By: Brian Faucheux, The First Tee of Greater New Orleans Board Secretary
On a wild, wet week last January a group of 12 avid golf friends embarked on a 3-day pilgrimage to the Holy Grail of golfing meccas, the Pebble Beach Golf Resort on the Monterrey Peninsula in California.
Despite weather forecast of 80-100% rain for the duration of the trip excitement ran high with our New Orleans/Baton Rouge contingent as we touched down in San Jose, CA.
Converging at the phenomenal Inn at Spanish Bay in the Pebble Beach Resort that evening from places all around the country – Philadelphia, PA; Neptune Beach, FL, Columbus, OH, to name just a few – our group talked up our upcoming rounds while a Scottish bagpiper played at dawn just outside the plaza overlooking the Pacific in the misty rain…how fitting!
First up was 18 holes the next day at Spyglass Hill, with its beautiful challenging holes overlooking the ocean and deer walking alongside us. After an unexpected, rainless front nine, the back got downright nasty – with wind gusts clocking 45 mph, horizontal blowing rain, and massive pines bending violently. When a tree snapped on Hole 15, blowing an electrical transformer (BOOM!) and sending some of our group running, we knew this was no ordinary round of golf. My foursome barely finished the 18th while winds howled, trees danced and our rain-soaked forecaddies made a frantic dash for the Clubhouse.
The afternoon round made for some interesting stories at our group dinner that night at The Tap Room in The Lodge, where a bronze trophy from the PURE Insurance PGA Champions Tournament benefiting The First Tee was on display.
We arrived early the next morning at the Pebble Beach Golf Links pro shop for some required shopping and photos. Inquiring inside, I was happy to learn that Norman Blanco, one of The First Tee of Greater New Orleans’ true success stories (and Pebble Beach Assistant Pro), was working as starter on “the first tee”…how appropriate! I was able to catch up with Norman before we teed off. Norman shared his love and appreciation for The First Tee of Greater New Orleans (and says “Hi” to everyone!), how he enjoys his dream job at Pebble and how proud his mother is back home in NOLA. Photos were taken with our First Tee New Orleans group – Christian Generes and Brad Reese (100 Friends Members), Ron Britsch (whose son is in TFTGNO at City Park) and me (Board Secretary). And, in case you’re wondering, Norman DOES get to play the Pebble course quite often – his low round…a 73! Norman and his amazing success represent the epitome of the values and mission that The First Tee organization is all about. It was an honor to meet him.
With rain expected mid-morning, we teed off early hoping to be able to play the course’s signature, scenic front nine ocean holes before donning our rain gear. It was not to be! As we turned towards the ocean the skies opened up, and like Bill Murray in the storm scene from Caddyshack, we braved the elements while experiencing the most spectacular golf holes in the USA…albeit under the most challenging conditions! It just made the experience all the more memorable.
The bad weather finally let up on the back but the angry ocean surf raged… producing 15-20 foot waves according to our seasoned caddie. We ended our round on the most famous finishing hole in golf – a stunning, 543 yard Par 5 that sweeps along the rugged rocky coast of the Pacific. Depositing a few balls in the rocks (for good luck) we made our way down the long fairway to the lush green. Walking off the 18th green after playing Pebble with good friends has to qualify as one of any golfer’s “bucket list” items.
The shared friendship, sense of adventure and love of golf PLUS the association of The First Tee with Pebble Beach made this special trip one to remember.
And if you haven’t already…definitely add Pebble to your bucket