Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mike at Old Mac

"Mike's love of the game doesn't depend on how he plays. It's being out there that makes him happy." -- Jim Seeley

First, let me admit that I have been an unreliable blogger. I intended to post daily while I was out in Oregon, and instead I posted . . . once. There were too many things going on, too much golf to play, too many people to talk to. So I'll try to catch up, starting with my last day at Bandon Dunes.

Weather had moved in. We had a tee time at 7 at Pacific Dunes, but as we ate breakfast the rain streaked sideways across the windows. I could see the flag on the 9th hole at Bandon Dunes blowing straight out, and the flagstick was starting to bend in the wind. Gaeton, who had flown over from Paris for this occasion, sipped his coffee and asked, "Anybody want to go hit some balls first?"

Ha. No one took him up on that offer, but six dauntless members of group did head out to play a round at Pacific in a 4-club wind. Most returned soaking and remorseful, but Gaeton had a big grin on his face. While everyone else was trying to break 100, he shot a 75,

I was one of the wusses who stayed behind, hoping the weather will soften up so that I could get in an afternoon round. And I got lucky. At 3, I headed over to Old Macdonald with Mike Keiser, Jim Seeley, and Brian Hewitt. There was still enough wind to turn an umbrella inside out, and the rain came in hard gusts. There were only a few other groups out, but Mike hadn't been able to play on Opening Day and he wasn't waiting any longer. With water pouring off the brim of his white cap, but he punched his first drive right down the middle.

We got a match going, Mike and Brian vs. Jim and I. Jim, a former pro and now a senior executive at KemperSports (he's had general oversight of golf operations at Bandon Dunes from the start), hit his approach stony -- a kick-in birdie. We were all in full rain gear and I won't say that no one noticed the weather, but no one said anything about it. From Mike's demeanor, you would have thought it was a bluebird day. Up at the second, after we both holed out for 4's, he said, "We've done our job. We made our bogies." Then, on the way up the Sahara Ridge on No. 3, he chatted with the caddies, wanting to make sure that their raingear kept them dry. There was another kick-in birdie on this hole -- made by yours truly, a 6-iron that I nailed. I hasten to add that the shot was blind, and the birdie illustrated how friendly the rolls on some of the huge greens at Old Mac can be -- the contours will funnel some balls right to the hole.

Brian won the 4th, with a couple of well-hit shots into the south wind, and on the 5th, Mike hit a 7-iron straight as a string and pin high. An easy par. It had taken us about 50 minutes to play 5 holes. It was exhilarating to pull off a decent shot in that weather, and I for one had the feeling of braving the elements. I was thinking of how Mike had gotten started as a golf developer at the Dunes Club in Michigan, how he'd played ""wilderness golf" on the land before there any golf holes there. And thinking of what Bill Coore had told me about Mike on a recent visit to another project, Lost Farm, in Australia; they went out, just the two of them, and played golf all day on the roughed-in holes, carrying their bags, hitting the shots even though they couldn't putt on the fuzzy greens.

Obviously, Mike Keiser is a man who hasn't lost the kid's fascination with the game -- for him it's still an enchanted form of play. It's about being outside, and about walking, and hitting shots, and enjoying the journey, every single step of it. For all of us who love the golf at Bandon Dunes, we can only be grateful that he had the vision and the wherewithal to build a place where we can partake of that experience.

The photo of Mike is from an earlier, drier round, and it shows him playing a pitch up to the 7th green. Of course, there are some conditions that no one would dream of playing in. Take a look at the video on Matt Zaffino's website for Bandon in a hailstorm:

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