It’s very frustrating leaving a tournament site when you arrive with high expectations. Birmingham held a lot of special memories, Jim had been working hard, plus his best friend and instructor were planning on a little celebration Sunday night after the win. The best I could do was laundry Sunday evening and then a long rainy drive home Monday. There were no special plans for the week off and when I left Jim he wasn’t sure if was playing the PGA the next week. Sunday afternoons are like that after a smooth 79.

The cabin was calling, it needed some TLC but turned out I was the one needing attention. After the long drive I woke up Tuesday morning achy and feverish spending the next couple of days in bed. Good news arrived Wednesday evening, I talked with Jim, he and his coach had a major revelation on the Bellvue CC practice tee. Turns out the problem wasn’t between the ears, there was a small issue with his grip.

In golf, especially professional golf, your grip may be more important than your swing. Rick, Jim’s instructor, made some minor adjustments which allowed him to free up his swing and quiet the demons between the ears. Talking with Jim you could hear the little kid excitement, he was ready to play golf again and do some damage. That was just what the doctor ordered.

It was too late to head for the cabin, our next tournament was in Denver, CO and I’d have to hit the road Saturday afternoon. These days you can prepare for a tournament via the Internet. The Senior PGA had a nice web site and the course, Colorado Golf Club, had an interactive display so I spent a few hours educating myself. Twenty years ago I knew little or nothing about a new course or upcoming event. By Thursday I felt like I knew the course, had my room booked, travels plans laid out, and looking forward to our first major of the year.

A year makes a bunch of difference. Last year at this same time I was heading for Cleveland, OH, an easy afternoon drive and working for one of the top players of all time. Now it’s a thousand miles working for a Champions Tour rookie but the preparation doesn’t change. I wanted to get there Sunday afternoon so I could walk at least nine holes.

Driving West Saturday afternoon stirred a few memories. It had been a long time since I drove this far west. There were a couple of West Coast trips with “Moosehead Ed” (who is now Stella, but that’s another story),  the 1988 drive from Oklahoma City with “Little Red” and “Artie”, and the last time I was in Denver was 1994 during the Senior Open at Cherry Hills. My daughter, Cassie, spent the week with me and some old Eau Claire Academy friends. We had a blast, whitewater rafting, a Pike’s Peak trip, and telling stories every evening after a home-cooked meal.

This next week will be different and I as I watched the Rocky Mountain snow capped peaks appear Sunday afternoon, I was worried about this old body, especially my hip, surviving the altitude, hilly terrain, and lack of carts. The old Rendevous chugged into town, I quickly checked into my hotel then headed for the Crenshaw-Coore designed Colorado Golf Club south of Denver. Ben is my favorite modern architect and I couldn’t wait for a glimpse.

I walked the front nine Sunday evening all by myself, what a joy. There were a couple of mule deer in the brush, a few hawks circling below the wispy windblown clouds, and it was all mine. The serenity made the drudgery tolerable and for the first time in quite awhile I actually enjoyed walking a course. The hip wasn’t barking and the solitude was refreshing. The layout was wrapped around nature not artificially constructed like a lot of today’s courses. I’ll need to thank Ben this week when I see him.

With a beautiful course, a new grip, and a couple of fresh minds we should be on the proper end of the scoreboard again.

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