GOLF IN FLORIDA
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.
YOUR BEST GOLF ON TAPIf 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.