Thursday, February 17, 2011

LA Open this week at Riviera!

Man, Oh Man! What I wouldn't do to have a free week and a thousand bucks to blow. I would think long and hard about hanging out in Los Angeles for the best West Coast stop on the PGA tour. The Northern Trust Open is what the LA Open is called now, but it hasn't always been up for sale.

Used to be a premium stop on the tour's schedule. Only two, really. Here and Pebble Beach. The Open when it was at Olympic. Other than that, the tour was something to watch on TV. But every year about this time, Santa Monica canyon would polish up and show off for the world.

Walking in to the -- well, hopping a fence, really -- was always a major buzz. The smell of the eucalyptus, the thrum of the crowd, and the specter of those princes of sport, the players.

Mac Hunter was the head pro back then. Riviera was the western sister of the Hathaways and the L.A. Athletic Club. The barranca was an untamed gully full of treachery, frogs and slime, not the concrete-drained ornament that it is today. When you played the front of the front and the front of the back, you had it in your face a LOT. Nobody hit the ball 300 back then except Nicklaus, so you were spared on your first tee shot, but your approach on one, your tee shot on number two were definitely emphasized by the deathly certainty if you crossed the boundary of this firth of Santa Monica canyon. After two you had a break until seven, and even then, it just sort of nodded to you, off out of play way to the right on this short par four. The way eight is played now, with the split fairway and the tee back of the seventh green, it is a different animal.

My uncle was a bigger than life character who loved fast cars, fast boats and fun. He could play a hell of a game of golf. he played Riviera a lot, though I don't believe he ever belonged to the club. He used to tell a story about standing on the sixth tee during a round with Mac Hunter. Hunter was hot. He had birdied four of the first five holes. Back then, one was a tougher challenge with the barranca and all, and two was a shorter par four. So with scores of 4, 4, 3, 2, 3 he had gotten to four under. And he was one down to my uncle.

I never heard how the rest of the round went. I am pretty sure my uncle didn't finish eighteen under.

Looks like one of the players, Kevin Na, almost matched my uncle's story. Today he got to the sixth tee and had the same numbers written on his scorecard that Mac had all those years ago. As of this posting, he has made it past ten and kept it to three under par. I wish him all the best.

More from Santa Monica Canyon soon....C19 out

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