|An Afternoon with Chi Chi Rodriguez|
|Written by BRUNO|
Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico - While playing the par 5 fourth at the newly renovated East Course at Dorado Beach, I looked to my right and observed a figure flying by in a golf cart, I thought one of three things: a)Holy cow that's Chi Chi Rodriguez, or b)That's a Chi Chi wanna be - of which there must be thousands in this area or c)The croissant I just ingested is rebelling and is causing significant hallucinations.
My playing partner Tom Paliuca and I soon learned that it was indeed the swash buckling sword twirling matador himself.When we made the turn and arrived at the 10th tee, Chi Chi Rodriguez was actually awaiting our arrival . . . imagine that!
We introduced ourselves, enjoyed a few pleasantries, took a few photos and proceeded to play the next 4 holes with the Puerto Rican legend.Chi Chi looks good, can still play and most of all can still throw around a few one liners to entertain.A few gems he tossed towards my playing companion Tom: "Why are you teeing it up way on the corner of the tee box, you are making a dogleg out of a straight hole". Then after watching Tom pull an iron left, Chi Chi went Yogi Berra on us and threw out this gem: "You have too much weight on both feet", I was a little slow to get the analogy/joke, then realized he threw that fastball right past me, (Chi Chi is still sharp as a tack on the eve of his 76th Birthday).
I playfully asked, Chi Chi who has it better than you? he replied "Tiger". Before the scandal or after Cheech? "I don't care I'll take either one, but I think he's playing with a club that's too long . . . when he had that 43 inch driver years ago, he hit fairways and was impossible to beat".
Chi Chi gave me a few tricks about putting breaking putts, some fairly unorthodox methods that I was reluctant to try, but upon his insistance I instantly drained a few, validating what he had already known and tested under the pressure for decades previous.
He had glowing words for Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus: "You better not call him Jack when you meet him, he's Mr.Nicklaus . . . Jack is a wonderful human being".The Puerto Rican who faced Nicklaus in a Monday playoff at the 1991 U.S Senior Open, went on about the Golden Bear,"When Jack played his practice rounds, he would never putt out . . . so I said, Jack why don't you putt out on the greens"? Jack said, "If I putt them now and miss, I'll remember that and some doubt might creep in".
"Arnold was our meal ticket, when he didn't play well the interest wasn't there (from the people), he was sooo great for the game of Golf". I felt compelled to chime in with my own appreciation for Mr.Rodriguez, "so were You Cheech", he looked me straight in the eye and said "yeah but not like that guy was."
Chi Chi told us that Laurence Rockefeller's favorite hole was the 11th, because of the way the tall palms on the right side of the hole cast shadows on the fairway in the late afternoon, and how Sam Snead once hit driver off the tee, and off the deck to reach the par 5 in two at the World Cup of Golf many years ago.He said he and Snead played many practice rounds together, "We played a match 2-2-2, he would beat me like a drum . . . then take me to lunch.The other pros would come up to me and say, Sam took your money again! I figured I paid a couple of bucks for a 4 hour lesson with Sam Snead, what a deal!"
Chi Chi and I spoke briefly about our common family origins in Trujillo Alto (a small town about an hour from Dorado, where both my Grandmother's family and his Mother were raised).I told him that my mother's side of the family would be proud that I had gotten to know him (a true Puerto Rican icon), he simply replied "Thank You for that".
The last time I'd been to Dorado Beach was in '94, and the East had recently hosted the World Cup, but was in need of a facelift back then . . . . a facelift it received indeed (a full course review will post soon).
It was an honor to spend an afternnoon in Puerto Rico with the great Chi Chi Rodriguez.
A short video of Chi Chi playing a bunker shot on the 10th, and hitting his tee shot on the par 3-12th
Chi Chi will be in Florida in a few weeks, at which time LinksNation will cover the work he does with the kids at his foundation, and sit down for a Q & A interview.
Thank You to Simon Landon & Megan Godfrey from Kemper Lesnik.