The International Game of Golf
Comes to Myrtle Beach

Sixth in a series of daily first-person stories from the 32nd Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.

By Tony Leodora

To say there has been an assortment of very different champions in the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship is an understatement.

Over the years the championship trophy has been hoisted by a left-hander, a woman, two years in a row by a marvel in his early 70s who regularly shoots his age, high handicappers and low handicappers.

Now add a 28-year-old first-time participant, who speaks very little English and was living in Korea 10 years ago.

Tae Kim, who now lives in Richmond, Virginia and works as a cook, brought his 26 handicap to the tournament and wiped out the field in his flight. His handicap was adjusted down to a 20 for the championship round at the Dye Course at Barefoot Resort. It didn’t matter.

Kim showed a steady all-around game, recorded two net-eagles and posted a net round of 65 to edged Steve Locke, a 3-handicap, by two shots.

Asked if he enjoyed his first participation in the World Am, he said, “Yes.”. Asked if he was coming back next year to defend his title, he also replied, “Yes.” Due to the language barrier, further details were not readily available.

But it was quite apparent that Kim portrays the picture of optimism, when it comes to the game of golf. Through dedication and application, any golfer can find a fast improvement curve that can result in a championship – especially in a handicap event.

Jeff Diehl, head golf professional at the Dye Course, marveled at Kim’s ability to handle a golf course that has a reputation as one of the tougher layouts in the Myrtle Beach area.

“We set up the course with what we considered to be six easy hole locations, six medium ones and six hard ones,” explained Diehl. “Handling the difficult holes required some real skill.” According to Diehl, Kim’s gross score of 85 would have been admirable for a lot of 10 handicappers under these championship conditions..

The International Game of Golf
Comes to Myrtle Beach

Fifth in a series of daily first-person stories from the 32nd Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.

By Tony Leodora

Making it to the finish line is often quite the accomplishment. In my case, after a month of back spasms, it was the ultimate goal.

Not only did I cross the finish line, but I did it in style – posting the best round of the week. My 82 was the fifth-best number posted on the day and it moved me up to 22nd place in the flight … above the halfway point, protecting my history of mediocrity in the world’s largest golf tournament.

But the story of the day was the showing by the entire staff at The Tradition, the Ron Garl-designed course at the southern end of the Grand Strand. They made everyone feel that they were happy to have the World Amateur Handicap Championship at their property.

For starters, the bag drop crew was extremely organized and had players and their equipment on carts without delay. Then, when the players went inside for what is usually termed a “continental breakfast” – doughnuts and coffee – they were greeted with a hot and delicious meal.

Dessert proved to be a golf course in perfect condition. The Tif Dwarf Grass greens were the best I saw during my entire week in Myrtle Beach.

Head Professional Kevin Williamson and staff seemed genuinely happy to host the players. More than a few players commented on the quality of the total experience.

In my case, the experience was made even better by another great group of fellow competitors.

Mike Gibson from Wilmington, North Carolina was the baby of the group, at age 55. He played like a young pup, posting a marvelous 78 with three birdies. The retired firefighter from Virginia Beach now lives at the very north end of the Grand Strand and plays golf almost every day.

Ron Pacino is a retired lumber industry teamster from Chicago. He started the day well but fell prey to the tight fairways at Tradition on his closing nine and finished with a 91.

James Radford was the comedian of the group and kept everyone in good spirits. The native of North Philadelphia retired after a 35-year career in the United States Air Force and now lives in Fort Washington, Maryland.

He can hit the ball very hard but has a Charles Barkley-like hitch in his swing and spent most of the day in the woods. He never stopped smiling, despite suffering through a round of 101.

Jeffery Green won our flight by four strokes, with rounds of 80-78-81—239. He advances to Friday’s battle of flight champions at the Dye Course at Barefoot Resort.

The International Game of Golf
Comes to Myrtle Beach

Fourth in a series of daily first-person stories from the 32nd Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.

By Tony Leodora

A steamy, warm day in Myrtle Beach brought almost 3,400 players to a variety of golf courses … and a variety of conditions. Most were drying out after Monday’s torrential rain and many allowed players back on the fairways with their golf carts – a move that was cheered wildly by the masses.

My flight played the Greg Norman course at Barefoot Resort. We were allowed to ride on about half of the fairways. Even this partial relief helped the pace of play. Our round took 5 hours and 14 minutes – a reduction of 19 minutes over Tuesday.

The Norman Course was in exceptional condition – including the greens that were recently converted to Champion UltraDwarf Grass.

Despite the improvement in conditions, the more difficult nature of the Norman Course led to a rise in scores. In a flight of players with handicap indexes between 8.4 and 8.9 there were five players with scores over 100. Another 15 topped 90.

Frankly, the course was set up too long for senior golfers. We played a 6,400-yard layout in sopping wet conditions. It played more like 6,800 yards.

Bucking the trend, I improved 10 shots from my first day, shooting 85 and moving up to 30th place in the flight. In fact, the 85 was the 10th-best score of the day in my flight. The ball-striking was much improved, but a balky putter that was traumatized by the exceptionally poor greens of the first day, kept me from really making a move.

The best news was the continued improvement of my injured back – thanks to Motrin, muscle relaxers, heat patches, massages and physical therapy. Hopefully, we are seeing the light at the end of a dark tunnel.

Another bit of good news was the continued luck with exceptional fellow competitors. We only had a threesome today but the company was enjoyable.

Randy Minchew – from Columbia, Missouri – is the owner of the Missouri Golf Post, an online golf magazine. Obviously, we had a lot in common and plenty of topics for conversation.

He played a steady game most of the day – until a blow-up on his final hole. It took a 30-foot putt to salvage an 8 – leading to an exclamation of “whipped cream on (garbage).” He took the disaster that led to a round of 88 well, saying, “I really wanted to make that put, because an 8 is better than a 9.”

Our other player was Pete Wilson, from Lake Mary, Florida. He is a member at the Tom Fazio-designed Legacy Club at Alaqua Lakes, a course I know very well.

Due to a case of the “lefts” he got off to an awful start, then suddenly hit his stride. He shot 38 on the Norman back nine, then topped the round on Hole No. 1 (our final hole) with a birdie. His round of 82 was tied for 4th-best of the day.

Wilson owns a furniture business – Furniture Business Interiors. He admitted that his trucks were once stopped by the Federal Bureau of Investigation because they had the letters F-B-I emblazoned on the side. They had to be repainted to include the entire name.

Those are the details you discover during a 5 hour and 14 minute round of golf. At least I didn’t fill the time with an overabundance of wayward shots.

The International Game of Golf
Comes to Myrtle Beach

Third in a series of daily first-person stories from the 32nd Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.

By Tony Leodora

A major accomplishment took place on the Rees Jones course at SeaTrail Resort today. I finished 18 holes of golf.

It was only the second time in a month I was able to finish an 18-hole round, due to recurring back spasms.

Despite a sopping wet golf course, playing at 6,400 yards that actually played more like 6,800 yards, and a 5 hour and 33 minute round due to a restriction to cart paths only … the back held up reasonably well. My game did not.

An opening nine that showed the rust, and a closing nine of disgusting putting resulted in a 95.

Despite a score that left me in 41st place out of 50 golfers in my flight (Age 50 to 59, handicaps between 8.4 and 8.9), there were a number of plusses on the day.

I had not played the Rees Jones course at SeaTrail in a number of years, since the Golf Writers Association of America used to visit Myrtle Beach annually for its championship. New ownership has taken over the property and their efforts are noticeable.

Beautiful new cart paths run through the entire course. The fairways are the finest in Myrtle Beach. The rough is equally excellent, consistent and at a playable length. The tees are very good. The only negative was the greens. They seem in excellent health and of good quality … but somebody forgot to cut them. They were the slowest I have played in many years. Everybody in our foursome had trouble getting putts to the hole.

However, that problem is easily fixed and I expect the quality of the greens to be up to the rest of the golf course the next time I visit – which will be soon.

Even the extreme length of the round was manageable, thanks to – once again – an excellent pairing. I have met quality people every year in the World Am.

Mike Taylor is a retired union laborer from Chicago. He had no problem admitting his major activity is playing golf almost every day. It was obvious he was a good player but he also struggled with the greens and shot a 94.

Chip Muller from Chattanooga, Tennessee is a financial planner. In his earlier career he was a civil engineer who designed the west canal in New Orleans. He was quick to point out that it stood up to Hurricane Katrina. The east canal was the one that failed.

Muller played a very consistent round and shot 83 to tie for 8th place.

Dennis Tremblay from Ottawa, Canada was the star of the foursome. He hit quality shots all day and actually made a couple of nice birdie putts to post a 79 that put him in third place. Tom Hilling shot a 73 to lead by five shots. Tournament officials already cut his handicap three shots and will watch him closely for the rest of the week.

And, for the rest of the week, my personal goal is to finish all 18 holes on the remaining two rounds.

The International Game of Golf
Comes to Myrtle Beach

Second in a series of daily first-person stories from the 32nd Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.

By Tony Leodora

Ask any parent. There is nothing worse than a rainy day during a week of vacation at the seashore. Keeping restless children busy can be a major chore.

Now imagine the task faced by the organizers of the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship. At nine o’clock on Monday morning, almost 3,400 “golf children” paced the grille rooms of golf courses, watched the weather channel, kept staring at the sky, stared at the puddles of water on the greens.

All to no avail.

Torrential rains throughout the morning cancelled the first round of play at all but a few of the many golf courses hosting the first day of this week-long event. The ones who did play, played in the worst imaginable conditions.

My flight convened at River Oaks GC, just off Route 501 in the middle of Myrtle Beach. Most of the players passed the long wait for the cancellation notice by drinking coffee, eating doughnuts and telling stories.

Mike Murray, from the Ron Jaworski-owned Running Deer GC in Elmer, NJ, said it best.

“I came down here to play,” said Murray. “I look forward to this all year long. But I was really happy when they announced the cancellation this morning. It’s no fun playing in driving rain.”

In an effort to calm the restless golfers, organizers posted a message on the official tournament website. It read: “Brighten up. It’s always sunny at the 19th Hole.”

The reference was to the nightly huge celebration of golf in the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. Feed the golfers. Give them an open bar. Provide some entertainment … and a day of rain is quickly forgotten.

The International Game of Golf
Comes to Myrtle Beach

First in a series of daily first-person stories from the 32nd Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.

By Tony Leodora

For the ninth consecutive year GolfTalk Live is covering the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Championship. It is a very full week of work … and play. Just me and nearly 3,400 of my closest friends, playing on 59 golf courses and partying at the World’s Largest 19th Hole every night.

Once again I will attempt to compete in this event and, at the same time, bring some of the stories, color and drama of the event to our listeners … and the readers of this blog.

That means baring my soul every day in a first-person story about what is taking place in my flight. This year that flight is the Age 50-to-59 group, with handicap indexes between 8.4 and 8.9.

This year I limp into the event coming off a low back injury. A series of spasms caused me to be unable to finish a number of rounds of golf throughout August. Finally, I shut my game down totally for 10 days leading into this event – hit balls for two days after arriving early in Myrtle Beach, then actually played a full round of golf over the weekend immediately preceding the start of the competition.

Whether the back holds up through four straight days of play … time will tell.

And, there is also the question of the weather. Remnants of Tropical Storm Erika could make for a very soggy week along the Grand Strand.

Key to success is preparation … so I have taken a number of steps.

  • First was a week of chiropractic care to try to repair the muscle damage in the low back area.
  • Second was a series of therapeutic massage treatments.
  • Third was the purchase of some heat patches, to be worn in the low back area.
  • And fourth was stocking a good supply of Advil in my golf bag.
  • Oh, and about the weather. During registration at PGA Tour Superstore, I purchased a pair of rain gloves.
  • Finally, I studied my course assignments for the week – River Oaks, the Rees Jones course at SeaTrail, the Greg Norman course at Barefoot Resort, and Tradition. Having played all of them in the past, I enter the week of competition feeling pleased about where I will be playing.

With all of that preparation in place, let the competition begin.

By Tony Leodora

The results are in.

Another year of exhaustive research; another strenuous week of testing everything new; another three days of pounding the miles of aisles at the world’s largest golf show … and ten new products have made one of the most coveted lists in the golf industry.

Once again “Tony’s Top Ten” attempts to bring you in touch with items that caught our eye at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando … that stopped us in our tracks … that put us into “gotta have it” mode.

And, as usual, the lists contain an assortment of clubs, apparel and accessories. If it caught our eye, it made the list.

There were more than 1,000 showing their wares during the week. More than 200 were new to the PGA Merchandise Show. And 41,000 buyers, industry leaders and PGA professionals from 79 countries were there to “kick the tires” of what was on display.

Finally, the show covered one million square feet of interactive exhibit and demonstration space at the Orange County Convention Center. Therefore, it was not an easy task to come up with the number of products worthy of making “Tony’s Top Ten.”

So, sound the trumpets – here is this year’s list:

  1. Antigua Leader Quarter-Zip Pullover – When it comes to a combination of fashion and performance, Antigua has hit a home run with its latest pullover. The Leader pullover has a luxurious silky-smooth feel, yet exhibits amazing durability – the result of a poly-spandex blend. It is extremely comfortable to wear on the golf course. All of the latest colors of the high-fashion world are available.

  2. Tour Edge E8 Tour Fairway Wood – Accomplished golfers discovered long ago the secret of Tour Edge fairway woods. Now they have a new weapon. The Tour Edge Exotics E8 Tour adjustable fairway wood delivers an unsurpassed level of excellence. The E8 Tour combines a tour-inspired design, a state-of-the-art manufacturing process, upgraded materials – and all with more loft adjustability options than the competition. The concept behind the E8 Tour stemmed from the need for an adjustable fairway wood on Tour. Featuring loft options from 12 to 15.5 degrees, along with a more upright lie angle, this level of versatility allows Tour players – and the discerning amateur — to dial in the ideal ball flight.

  3. Srixon Z-Series Golf Balls – The new Z-Star and Z-Star XV golf balls are an improvement on an already proven line of balls. The new models feature a significant improvements in both core and cover. The cover features the second generation Spinskin, which produces more friction for increased spin on shots to the green, and the new 324 dimple pattern with patented Speed Dimples. The Energetic Gradient Growth Core combines with the new cover to produce the best performing tour ball Srixon has ever made.

  4. High Heat Driver It is already being called “the longest driver nobody ever heard of” … but that tag won’t last for long. The High Heat driver was the talk of the PGA Show. It was developed by Dean Knuth – a golf innovator who invented the slope system for golf courses. After five years of research, he is launching a driver that was developed specifically for amateurs. Claims of longer and straighter have been substantiated on the range and indoor testing locations. Best part about this driver that has a retail price of $399 – it includes a choice of premium shaft from Aldila or Fujikura, free shipping, no sales tax … and it has a pre-launch special price of $299 to those who mention GolfTalk Live when ordering. In addition, there is a 30-day money back guarantee.

  5. Infamous 18 Holes of Golf – In the 1980s a talented artist, Bud Chapman, created a series of paintings that took the golf world by storm. His “Infamous 18 Holes of Golf” portrayed some of the wildest and exciting fictional golf holes ever imagined. The paintings have stood the test of time as a golf icon. Now high-quality prints are available at affordable prices. One or two of these prints is a must-for any golf themed office. The entire set would be a great addition to a golf clubhouse or golf-themed sports bar.

  6. PosiSet for Putters – The new rules regarding anchored putting are forcing golfers to change their preferred style. And, for many, fear of the return of the “yips” is a real problem. Counter-balanced putters, slightly longer putters with extra weight in the butt end of the club, has been a remedy for some. But the cost of experimenting with these new putters can be prohibitive. Greenkeepers, the Philadelphia-based company that has brought a number of unique and helpful inventions to the game of golf, has a solution. The PosiSet-for-Putters insert, which easily attaches to any putter, provides the same feel as counterbalancing … for only $9.99.

  7. Corqe Grips and Accessories – Every once in a while a product just looks so cool, it stops you in your tracks. That’s exactly what happened at the Corqe booth, a new company displaying a line of golf club grips and accessories made from cork that is harvested in Portugal. Not only are the products – especially the putter grips – stylish and functional, they are environmentally friendly. The cork trees are not cut down. Instead the bark is shaved off and harvested, and it replenishes over the years. The grips have a rich feel and are very durable. The use of cork on accessories, such as golf bags, gives a luxurious look to the products.

  8. Bridgestone e Series Golf Balls – Bridgestone Golf has made quite a dent in the market share of the golf ball industry in recent years. Many tour professionals claim they are the best golf balls being produced today. Their new E Series golf balls now have the amateur golfer in mind. They cure deficiencies in golfers’ games so well, they should be dispensed by prescription only. The new e5 ball produces a higher flight, for golfers who need to carry the ball farther. The e6 ball has an anti-side spin inner layer that produces a straighter flight. The e7 ball has a spin-reducing inner layer that produces a more piercing flight. Let the Tour pros play with the golf ball designed for them. The new e Series golf balls are made for amateurs.

  9. Sunice – Sunice is a Canadian-based company that has been a leader in both golf and ski outerwear for years. Their technology has been used to create uniforms for the Ryder Cup, President’s Cup and Solheim Cup teams. Their latest creation is the lightest, warmest piece of outerwear on the market. The Derby jacket is down-filled, but don’t picture the old over-stuffed models. This jacket is so sleek and light that provides as much performance as warmth. Stretch inserts through the key areas of the jacket make it move with the player. It is a perfect addition to the wardrobe of the avid golfer … because not every day on the golf course is 75 degrees and sunny.

  10. Super Stroke Grips – When golfers find something that works, they go for it in a big way. Nothing has been a bigger hit in recent years with competitive golfers than the oversized line of putter grips from Super Stroke. Probably the most visible of the PGA Tour golfers using oversized Super Stroke grips are Jordan Speith and Jason Dufner. But a large number of the top pros can be seen with the big, round grips on their putters. The secret has been parallel technology on the grips, without taper, that allows golfers to relax, have less tension and make a better stroke. And Super Stroke now makes a counter-balanced grip that can be installed on a player’s favorite putter. The Plus Series grips have counter core technology. A 50-gram weight can be inserted in the butt end of the grip.

Tony’s Test Drives

One in a series of occasional reviews of courses, destinations, equipment or products by our traveling golf writer and host of the GolfTalk Live radio show.

By Tony Leodora

When people think of taking a golf trip to Arizona their minds immediately track to the famous courses in Phoenix or Scottsdale. Those areas hold a special breed of familiarity with golfers from all over the country.

No knock against either location. They have made their mark in traveling golf circles for decades.

But, if you are looking for something a bit different … a bit more adventurous … a bit more tied to the rugged Old West, look slightly south to Tucson.

For years Tucson has provided an outstanding assortment of golf courses – most of them nestled in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. In the last decade, the Tucson area received a major shot in the arm with the opening to two spectacular resorts.

The first was Dove Mountain, with the Jack Nicklaus-designed course that has hosted the World Match Play Championship the last few years.

The second was Sewailo, which opened in 2013. It is nestled up against the spectacular Casino del Sol Resort, which is part of the Pascua Yaqui Indian Nation.

While Dove Mountain has gained worldwide coverage, thanks to the PGA Tour event, Sewailo is just making its mark. And that is why it was chosen as the host site for the 17th Freedom Trail Challenge – an amateur event that has been around the world and across the country.

This year’s event pitted two 12-man teams – one representing the North and one representing the South.

“A lot of the players had never been to Tucson for golf before,” said Joe Sosnowski, veteran captain of the North team. “It was a whole new experience for them.”

And a very rewarding experience.

The casino is a very nice, mid-size casino – with an assortment of excellent dining options. The steakhouse was a favorite of many visitors. Of course, if visitors are looking for authentic Mexican food, Tucson is the place.

“The Tucson Tourist Board gave me an amazing fact about the Mexican restaurants of the Tucson area,” said veteran golf writer Bill Huffman, who coordinated the trip for the Freedom Trail Challenge Team, as well as a group of visiting golf media members. “They told me that if you lined up the Mexican restaurants in Tucson, side by side, it would stretch for more than 20 miles.”

But golfers do not live by food alone. They need a comfortable place to rest their weary bones after a long day of golf.

The hotel, with its newly opened tower, was spectacular. The rooms ranged from large … to very large. Most provided stunning views of the golf course and the surrounding hills.

All of this made for entertaining nights … but it was the golf during the day that sent the visitors home with an abundance of stories.

Four courses were chosen for the competition. They provided a nice variety of old and new … mountainous to relatively flat.

Randolph North was the first of the four courses. It dates back to 1924 and is one of the oldest courses in Arizona. A recent renovation has restored the luster to this gem.

It is more parkland style – than the typical target golf style of modern desert courses. There are large trees that line the fairways and a number of interesting water features. The course is operated as a municipal golf course and is one of the outstanding golf values of the area.

Westin La Paloma is a semi-private course that is only open to members and hotel guests. Designed by Jack Nicklaus in the mid-‘80s, it has 27 holes of golf cut out of the mountains.

The rugged terrain makes for many interesting shots … and some treacherous ones. There are a number of elevation changes that provide spectacular vistas of the golf course and the surrounding mountains. It is a pure desert experience.

Arizona National first opened under the name of The Raven at Sabino Springs. It was designed by Robert Trent Jones II in the mid-‘90s. The course fell on hard times and actually closed for a couple of years. Recent new ownership and renovations have brought it back in grand fashion.

The course abuts the Coronado National Forest and follows the rugged natural flow of the land across shady mesquite-lined gulches and rock outcroppings. The course has been home to professional golf events, as well as home course until recently for the University of Arizona golf teams.

Sewailo has only been open for two years but it is making quite a name for itself. It was designed by former PGA Tour player Notah Begay, who dedicated the course to his Native American heritage.

The course is gigantic in scope, with extra-large green complexes and holes that are generously separated from other holes. There are a number of natural and man-made water features on the golf course. The course measures 7,400 yards from the championship tees but there are five sets of tees, so golfers can pick their poison.

Overall, the trip to Tucson proved to be a great mix of entertainment, comfort and exceptional golf. Oh, and by the way, the North team pulled out a very close win over the South – providing another reason to tell stories once the players returned home.

The Black Cat Cigar Lounge on Germantown Pike in East Norriton has been the scene for a number of GolfTalk Live radio broadcasts – built around a Happy Hour party that usually includes food and plenty of Yuengling Beer. But the latest one had a spicy flair to it.

The inaugural Yuengling Chili Cook-Off was the theme for the GolfTalk Live Party on Thursday, November 6. Listeners were invited to bring in a sampling of their finest homemade chili to compete in a contest – with voting by the patrons on hand at Black Cat Cigars. The winner received a $50 gift certificate from Redstone American Grill.

Four contestants entered their chili in the contest. The reviews from those in attendance were extremely favorable for all of the entries. And the entries definitely were varied. There was a traditional chili, a turkey chili and a vegetarian chili. Each received first place votes.

But the overall winner was supplied by Nick Giovanangelo – better known as Nicky G, proprietor of Inside Jewelers on West Chester Pike in Broomall. No surprise to anyone who knows the man – the official Gastronome of GolfTalk Live – his entry was “Italian Chili.”

“I don’t want to sound like a one-trick pony, but all of my cooking usually has an Italian flair to it,” said Giovanangelo, upon receiving the first place prize. “It might not be traditional, but it definitely is tasty.”

Instead of the typical ground beef as a base for the chili, ground Maglio Italian sausage was substituted. In place of the typical array of beans, cannellini beans were used. Imported chopped San Marzano tomatoes were used to create the sauce. Of course, garlic was an important ingredient. Concessions to traditional chili recipes were made, with the use of spices such as cumin and chili powder.

The final result was a chili that burst with flavor, had the right amount of spiciness and definitely paired well with the Yuengling products on display that night – especially the Black and Tan and the Chesterfield Ale.

As a holiday gift to GolfTalk Live listeners, Nicky G has provided the award-winning recipe below:
1 can of San Marzano Tomatoes
olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 onion
onion powder
1 lb. hot Italian sausage (skinned)
1 lb ground meat (80%-20%)
2 tbsp. chili powder
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. ketchup
1 tbsp. sriracha
2 cans of white kidney beans (drained)
2 oz. red wine

Cut onion and garlic cloves, submerge in the bottom of pan with olive oil and render.
Once rendered, pour into a crock pot or similar, then pour entire can of San Marzano tomatoes into the same pot.
Brown the ground meat and hot Italian sausage, then pour into the same pot.
Cook for one hour stirring occasionally.
Put the two cans of kidney beans into the same pot.
Cook another 7-10 minutes.
Add all spices and stir for two minutes or less.
Add the 4 tbsp. of ketchup, 1 tbsp. of sriracha and 2 oz. of red wine and stir another two minutes or less.

Tony’s Test Drives
One in a series of occasional reviews of courses, destinations, equipment or products by our traveling golf writer and host of the GolfTalk Live radio show.

By Tony Leodora

There are a number of rewards that come with embracing the golfing lifestyle. At the top of the list is golf travel.

Seeing the country while playing the game of golf provides a never-ending treasure of rich memories. And those memories reach the highest level when visiting one of the great golf resorts of America.

There are a number of heralded resorts that offer all of the elements – multiple great golf layouts on one site, a variety of accommodations that range from comfortable to luxurious, outstanding restaurants, and plenty of other activities to fill the hours not spent on the golf course.

The names roll off the tongue – Pinehurst, Barefoot Resort in Myrtle Beach, Palmetto Dunes on Hilton Head Island, Doral and Innisbrook in Florida, Pebble Beach, Whistling Straits. The mere mention of these places transports golfers into daydream mode, and plants the seed for plans that will result in the next great golf trip.

Reynolds Plantation, in the lake country of Georgia – about 75 miles northeast of Atlanta – is one of those properties. In fact, after considering all of the factors, it might be at the top of the list.

Reynolds Plantation is a 10,000 acre collection of properties and golf courses developed along the picturesque shores of Georgia’s massive Lake Oconee. It is conveniently close enough to Atlanta, and all of its travel connections, despite seemingly being light years away from all of the hustle and bustle.

Twenty years ago it was a little known upstart of a golf resort that was tucked away in a very rural part of the Georgia countryside. With the addition of golf courses, a variety of accommodations, residential properties and acclaimed restaurants, it has grown into one of the most special golf locations in the country.

Of course, when talking about world-class golf resorts, every discussion must begin with the quality of the golf courses. Reynolds offers 99 holes of golf open to the public – plus another outstanding 18-hole private layout – all within the confines of the property. It is the ultimate combination of convenience and excellence.

“You would be hard-pressed to find this combination of outstanding golf and accommodations on one property anywhere in the world,” says Mark Lammi, director of golf operations at Reynolds Plantation. “Plus, with the variety of great golf courses, designed by great golf architects, you could play here for the rest of your life and never get bored.”

Lammi, a native of Easton, Pennsylvania, knows all about the attraction that Reynolds Plantation poses to golfers from the North. He studied the golf industry in the Penn State Professional Golf Management Program and it didn’t take long for him to decide that his golf future was on the shores of Lake Oconee.

“Once you make the move to Georgia’s lake country, you get stuck here,” Lammi admitted. The golf is the first attraction. Everything else solidifies the decision.”

The first golf course that started drawing attention to Reynolds Plantation was the Plantation Course – designed by Bob Cupp, with collaboration from famed professional golfers Fuzzy Zoeller and Hubert Green. It opened in 1988 and immediately shined the spotlight on Reynolds Plantation.

The Plantation Course used the rolling hills of the interesting natural terrain and combined it with vistas of beautiful Lake Oconee. The fairways were cut from among the towering pine trees and the layout demands shotmaking skills from the golfers. It is the shortest of all courses at Reynolds and is appealing to players of all skill levels.

Another Bob Cupp design, The Landing, actually predates the Plantation Course. At the time of its opening, in 1986, it was known as Port Armor and stood as one of the more difficult courses in Georgia. It was later purchased, the name was changed, and it was added to the Reynolds Plantation collection.

The Great Waters Course, a Jack Nicklaus Signature design, opened in 1992. It features the most holes (nine) directly on the shores of Lake Oconee of any course at Reynolds Plantation and immediately achieved a national reputation.

A renovation of the green complexes and the bunkering in 2009 enhanced the quality of the Great Waters Course. It recently was chosen to host the first-ever Big Break Invitational, a 72-hole made-for-television tournament that featured a select field of 40 past champions from the Big Break television show. It was televised live on The Golf Channel.

The National Course opened in 1997, featuring 18 holes of natural beauty designed by Tom Fazio. An additional nine holes were added in 2000. Fazio made use of impressive elevations, as well as some inspirational vistas of Lake Oconee to create an unforgettable experience.

Dense forests of hardwoods, pines and flowering wild dogwoods provide the backdrop to some of Lake Oconee’s most dramatic lakefront topography. An extensive renovation in 2014 included converting the greens to Champion Bermuda.

Rees Jones joined the all-star team of golf course architects at Reynolds Plantation in 2002, with the opening of his Oconee Course. Again, much of the lake comes into play on this challenging layout, but Jones added some additional dramatic features.

The Oconee Course is an idyllic sanctuary, providing a pure, undisturbed setting for golf. Jones added a series of small waterfalls, flowing from greenside creeks, that enhance the beauty at the same time they increase the difficulty. The finishing three holes are an unforgettable crescendo to the trip around the Oconee Course.

The Creek Club, designed by architect Jim Engh, opened in 2007 and provided a private course for both residents and visitors to Reynolds Plantation. It is a stark contrast to the rest of the courses at Reynolds Plantation, with distinctive bunkering and a more rugged look to the entire layout.

That assortment of world-class golf at Reynolds Plantation should be enough to attract avid golfers from around the world. But there is plenty more to the vacation and permanent lifestyle at Reynolds Plantation that has quickly made it so attractive.

The vacation options range from the highly rated Ritz Carlton Lodge – a relaxed version of the luxury that has become attached to the hotel chain’s reputation – to an assortment of cottage options.

There are 2, 3, 4 and 6-bedroom cottages and houses available for rent though the main office at Reynolds Plantation. All offer the lakeside charm and convenience that enhance a visit of any duration.

One phenomenon that has been a noticeable part of the vacation growth at Reynolds Plantation over the years is the fact that some of the vacationers don’t want to leave. In fact, a growing community of part-time and full-time residents has evolved along the shores of Lake Oconee. As a result more amenities in the way of shopping, dining and services have developed in the surrounding areas.

Speaking of dining, the evolution of the culinary scene at Reynolds Plantation has attracted national attention in recent years.

There is a great variety of restaurants on property. The Plantation Grille is the comfortable and casual “neighborhood” gathering spot that features nightly specials. The Landing Restaurant has signature dishes such as the “Nothing but Crab” Cake, Fish & Chips, and a down-home meatloaf. The Overlook at Great Waters is a second-floor dining room with huge glass windows that provide spectacular views of Lake Oconee. It features fine dining without exorbitant resort prices. Georgia’s Bistro specializes in local cuisine that capitalizes on seasonally fresh ingredients from local farmers.

The Linger Longer Steakhouse in the Oconee Clubhouse is operated by the Ritz Carlton and offers high-end steaks and an extensive wine list. Another Ritz restaurant is Gaby’s by the Lake – outdoor dining with a charming lake view. It features a quality modern menu for “come as you are” dining.

Once visitors are fed, rested and entertained by the great golf courses of the Reynolds Plantation property, they might be motivated to improve their golf games.

One way is by spending a few days with Top 100 instructor Charlie King and his staff at the Reynolds Golf Academy. King is known for his philosophy that does not re-make the golf swing from scratch, but attempts to improve the game of the golfer within their particular physical limitations. His approach is popular with golfers of all ages.

Or, golfers might turn to a technological approach to improving their game. That can be achieved with a visit to the Kingdom at Reynolds Plantation. This TaylorMade-operated facility originally only was available to PGA Tour professionals. Now it offers an unmatched custom golf club fitting experience for all ages and skill levels. Add the TaylorMade Putting Lab and the Kingdom brings the ultimate in technology to the masses.

Need something more to convince you of the quality of recreational life at Reynolds Plantation? There is great fishing, boating, tennis, hiking – or just relaxing in a hammock and enjoying the natural beauty of the Lake Oconee area. Put everything together and it becomes quite evident why Reynolds Plantation has skyrocketed to the top of the list of great golf resorts in America.