Sunday, September 23, 2012
When we went to bed last night we weren’t sure we would be golfing today. We had a tee time on the Champion Course (we always save it for the last day), but due to the rain yesterday and grim forecast for today we thought we might have to skip it. There is a hefty upcharge to play the Champ and we weren’t keen on paying it to play in the rain and/soggy conditions. However, the skies look pretty clear this morning and Rich checks at the pro shop to find out the conditions of the course. He is told it is mushy, but not too bad and it will be cart path only (yick). Ryan (in the pro shop) generously offers to waive the extra fee for the Champion and we quickly agree. What have we got to lose?
The Champions Course at PGA National is the course where the Honda Classic is played every year and it is TOUGH. There are a series of three holes (15-17) called the Bear Trap that are said to be some of the toughest finishing holes in golf. We have played this course once during every visit and always start out with hight hopes. It always kicks our butts. Today our expectations are lowered mostly due to the conditions and we are happy just being out there.
We are playing by ourselves for the first couple of holes and then get joined by a great twosome – firefighters from Ohio who are here for a golf tournament. We are all playing pretty steady and even get to break out the Birdie Bottle a couple of times!
Our new golf buddies get a big kick out of our Birdie Bottle and quickly get into the spirit when one of them birdies a hole. “Break out the Captain Morgan!” I will admit that Rich and I poured only enough into our cups to wet the bottom and we gave the other guys a full shot…
Sand and water abound, but they aren’t the only hazards on this course:
Finally we arrive at the Bear Trap. One the first par 3 I am the only one on the green and par the whole. This is easy, right? I proceed to blow up the next hole by choosing a heroic 150 yard carry over water that only carried 140 yards! Rich’s tee shot is in fairway sand, but he makes a miraculous shot over sand/water and lands on the green in 2. Shot of the day. On the last Bear Trap hole (par 3 over water of course) I am again the only one on the green and then proceed to FOUR putt for a double bogey.
We end a great round on the Champ today scoring the best we have both ever scored here – I had a 93 and Rich scored an awesome 82! Way to go, Rich!
Time to say goodbye to the PGA National Resort. We loved it here again this year and it is made especially sweet by our pleasing final round today. (usually when we leave here we are licking our wounds from the Champ). We have to drive all of 21 miles to get to our next destination – The Four Seasons resort at Palm Beach, Florida. We stayed there last year and celebrated our 30th anniversary (again!). I absolutely loved it and would not miss a chance to return to celebrate our 31st (again!) My mood is elevated just by seeing their sign.
We are greeted warmly and the bellman shows us to our room on the 3rd floor. Perfect. He unloads our belongings while we check out the view from our balcony.
The room is gorgeous and we discover that they have thoughtfully left us a little anniversary treat:
That treat will be saved for later. Right now it is lunch time and the Atlantic Grill on the oceanfront is calling our names. At this time of year the resort is not even half full and the staff is not rushed. We love it that way and don’t know if we would like it “in season.” Besides, living in Arizona we don’t really feel the need to go somewhere warm in the winter.
This side trip to the Four Seasons will be the “vacation” portion of our trip (as opposed to the working “golf” portion!) and we plan to pretty much do nothing for the next 2 days. When our server suggests the signature cocktail, the Palm Beach “Radius” made with mango infused orange vodka, hibiscus and mint I am sold. Rich chooses a Caipirinha, a Brazilian drink made with sugar cane rum, sugar and lime. Both are yummy.
The menu at the Atlantic Grill is modeled after street food from around the world and we have a difficult time making a choice. I order the Caprese Salad after being assured that the tomatoes are really good (!) and Rich opts for the Tacos de Pescado. Both are excellent and we linger over a long, leisurely, late lunch. THIS is vacation.
After lunch we make our way down to the beach and have one of the beach boys prepare us a spot. It is so crowded that it is difficult to find room:
A crowd has gathered down the beach and curiosity gets the better of us. We are thinking maybe there is a beached whale, a shark attack, something BIG down on the sand. When we get close enough we realize that it is a gathering of Life Church and they are staging a massive baptism in the ocean! Pretty interesting.
Straight chillin’ on the beach is the order for the rest of the afternoon. Rich considers getting his snorkel equip, but it is in the care and who wants to go there? So we just dip and relax. Done with the beach, we move poolside. Literally nobody is in the pool and we have it to ourselves. We knock ourselves out with what Rich has calculated is a .10 mile swim. Woo hoo. Now that we have worked up an appetite it seems like happy hour on the balcony would be just the ticket.
As the sun sets and we discuss what a great day this has been, it actually gets better! A light mist is coming down and with the location of the sun has created a rainbow out over the ocean.
But wait – NOW there is a double rainbow – one of the prettiest I have ever seen. We are so glad that we were out on our balcony and notice that most of the other balconies are empty. They have missed it.
Tonight’s dinner plans mesh with us not wanting to leave the resort today. We are going to go down to The Restaurant, sit at the bar and order a couple of small plates. There are only a few people there and the bartender is great. He supplies us with The Restaurant menu (we ate there last year), a specials menu and a bar bites menu. He also guides us into ordering some great offerings. Looks like this place is following the smart idea of many restaurants and is offering “small plates” and petite portions that are made for sharing. Perfect.
We order the salad of arugula/burrata (ha!)/grilled peaches and marcona almonds to start. It is simply fantastic. This is followed by the “Tuna on Rye” which is a take on tuna sashimi with spicy mustard and rye toast. Wow. We love this dish.
By the time we finish, the room has completely filled with a rowdy crowd from the Textile convention! (what the heck do they do?) We yuck it up with one of them telling him that we are going to charge our bar tab to his room.
As we walk back to our room we pass The Living Room area of the resort. It is empty of people and there is a grand piano just waiting to be played. Rich takes the opportunity to sit down and serenade me with “A Dream Goes on Forever” (a favorite Todd Rundgren song of Rich’s). Then I beg for him to sing “The Luckiest” (like he did for me at our 25th anniversary party) and he indulges. If you have never heard this, it is absolutely worth a listen. Perfect ending to a fantastic day.
The Luckiest by Ben Folds
I don’t get many things right the first time,
In fact i am told that a lot.
Now i know all the wrong turns and stumbles and falls
Brought me here.
And where was I before the day that i first saw your lovely face.
Now i see it everyday
And i know
That i am,
I am the luckiest.
What if i’d been born 50 year before you
In a house on the street where you live?
Maybe i’d be outside as you passed on your bike,
Would i know?
And in a wide sea of eyes,
I’d see one pair that i’d recognize.
And i know
That i am,
I am the luckiest.
I love you more
Than i have ever found a way to say
Next door there’s an old man
Who lived to his 90’s
And one day passed away in his sleep
And his wife, she stayed for a couple of days
And passed away.
I’m sorry i know that’s a strange way
To tell you that i know we belong.
That i know
That i am,
I am the luckiest.