I traveled with Andy Faris, affectionately referred to as “Capiton,” to Canton Ohio for the WGC Championship at Firestone Country Club.
Faris, a retired airline pilot and member of the Ponderosa Club, has been my golf travel guide on trips all over the country and even the world. He makes travel easy and fun, loves to play as much as I do. In other words, we stayed less than a block from the NFL Hall of Fame and passed it twice every day, twelve times, and the only reason we even brought up the name on the sign was to complain about the negative influence on our hotel rate. The NFL pre-season apparently kicked off and hotel rates skyrocketed. There was not even a consideration though to engage in any activity outside of watching or playing golf.
So we walked and watched Wesley compete in his first ever World Golf Championship event on truly a remarkable golf course. His tee times were early each day which made it perfect for playing in the afternoon. Before touching on event highlights I must throw this in for any reader interested in a beautiful, unassuming region for a golf summer golf retreat. I have heard for decades this area is special and quite frankly, sad I waited so long. The climate, geography, vegetation, native grass and natural terrain is so beautiful. There are numerous venues that are spectacular while accessible too. This means rates are great and it’s easy to reserve tee times. Firestone would be a must but Good Park, which is public, could be a great compliment. Add Alliance Country Club and there are numerous others and there could be on a Hall of Fame course rotation.
Incidentally, I heard the NFL Hall of Fame is amazing and I would have visited if the courses were closed.
A highlight for me was the chance to visit briefly with Dustin and Austin Johnson on the range before they played. I have spoken with Dustin alone, but have not seen them together in over a decade if not longer. There is no doubt in my mind there is something special about their chemistry. I could easily be looking through the lens of parent who endorses and encourages love with strong bond between siblings, but when it comes to competing on the PGA Tour, your caddie is your partner. He or she is actually defined by the rules as part of your equipment. Austin and Dustin together are phenomenal. What I sensed in a brief exchange will inspire me to actually watch them more when I have the chance for this is what I know about competition golf. From a player’s perspective, your caddie MUST trust you, have faith in you, believe in you unconditionally. When there is brotherly love though, the element of love, faith, trust, and belief is huge. It’s an immeasurable advantage in golf at this level and in my opinion, the rest of the world better work hard for not only is Dustin in good form, he has appetite. He likes where he is, number 1 in the world, a lot. He is hungry, and considering the year’s final major is this week at Quail Hollow, a track that sets up perfect, Johnson is going to be tough to dethrone.
Dustin and my son Wesley both got their competitive starts in golf on the Tri-County Chapter of the South Carolina Junior Golf Association, which headquartered at the Ponderosa Club in Leesville, and both are in good form for the PGA Championship this week. While the course has a set up that heavily favors the long ball hitting of World’s #1 Johnson, my son Wesley’s strengths are his short game, imagination, and he learns fast while living tough conditions. Just playing in a professional major is difficult, and although this is only his third, and he has not faired well yet, once he gets acclimated, gets some traction, he can access his “performance capacity”. Wesley has a unique skill set which I will call “old school traditional.” What I mean by this is he loves creating and then hitting golf shots. So when Wesley taps into his “performance captivity” his creative imaginative and artistic side connect to his physical skill for laser like accuracy and control. Using his clubs like an artist would a brush, he curve-paints his ball into the hidden flags with touch and finesse, where the contemporary power player drops the sky-ball down atop the flag.
Both ways are effective but with the new equipment and ball, the space shots rule the PGA Tour.
Ricky Fowler has got to be a favorite this week because of his great play in the Wells Fargo on this layout. Jason Day has a spark about him that leads me to list him as another favorite.
The course has been rebuilt for this event and can’t wait to see how it tests the best.
Speaking of the best, be sure to stay tuned in next week to see which players made it to the South Carolina Junior Golf Association’s Thomas Todd All Star tournament.