January Golf: Two Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunities

The skies were blue, the sun was shining, and the closely shorn fairways were a little damp… Sounds like any day in May or September on one of Wisconsin’s many great golf courses. This day was January 7, though. The temperature was 34 degrees, the cart paths were a little icy, and the ground was rock hard at The Bull at Pinehurst Farms in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin.

After a 52-degree day spent receiving texts and emails while at work from reopening area courses on Friday, I sent out a feeler to some friends to see if I could find a playing partner for the following day. Our unseasonably warm weather was supposed to continue into the weekend, and I was optimistic about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play January golf in Wisconsin. My good friend, Adam Altis, was up for the adventure.

January 7 is supposed to be the heart of winter in Wisconsin, and it was certainly cold enough to be. But the ground is meant to be covered in snow, and fortunately for us, it was not. The sun was shining, though, making the cold air tolerable, and I even got a good laugh out of it when an errant tee shot on the second hole bounced off the ice on the pond and nearly re-found the fairway.

Hole 5: Par 4 (436/404/388/361/308)

After unsuccessfully trying to find ways to get tees in the ground without losing feeling in my fingertips, the talk of the round inevitably turned to how the two of us will be on another great golf course in just a few short weeks… This time in warm Southern California. That’s right, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play golf in Wisconsin in January will quickly be outdone by us participating in the 2012 Farmers Insurance Open Pro/Am.

Adam was invited to play in this esteemed event on January 25 at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California. And his wife can’t make the trip so I will be there, too, as his caddy. Needless to say, he was eager to get some swings in to avoid being too overpowered by whatever PGA Tour professional our group selects. A former two-handicap while working at such courses as Castle at the Bay (then Northern Bay) and Bulls Eye Country Club, Adam is a big hitter with a bevy of shots in his repertoire. He is also an agency owner for Farmers Insurance in Waukesha, and was selected as a representative of the company to team up with a pro to be named later.

So who are these pros to be named later, and how are they chosen? The pros are the majority of the PGA Tour and the world’s elite golfers, and each group’s professional will be chosen by their group at a gala event the night before the opening round. Each foursome, made up of regular folks like us who paid $6,500 per person to participate (ok, so not quite just like us), will be part of a lottery system, and when their team is drawn will draft their pro based on the players who have yet to be selected. Adam’s and my first hope is to partner up with Bubba Watson, who took home the open’s championship in 2011.

In case you missed it, Watson went on a remarkable late surge in last year’s Farmers Insurance Open, finishing the final round with a two-stroke lead on the tournament’s 54-hole leader, Phil Mickelson. Forced to lay up to the pond on 18, Mickelson had one shot from 84 yards out to force a playoff. Phil sent his caddy, Bones, to tend the pin as he struck his wedge. When the ball landed two feet left of the hole, Mickelson was assured a birdie and Watson a one-stroke come-from-behind victory.

The Farmers Insurance Pro/Am is one of my most anticipated golf articles yet. I am excited for the opportunity to socialize with the likes of the aforementioned lefties Watson and Mickelson, as well as my favorite golfer and Wisconsin golf legend, Steve Stricker, and a multitude of other PGA stars at one of the country’s all-time greatest golf venues in sunny California. It also doesn’t hurt that our hotel rooms on the course, airfare, rental car, food and drinks are all on the house, too!

But for now I’m on the frozen tundra of a fantastic Wisconsin golf course in 34-degree weather. While I don’t anticipate receiving any favorable bounces off water hazards at Torrey Pines (more commonly referred to as “miracles”), the Farmers Insurance Pro/Am is another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I can not pass up, and I am looking forward to keeping you all apprised of our adventure.

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