Seven years ago this week, my wife and I were somewhere in the middle of Texas, four states and 20 parks into a road trip to visit and write about every full-season, affiliated Minor League Baseball team in the country. We drove by day, wrote by night, survived on too much fast food and too many ballpark hot dogs, bunked in so many Walmart parking lots.
I was back in Texas last week, joined this time by Golf Course Industry editor Guy Cipriano, for a far less epic but no less interesting trip: Inside a pair of packed days, we visited three clubs, talked with dozens of folks, snapped hundreds of photos — and managed to find some pretty delicious burnt ends in the process.
I started my first GCI trip at Trinity Forest Golf Club, the home of both the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Southern Methodist University golf teams, in south Dallas. The course is still new — it opened in the fall of 2016 — but has gained a reputation: Michael Jordan and George W. Bush are among its limited number of regulars. It is also essentially a links without shoreline, its turf fast and rolling, its expanses opened to the sun and the wind of Texas springs and summers. Gusts tend to average around 10 or 15 mph, according to Kasey Kauff, the director of agronomy, but they whipped around 30 when we walked the course. I might have lost my cap more than once.
Guy and I were on the grounds for about 10 hours — not quite a full day for most superintendents, assistants and crew members, but more time than most folks, I think — and talked with Kauff and his crew for a long story that will run in the May issue of the magazine. Great read. Hope you spend some time with it and enjoy it.
We traveled the next day to the new Texas Rangers Golf Club in Arlington, a municipal course operated since 1982 as Chester W. Ditto Golf Course and reopened earlier this year as the only Major League Baseball-branded course in the country. Arlington native John Colligan designed the renovation with his Colligan Golf Design partner Trey Kemp. The civic pride in Colligan’s voice during a cart ride over its 55 feet of elevation change was obvious and wonderful. He lives just miles from the course. He wants it to be loved even more than he wants the Rangers to win a World Series.
Superintendent Brick Scott wants the course to be loved, too, and I’ll dive more into his story and perspective in a story that will run in the magazine later this summer — maybe around the time the Rangers surprise everybody and gain some ground on the powerhouse intrastate rival Houston Astros.
We ended our Texas three-step that afternoon at TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas, the former home of the AT&T Byron Nelson, where Anthony Williams, the legendary director of golf course and landscape operations, and superintendent Cortland Winkle are still working on something special. The course is as beautiful as ever — even without 15,000 fans packed high on risers overlooking the 17th green — and they can take much of the credit.
We’ll have more on Williams, Winkle and the latest chapters in their stories soon, too. For now, though, a pair of quotes to sum of the first of my many trips to share stories with you about courses and, more important, people:
The first: “I told the people of my district that I would serve them as faithfully as I had done; but if not, they might go to hell, and I would go to Texas.” Davy Crockett said that not long after losing his reelection bid for a seat in Congress in late 1834, and it sums the pride every Texan — native or adopted — has in the state. Crockett had served his home state of Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives for six of the previous eight years but narrowly lost his seat to a former state senator named Adam Huntsman. Crockett did go off to Texas. He was dead less than two years later. We all know that story.
The second: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” That quote is attributed to Mark Twain, but odds are he never wrote nor said it. The sentiment remains, though. Get going. Do things. Maybe visiting 122 ballparks in 153 days isn’t your perfect road trip. Maybe you’d rather hit a new course every day for a winter, or test gear for a year, or bum through Scotland.
Whatever your dream — personal, professional, other — carve out the time and go do it.
And remember that Walmart parking lots are almost always open.
Matt LaWell is GCI’s managing editor.