par 5 hole #18

View of approach shot to the hole #18 green from the fairway hill top

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