Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A story about Eric Gonzales & TV weatherman

By Jock MacKenzie

How many out there in golf-land dream as youths that one day they will be an honest to goodness golf pro, play the game whenever they feel like it, sit back and tell the student what and what not he or she should be doing?
Let me tell you, the life of an honest to goodness golf pro doesn’t work that way.

I’m thinking now of Eric Gonzales who runs the pro list at the popular Cypress Knoll Course, known in this area of Florida as one of several under control by The Grand Club.
I watched Gonzales struggle to earn his ticket, or official golf pro as known in the trade, for at least five years and perhaps a few more months.

He did the full rout every one of his working days and then dashed home so he could read and absorb the requirements of becoming a P.G.A. Professional.
I would often think, how can this man do it? How can he work long hours at the golf course and then dash home to work his heart out in order to become an official P.G.A. member? Five years, remember, five years of personal torture as I viewed it.

But, by golly, he did it. It takes a touch of genius and some times courage to make things simple but courage is something that is well within the body of Eric Gonzales.
I was talking recently with a lady who was footing the teaching bill so her nephew could learn this amazing game of golf. She told me that it was becoming expensive after so many months and even years. It was suggested that the nephew had enough and it was time to call a halt. A drain on the money pocket was her concern.

“No”, said the nephew, “I want to stay with Eric!” It was her money but his desire and that won the contest.
This young man, and no, I don’t have his name at hand, found a dream as the way to play a wonderful game with a fabulous teacher and he wasn’t about to give it up.
Now tell me, what Aunt, Uncle, Mother, Dad or family member would cut the cord and leave this happy youngster out on a limb? Whenever I go to Grand Reserve for golf or conversation I talk with men who have young daughters, and I mean young like 10 and 11 years, who are downright the happiest golf partners on the face of this earth because of teaching by Eric Gonzales.

So, you see, if Eric Gonzales had not given five years of his soul and countless hours on the range many other young men and women would never have the opportunity or success they now have. Yes, he’s well past the 5-year mark now but that matters not. What does matter is that Eric Gonzales has learned a touch of genius and sometimes courage to make things simpler. Do me a favor, please. When next you play Nine & Dine at Cypress, take a moment to walk over and say, “Thank you, Eric, for all you do.”

Nine & Dines has been a welcome golf addition for years. Others in this area have tried to run Nine & Dines of their own and every last one has failed. Not the one at Cypress. The plain truth is that Michael Tsouklaris, Director of Golf at The Grand Clubs, and Eric Gonzales have made Nine & Dine tops in the Florida market. 

If you reside somewhere on the eastern side of the USA your best golf ever may be just a simple vacation away.
Palm Coast is the name of the game, a city of 77,000 people awaiting you as residents or vacationers to a city started and put in motion by ITT. They put the building of it from nothing, one that was a jungle that had to be torn apart.
But when all is said and done, we are talking golf here, beautiful golf courses and a huge bundle of them.
Start at the Grand Club with golf to test your best efforts from tee to green. One beautiful effort is Pine Lakes, the other Cypress Knoll, the first an Arnold Palmer creation, the second by Gary Player.

You also have a gorgeous beach shading the ocean water and top notch courses waiting for you to swing the clubs. ITT was first in building an Oceanside golf course and the numbers expanded from there, Coventry and a barrel more of beautiful golf courses all along the beach.
I’ll never forget the day that Jack Nicklaus came here, he was the builder of this sensational course and on the beach to celebrate the grand opening of this first course. We press were allowed to hammer him left and right . . . a question here and a question there . . . and he was a gentleman of not as the questions were answered politely and nicely.
Then it came time for the golf course itself, Nicklaus leading the way, as the official opening of this beautiful layout.
Officials, however, took hold of the microphone and went on for what seemed like hours. There was no stopping them. If an ITT official was present he was asked to speak. Nicklaus had enough. He hollered out: “That’s enough of the B.S. (I’m being nice here). We’re here to play golf and let’s go do it now. And thus, the deed was done, Nicklaus put on a golf show that had us applauding hole after hole.
At the earlier meeting with Nicklaus I sat with the weather man of the leading TV station then and now and out of Orlando. I told him that we don’t understand why all the Florida locations are included in his reports but not a view or word about Palm Coast.

“It’s there”, he said. I responded, “No it’s not.” And this argument went on for what seemed like a half hour, he was convinced that Palm Coast was included and I forcefully told him it wasn’t. We parted shortly after, he confident as lead weather man he new what was and was not there. I responded to every word relating that he was wrong.
I never heard from him again. But three days later for the first time in history there was Palm Coast shining brightly and it has been there ever since..

I’m relating this from long ago because I thought you had the right of knowing how Palm Coast had joined the big guys and that it came about fully because of this wonderful game of golf we play.Back to the golf courses you will enjoy here, a short ride to River Bend and you’ll be on one that delights. Another like this is Grand Reserve, somewhat new as openings go but simply said a darn nice enjoyable golf club to play any day of the week.

As famous golf teacher Craig Shankland wrote in his book many years ago, “When you analyze golf, you realize that its greatest pleasures are derived from diametrically opposite situations. One is the positive side, where you execute basics to achieve preplanned results. The other is the negative side, where the thrill results from overcoming forces that are constantly endeavoring to throw you off balance.”
Incidentally, the Shankland book, one I read often, sold for $3.95 per book and I doubt it could be found in the stores now.

So, come on down to Palm Coast, FL. What you’ll find here in a heartbeat is your best golf courses, a ton of wonderful people who enjoy being nice to you and a journey that just might be the one to start your route to lower scores.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Greatness is never given. You earn it!

By Jock MacKenzie

 Well into that theory is a golfer from Boynton Beach, FL who shoots his age routinely at 84! Bob Harris, according to the New York Times, has shot his age 893 times, an achievement he attributes partly to a rigorous exercise program. And my good gosh, I’ve been deservedly bragging about the golfer from Portland, Maine who shot into the 90’s even when reaching the count of 99!

We have our own golf star here in Palm Coast, FL with a population of 77,000 people and still growing in leaps and bounds. His name is Dick Perlman who has reached the age of high nineties while playing at the Grand Clubs Pine Lakes course with his wife Helen, who, by the way, is an attributed Golf Hall of Famer and swings the club as sweet as the best to hit the links, male or female. But most importantly, she is terrifically a nice person and all who have the good fortune of meeting her will tell you that in a heart beat. She’s a whiz at this game of golf and shows that quality every time out. That and other data provides the opportunity for me to shout the importance of women in golf. The numbers are growing in leaps and bounds and that’s reason one why golf course owners are shouting with glee. Right now women golfers in the membership are as important to them as good golfers will always be.
For example, me and my team partners stood by as we swung for pretty good distance only to view this lady going past us like a hot ride runner at the Daytona races.
So, no matter where you are – here in Florida, anywhere in New England, of course in California and wherever you care to name – you’ll find women a merging factor in this game of golf.

 I’ll always remember as a radio broadcaster the assignment of covering a women’s tournament in the Keene, NH area. Most took the golf play of women in the Tournament as an also ran. But when I watched and broadcast the talent of these competitors, I was struck with admiration, and correctly so.
Another not so welcome affair was a 3-day tournament at a beautiful course in Dover, NH, one titled to this day as Cochecho Country Club.
I rushed to my radio station microphone to proclaim the victors. What I told the audience was by a man and his son, the latter lugging his Dad’s bag, after they came out of nowhere to win the Tournament despite a talented class field of golfers.
About four days later I received this well written letter from the winner saying he appreciated the publicity we gave them. “Just one problem he added, the “son” was my daughter! See, even a so called radio star is embarrassed.Frankly said, while playing the game I love so much at the popular Pine Golf layout, I would stop in awe at the ability and beautiful swings of ladies approaching the green. Frankly said, these ladies can play this game and play it well. So, the more of you of female persuasion who appear to play this wonderful game of golf the better every one of us is going to be. So, come on in ladies, we need more Helen Perlman’s and Deb Crowley’s wherever you are, from all of Florida, to New England, California, Texas and every State in this union.

As I look back, at the age of 30 and returned from constant combat in the Pacific Theatre of War, I was asked to accept a free membership at a local and very popular golf course near a small town named Shelburne. I said no. I knew this came about because I was a radio sports broadcaster and this is what played in part a reason for the request.
Still, it was a stupid response on my part and I regret it to this day. Just think, in stead of being a sad hacker out on the green now I possibly could have become half way decent at golf and maybe even one of the top shooters.
So if someone asks you – male or female – to join their golf club as a member, jump at the offer so fast your shoes will tingle proudly every day of your life. Or, who knows, maybe like the golfer from Boynton Beach, you might shoot your age to a count of 84 at least 893 times!
Smooth as glass is a popular term but I really don’t know how else to describe this golf course. You could play it every day of the week and it would still be a great golf course, one you would marvel at consistently and day by day.
And, yes, it gets a lot of play, like women’s leagues on Monday and Friday, men on Wednesday and the rest a wonderful place to enjoy.
Mike Pullen, a master at making this golf course and others up and down the east coast better than most, is the Alabama graduate who has a very special touch for the benefit of we who love to play golf.
Yes, it’s a bit easier to score but what’s so wrong about that? Isn’t it fun to go out with clubs in hand and whack the little white or orange pill for a delightful ride, to shoot a game of 95 rather than a hundred?
Go try it. Grand Reserve is located just off Route 1 in the Palm Coast area and a short distance from the town of Bunnell.
One thing I know for sure. Go play it and the words I’ve just written will be yours to enjoy the week long.

Jack Nicklaus built this marvelous golf course on the river side of Palm Coast many years ago when ITT was in charge. There have been a couple of new ownerships since then but for some reason the quality of this golfing marvel just seems to get better and better.
Yes, it is private with a marvelous membership of the nicest people I will ever know in my life. After you meet members like Walt McRae, Hawley Rogers and Rick McArdle, just to name a few, you also will have the same impression.
McArdle, by the way, not only wrapped up another Club Championship this year, but he finds time to go to the schools and help their golf teams to be better. His son in law, by the way, is Ty Capps, the Nebraskan who is determined to make his mark as a full-fledged member of the every week golf tour.
One other thing about Grand Haven Golf Course: Watching Dane Winger and his golf lessons had me spellbound on the practice tee one day.
His tutoring was so impressive next to me that I forgot the golf balls in the pail at my feet and watched – without his knowing – every word he spoke and every movement he told the lady student what to do and what not to do. I’ve never had something like that happen before, my mouth shut in awe, my body frozen and the purpose of my reason there to hit golf balls before playing. Still, these were beautiful moments and I’ll not soon for get them even though the teacher prefers his name not be used. Hopefully, this one time I might be forgiven.
But I know I’ll never again have the honor of consistently viewing an expert at work, one who is absolutely the best in Florida golf and probably far beyond.

Many years ago in the mountains of Berlin, NH I was induced week after week to join a friend named Leo Cloutier for a baseball game. As I look back, it was probably the nicest thing to happen for me.
Cloutier was a sports writer for a local paper then went up the ladder to cover the game in top notch style.
From that, my pal Leo became the best friend of Ted Williams, the most talented baseball player I’ve seen in life, then and now. When Williams was given a special day at Fenway Park a brand new car was part of the many gifts. This famous baseball player then turned around to my friend Leo and gave him outright the auto he was driving at that time. That gives you the idea of how close in life the pair was.
Anyhow, whenever Leo wrote about Williams or anyone and everything else to be written he always closed with these words: “With malice towards none!” And that’s what I do for you now.

Come on down to Florida and enjoy the game of golf like no other – the sport of Pine Lakes, Cypress Knoll, Grand Haven, Grand Reserve or the golf courses near the ocean, Hammock Dunes, Coventry and more. Life in this part of Florida is special for us. So it will be for you. Try me out and see for yourself.
And as Leo might say: “Thanks for listening!”