So I got a call from my pals out at UT Golf Club yesterday, needing a shot of #12. I dug up this one and thought about what a handy tool HDR has been for me and golf. I shot this one at high noon a few years ago. Before, shooting a golf course at any time other than “the golden hour” was a bad idea. Noon was out of the question. Not anymore. You real estate marketers remember this when you’re told you can’t shoot in the middle of the day.
I got an email last night from Tina Bradley-Mayers that her father had passed away. Jackson Bradley was a dear friend to me, and although I didn’t see him all that much, we’d always pick up like no time had passed. He helped me out with my golf swing when we first met in 1986 at The Hills of Lakeway. And again at Riverhill in Kerrville. Then he was kind enough to sit down and tell me stories of his life in golf for an article in Austin Golf Magazine in 2004. After our interview, he insisted we go out and play nine holes at Austin Country Club. (That’s a shot up there of him approaching the 6th green in our match that day.) I was 39 and a 0.4 handicap. Mr. Bradley was 84 and was showing signs of Parkinson’s. We talked about how it really only affected his putting, and if he could time it right, he could still putt fairly well. He shot 37 and beat me by 2, and while I was grinding my ass off, I feel certain that he was toying with me.
Rest in Peace, Mr. Bradley. See you on the other side, where I’ll be calling for a re-match.
But this guy does not. In fact, Jhonattan Vegas will be one of the best golfers to ever play the game. I’ve played with great golfers (Brian Bateman, Bill Rogers, Joe Ogilvie, Wes Short, Brian Gay, Omar Uresti, Bob Estes, Tony Jacklin, Steve Stricker and a bunch of great players you’ve never heard of), but I’m not sure any of them have or had the potential this guy has. I know Coach Royal said something like, “potential just means you ain’t done it yet,” and he’s right. JV here ain’t won the US Open or the Masters yet or a whole bunch of majors, but he will. Why? Because he has a rare combination of power, finesse, desire, intellect and attitude. He’s extremely likable. He’s kind, funny, smart, authentic and plays golf on a completely different level than 99% of everyone else. I’m not sure what he shot yesterday out at UT Golf Club, where we played in their 2009 Pro-Pro-Scratch-Scratch with UTGC’s Corey Lundberg and Longhorn golf team junior Bobby Hudson (who’s also a terrific player, genuinely kind man and UTGC course record holder), but JV played the game with confidence, power, talent and intellect. And he played like a kid, having fun the whole time. I could write a good-size book about the few hours I spent with this guy. He finished 63rd on the Nationwide Tour money list, which means he’ll be back there playing the 2011 season, unless he makes it through Q-School. He’s playing in China in a couple of weeks for his home country (Venezuela) in the World Cup. (This shot of him was taken four years ago at the 2005 Austin Men’s City Championship at Morris Williams GC.)
You heard me. So go see this handsome fella here. Yep, that’s Chuck Cook, and he has joined the instruction team out at UT Golf Club. I watched him give some tips to the boys there on how to use all that technology they have out there, and it was a sublime combination of technology, experience, hard work, intelligence and simplicity. I wanted to put down the Nikon and get strapped in. But I prefer to play the game instead of study the nuances of my golf swing. At least right now. The minute I make a bunch of putts and shoot 80 is when I head out Quinlan Park Road and hang on to Chuck’s pantsleg until he agrees to diagnose me.
I stopped by the 8th green at Lakecliff Country Club on the way home from my D-Crain shoot on Tuesday and got this one.
I’m not sure if he was ever in the PGA of America, but the late Larry Trader managed Willie’s golf course for years, doing all the stuff that golf pros do. I ran across this shot of him I got back in 2004, a few years before he died, and it remains my favorite portrait. Probably because I knew Larry, and we’d spent a couple of hours together on this day talking about Willie and Evel Knievel and Ray Benson and Ear Campbell and Coach Royal and all the things that happened out there at Pedernales and on the road. And because I know that he bummed that very cigarette there off my friend Mopar, who today will give a few golf lessons at Ascarate Park in El Paso. I never asked Larry what happened to that finger.
Just got back from a weekend shoot at Cordillera Ranch. They opened their new clubhouse, which is, in keeping stride with the way they do things out there, BAD ASS. One of the above shots will make the cover of Cordillera Ranch Living, and while the final pick will be up to the editors and art directors, I ask you: Which one do you like best?
Here’s the main dining room in the clubhouse, which looks out across the first fairway and 40 miles of Hill Country up toward Sisterdale and Luckenbach. They were beginning to move in the furniture while I was there. You Cordillera Ranch members sure are going to have a nice place to eat/drink/settle bets/whatever. Not sure, but I think Mike Marsh is responsible for this incredible building.
Cart Jockeys. They’re called that, because most of the time they’re speeding around the property in golf carts, and they get so good at driving them, they look like true athletes. They’re unmistakable. Sweat-stained golf shirt, khaki shorts with a dirty towel hanging from them, one foot dangling out of the cart, accelerator on the floor, one hand on the wheel and the other on a walkie-talkie. It’s a tight-knit fraternity. At least at Barton Creek in the early ‘90’s it was. Twenty or thirty guys, the occasional girl, most in school at UT, ACC, or SWT. Cleaning golf clubs, storing and fetching golf bags, parking cars, washing and prepping golf carts and shagging range balls for the who’s-who of Central Texas. For a college kid hoping to break into the golf business and become a PGA Professional, it was a dream job. That is, if you’re not talking about money. Summertime pay was good, but when winter rolled around, you might take home less than $400 a month. My share of rent at the two-bedroom apartment where five of us lived was $210. Winter was tough. But we got to play the Fazio course, something even some the richest men in town couldn’t do. My pledge class included some who went on to become lawyers, publishers, doctors, PGA Tour players, drug dealers, millionaires and crack-addicts. We worked under the magic spell of one simply called Mule. Some of you know him. A great motivator and one of the finest PGA Professionals I’ve ever met, yet rarely recognized by the very association he served. Initially, we felt betrayed when Mule left us for bigger things, but we soon realized he was not unlike any of us. We all wanted bigger things.
MEETING BEN (originally published in Austin Golf magazine, April 2003)
As I swung open the back door of the shiny black Range Rover in the parking lot of the Crenshaw Course at Barton Creek Resort, I knew this would be a good job. Inside was a big black Buick golf bag with the name Ben Crenshaw stitched proudly upon it. The feeling of multiple epiphany when it’s almost too much to take? Seeing the bag was enough for me, but as the driver door swung open, I realized what was about to happen. I was seconds away from meeting the one person who made me want to be a golf pro. I’d grown up watching Ben, idolizing his game and his putting. I thought to myself… What are you going to say? Don’t drop his golf bag. Don’t pick up his putter and start swinging it around like a madman. Don’t say something stupid. Don’t slam his fingers in the door.
As he came around back, he gave me a genuine smile, handshake and “G’Mornin, pods. You’re new here, aren’t you? I’m Ben.” I felt like a schoolgirl. Did he actually think he had to introduce himself? I shook his hand and said, “Yes I am. First day. It’s an honor to meet you, Mr. Crenshaw.” He replied, “Call me Ben, uh …….”. I realized I hadn’t told him my name. (Imagine Chris Farley interviewing a guest. (Stupid, stupid!!!) I told him my name, laughed, and finished my job of setting up his golf cart, all without injuring anyone or breaking anything. He waved and drove off toward the first tee.
I saw him several times during and after my stint as a cart jockey, but his kind, genuine demeanor that day is something I’ll always treasure. They say you remember where you were when big things happen. When Ben Crenshaw won The Masters in 1995, I was five longnecks deep in a smoky bar in Singer Island, Florida after missing another cut in a mini-tour event. I somehow felt connected to him when he sank the final putt. I cried with you, Ben.
I like the truth, mostly. Especially in a photograph. But there are times when the truth gets in the way of the sale, without being deceptive. Mike Nolen at Falconhead Golf Club asked me to come out and shoot the newly landscaped 17th hole, which you see here. The best shot seemed to be from up on the hill left of the tee, but from up there, you get a good view of Lake Travis High School back there behind the trees. You don’t see it from the tee. But you also don’t see the surface of the green from the tee, which makes it a visually intimidating shot.
The point here is that while the top photo isn’t completely truthful, it shows the landscape better because the viewer isn’t distracted by something else. I wonder which one you like better. I know which one I do.