There was a large sun rising when I was crossing Alligator Alley early Tuesday heading for The Old Course at Broken Sound in Boca Raton. The new hip was ready, the rest of the body wasn’t quite in caddy shape yet, the Rendevous was making some strange noises but that bright sun was definitely a reflection of a new attitude and the great year on the horizon. I was definitely looking forward to the week, the year and walking courses without pain having fun again.

The parking lot was full of caddies, many without jobs; I felt lucky and reflected back to last year when I was in the same boat the first tournament of the year. These were veteran caddies with a lot of wins under their belt who couldn’t find work mainly because players are bringing their family and friends along as their loopers. During the week I only had one true caddy working by my side and he was pushing 80 years old; I didn’t receive a lot of help during the rounds.

Bob was excited and we played the a practice round Tuesday with Mike Goodes, the 2009 Alliance champion, and Lonnie Nielson, both long time club pros who have created very nice careers for themselves out here. That’s the strength of the Champions Tour, a collection of veteran golfers from all walks of the golfing profession who naturally appeal to the galleries and take the time to interact with their fans, plus they plays some great golf. Well, most of them do, we struggled this week.

Bob spent a lot of time practicing this week, trying to get the swing back and loosen up his stiff body. His wife stayed home with a nasty cold so there was more hours to work on the game. It makes for a long week when the wives don’t show up, most of the time players hate to leave the course because there’s nothing to do with their free time. Bob said he went to two movies one night.

Both pro-ams revealed the usual suspects with long pockets but we had a good time. They were all involved with Alliance in some manner and we took very good care of them. We were never in the hunt for a pro-am victory but there were brief signs of brilliance, with the emphasis on brief, from every hacker. A couple of friendships developed and I think I have some tickets for Twins game when we visit Minneapolis; hopefully they’re in town that week I need to see the new stadium.

I was planning to walk nine and cart nine this week gradually working myself back into shape but Bob and Peter Jacobsen talked me out of it. My surgeon called Peter and convinced him I needed to take some baby steps the first tournament out and Peter had a heart to heart with me just before Friday’s round. I listened, pleaded my case but stuck with the cart for eighteen holes probably walking a total of three to five holes a day.

Thank God I listened and Peter made the effort on my behalf because I was hurting after Friday and Saturday’s round, nothing serious, but I definitely wasn’t ready to walk eighteen, maybe next week. Peter withdrew because of injury and I called him Friday afternoon thanking him for his concern and checking on his health. It’s nice to have a surrogate family keeping an eye on each other.

We teed it up Friday with birdies in the headlights, a positive attitude, raring and ready to go. After five holes we were four over with three three-putts and heading south quickly. Other than a slammed head cover into cart basket Bob maintained his composure, battled the difficult grainy Bermuda greens and finished with a 74. He’s a pleasure to work for because he never gives up, gets a bit feisty when things aren’t going well but never blames the caddy for no reason. If something goes wrong it is discussed professionally, forgotten about and then on to the next shot.

Saturday we teed it up in the cold windy weather with my old boss Bob Murphy and my drinking buddy Tom Wargo. Everyone struggled and we didn’t have the fun I was expecting but there was time for a few jokes during reachable par five back-ups. Murph’s buddies and family weren’t around, I was hoping to share some memories with them but Murph said they don’t come out to watch this old fart play anymore. He didn’t want to talk golf but you couldn’t get him to shut-up when the grandkids were mentioned. He’s a professional grandpa now and extremely proud.

It wasn’t a profitable week and the Rendevous limped back across Alligator Alley Sunday evening while I munched cold pizza. We’re going to fix the van and Bob’s swing Monday then make a few putts in Naples. I think we averaged 35 putts per round last week, you can’t make a lot of money that way.


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