In hindsight, we should have paid more attention to the warning signs. The first sign appeared on Friday, 14 December at our granddaughter Adley’s pre-school Christmas program. One of the 3-year old kids vomited on a classmate standing directly in front of her during the program. The 2nd warning sign appeared that evening when Adley vomited in the car on our drive into Chicago. She threw up a few more times in the Chicago hotel room that night. We were thinking she might have caught a 24-hour bug and were cautiously optimistic as we boarded the plane the next morning. Our thinking was flawed.
After checking into the Disney Art of Animation Resort Saturday afternoon, Heather stayed in the room with Adley while the rest of us visited Downtown Disney. The 3rd sign came late that evening when Julie began to vomit. I lasted until 3:30 AM that night before severe diarrhea and vomiting hit me. When Adley’s condition did not improve, a doctor visit on Sunday afternoon turned into overnight hospitalization for dehydration. Heather, Jack & Madison all became sick at some point during the day on Sunday. Ethan was the only one to escape the flu bug. Luckily for him, Julie had recovered enough to accompany him to the cafeteria for some dinner that evening - - - no one else was keeping any food down at that point.
Ethan, Madison, Adley, Jack & Heather
The last round on my 50-state golf adventure was scheduled for Tuesday. I was convinced a hospital was in my future based upon how sick I was on Sunday. It was Monday morning before I managed to crawl out of bed after 36 straight of lying in a prone position. My energy level was zapped following no food or fluid intake on Sunday. The best I could manage on Monday was 2 crackers and a cup of pasta; my stomach quieted down enough to take in fluids but I still had difficulty with diarrhea. Jack had not gotten as sick as me but a queasy stomach still kept him from eating anything on Monday. In the absence of good judgment, our plan to play golf on Tuesday remained a “go”. It was too hard to walk away from a tee time on one of America’s finest golf courses.
The Circle of Champions at TPC Sawgrass
TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse
Location: Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #2
Date: 18 Dec, tee off at 10:40 AM
Conditions: sunny, 11 MPH wind, 68 degrees
Lost balls: 3
Score: 91 on a par 72
TPC at Sawgrass opened in 1980, the first of several Tournament Players Clubs to be built. Home to the PGA Tour headquarters, it has two individual courses: the Stadium Course and the Valley Course. The Stadium Course was designed by noted golf course architects Pete & Alice Dye; it is known as one of the most difficult golf courses in the world. It was constructed specifically to host The Players Championship, the PGA Tour’s flagship event. Narrow fairways are lined with lined marshes, waste bunkers, deep pot bunkers, thick rough, and shot-obstructing palm trees. Lightning-fast greens complete the challenge, although they were not rolling quite as fast during our round.
When the first Tournament Players Championship was staged at the Stadium Course in 1982, the story was not the eventual winner but the numerous complaints players had about the course. "It's Star Wars golf, designed by Darth Vader," Ben Crenshaw pronounced. When asked if the TPC suited his playing style, Jack Nicklaus replied, "No, I've never been very good at stopping a 5-iron on the hood of a car." J.C. Snead called the course "90 percent horse manure and 10 percent luck." Over the following year, Dye tweaked the course, making the greens less severe and replacing several bunkers. After the changes, the course became far more playable.
160-yard par 3 hole #3
359-yard par 4 hole #4
422-yard par 4 hole #5
View of approach shot to the green from hole #5 fairway
I have played several Pete Dye designed courses during the past year. The challenge of playing one of his most famous designs at TPC Sawgrass made an conclusion to my 50-state tour.
360-yard par 4 hole #6
382-yard par 4 hole #7
168-yard par 3 hole #8
Jack and I were joined by Tim Morris, a business associate of Jack’s who lives in Leesburg, Florida. Tim is Vice President of Ernie Morris Enterprises, a HON office furniture dealer located just north of Orlando. Tim is the proud father of 1 boy and 4 girls ranging in age from 13 to 26 years old. We met Tim on the northern edge of Orlando which provided us with an ample opportunity for conversation on our drive to & from Ponte Vedra Beach.
Jack & Tim standing on the 522-yard par 5 hole #9 tee box
The boys looking for their tee shots on hole #9 fairway (the water was not visible from the tee box)
Although I normally walk, riding on a golf cart at TPC Sawgrass was a welcome benefit given my poor energy level on Tuesday. Unfortunately, carts were restricted to cart path only meaning I still had to walk from the path to my ball for every shot. That would not normally be a problem but the effort had me feeling exhausted by the time we finished the first 9-holes of play. I had managed to eat a banana and 2 crackers for breakfast; I decided to grab a sandwich at the turn hoping the food would boost my energy. I could only manage to eat 1/4 of the sandwich but it did help improve my strength, it also provided me with a queasy stomach for the remainder of the afternoon.
388-yard par 4 hole #10
469-yard par 4 hole #11 (view from the green back up the fairway)
377-yard par 4 hole #14
View of approach shot from the rough on hole #14
366-yard par 4 hole #15
The golf course proved true to its reputation for difficulty. Our group made a total of 8 pars on the front nine where all of posted a score in the mid-40‘s. The back nine continued to punish us with a group total of only 4 more pars over the next 6 holes. Our luck started to turn around on the 16th hole when all of our tee shots landed in the fairway. Jack made a the shot of the day with his 2nd shot from the right hand side of the fairway which carried 235-yards over a pond. The ball landed on the green and rolled up to within 10’ of the pin. His eagle putt skimmed by the hole providing him an easy tap-in birdie. I managed to par the hole after punching a low 3rd shot under a tree and up onto the green.
486-yard par 5 hole #16
View of Jack's approach shot to the green from hole #16 fairway (my drive did not make it this far down the fairway)
View from hole #16 green looking back up the fairway
One of golf's most recognizable and difficult holes is TPC Sawgrass’ signature hole, the 132-yard par-3 17th known simply as the "Island Green". Although it is technically a peninsula, the hole consists of an undulating 78-foot long green with a tiny bunker in front of it. Save a small path, the green is completely surrounded by water and its location amidst many trees causes the wind to swirl over it. Club selection is a huge consideration, as there is nowhere to land the ball but on the green or in the water. It is estimated that over 100,000 balls are retrieved from the surrounding water every year, courtesy of professionals and tourists alike.
137-yard par 3 hole #17 (from The Players tee box)
Because of its enduring popularity among fans, NBC devotes 11 cameras to the 17th hole during the Tournament Players Championship. Probably the most famous incident on the Island Green involved Steve Lowery in the 1998 tournament. His tee shot successfully landed on the green, but a seagull swooped onto the green and picked up his ball several times. The gull found it difficult to hold the ball in its bill, but finally managed to carry it into the air out over the water where it was dropped yet again. One of the TV commentators quipped that the 17th now had yet another hazard. Under the Rules of Golf, a bird is considered an "outside agency" and Lowery was permitted to replace the ball at the spot where it initially came to rest on the green.
In spite of the many difficulties our 3-some had encountered over the first 16 holes, all of us landed tee shots on the 17th green. The hole yielded 2 more pars after Jack & I both 2-putted the green. At the urging of our fore-caddie, we did stop after landing our first tee shots at the 17th. We took a few extra shots - - - some of which did help raise the pond’s water level! (Note: a record 50 balls landed in the water at the 17th hole in one round during the May 2007 tournament, breaking the single-round PGA tournament record of 45 set in 2000.)
Jim, Tim & Jack on hole #17 tee box
View of hole #17 green from the cart path
Aside from the queasy stomach, I did feel a sense of satisfaction as I walked off of the 18th green. I have always suspected that some people doubted my ability to play golf in all 50-states during 2012, and yet it proved much easier than I would have thought. My quest provided me with the pleasure of playing golf with some great people on some of the toughest courses in the country. Criss-crossing the USA in such a short timeframe highlighted the breadth, diversity and beauty of this great country.
426-yard par 4 hole #18
Jack teeing off on hole #18
Tim & Jack on hole #18 tee box
View from hole #18 green looking back up the fairway
Julie & I have enjoyed almost every minute of our travels over the past 12-months. The Disney trip was providing us with a few moments that we could have done without. After returning to Orlando Tuesday evening, Jack & Julie headed back to Disney with Madison & Ethan. I did not feel up to walking around Disney so I stayed behind with Heather & Adley. All of us were hoping Adley would have bounced back by that evening but she was still not eating much and was certainly not exhibiting much energy. After walking down to the cafeteria to get some dinner, Heather waited in line while I proceeded to walk off with Adley toward the gift shop. We did not make it out of the cafeteria before she proceeded to vomit all over me. Her continued vomiting, lack of appetite, and weight loss had us worried. By Wednesday morning the decision had been made for Heather & I to fly home with Adley. Jack & Julie stayed in Orlando to enjoy 2 healthy, fun-filled days at Disney with Madison & Ethan.
Madison, Ethan & Disney friends
Ethan & Madison
Ethan & Madison
Our family vacation to Disney World was memorable, although not exactly in the manner we had envisioned. The attractions at Disney World were worth the trip - - - at least that is what Julie tells me. My 5-day Disney pass never made it to the entrance gate at Disney World that week. Upon our return to Iowa, Adley was treated & released at the hospital’s Emergency Room. Both she & I gradually returned to full strength over the next few days.
One of Adley's better moments at Disney
One sick little girl on the plane ride home
Final note: Ethan finally caught the flu bug 2-days after returning home from Disney World. The boy has his priorities in order - - - waiting to get sick until after all of the fun was over!