Bruno's Blog

An Afternoon with Chi Chi Rodriguez PDF Print E-mail
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.









Four Days in Pinehurst, North Carolina PDF Print E-mail
Written by BRUNO   


The stunning 3rd at the Dormie Club



After arriving back from the two week road trip that took us to South Carolina (Kiawah),

Philadelphia (Merion West), Westchester (Siwanoy), Boston (TPC Boston), back to Philly

(Merion East), Gladstone, N.J (Hamilton Farm), and then south to Palm Beach, it was back

to the road for four days in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

This particular journey was the brain child of my close friends Tony and John Zambos.Day

one was a travel day up the coast, about halfway in we decided to stop in Savannah, Ga.

for lunch.Good call by Johnny Z to detour east (for 30 miles or so), Vic's on the River was

amazing.The cuisine to die for(try the fried green tomatoes), and the scenery overlooking

the river was worth the extra ride.

The view from Vic's in Savannah


On the docket for this episode was an eclectic mix of North Carolina's finest: Forest Creek

South (a highly ranked private Fazio layout), Dormie Club (a new exclusive Crenshaw/Coore

design that is on a spectacular site), Pine Needles (famous Donald Ross design that has

hosted 3 Womens U.S Opens in recent years), and the world reknowned venue of the 2014

Mens & Womens U.S Opens: Pinehurst No.2 (recently restored to Ross' vintage style of native

sand scrub and pine straw bordering fairways by Crenshaw/Coore).

Donald Ross lives on everywhere at Pinehurst



Joining us during the first two rounds were Phil and Nick "legend" Zambos.Phil, brother to

Tony & John, played at Wake Forest during his college days on the same team as Curtis

Strange, Jay Haas, and Scott Hoch, he is known as a "stick" around his hometown at the

Greenbrier in West Virginia.Nick, Phil's son is a legend in West Virginia high school athletics

for his recent hoops talents.

Tony, John, Nick, J.B, and Phil


Arriving at Forest Creek on day two, I decided this would be my maiden voyage putting

cross handed, so besides experiencing Fazio's creation, rollin the rock would be a new

sensation as well.

Forest Creek is a pristine layout with all of the North Carolina stereotypical traits you'd expect,

tall pines, rolling terrain and bent grass putting surfaces.The first thing I realized about North

Carolina golf is the combination of Bermuda tees and Fairways and bent greens.That seemed

odd to me (agronomy is part of my everyday gig), with all of the new hybrid bermuda putting

surfaces that have little to no grain, and can handle extremely hot temperatures it would seem

a no brainer to me to make that switch . . . don't get me wrong, I'd rather putt on bent all day

over any bermuda, but bent just isn't hardy enough to handle the extremes (it was 104 degrees

the entire time we were in the Pinehurst area).I can see why people like Michael Jordan frequent

Forest Creek, it's a great private club.


The 429 yard ninth at Forest Creek South



Day three we headed over to the Dormie Club, a new highly acclaimed club designed by

Crenshaw/Coore.These two guys are superb with the their ability to shape the land and

have it appear that they never moved a yard of soil, the Dormie Club has many similiar

traits to what they created at Sugarloaf Mountain in Monteverde, Florida. As Matt Shaffer

at Merion calls it "edgy", a very unkempt style where the turf is anything but formal, sort

of the opposite of say Augusta or Winged Foot, but just as beautiful.Dormie Club seems to

be suffering from the economic climate that is affecting the entire country, with only 46

members at this ultra exclusive club, it will be hard for this club to survive in its present state

(very similiar to Sugarloaf Mountain).The target was 250-300 members, so if you're interested

in getting a round on this beauty(it's not public), it can be accomplished by pushing the right

buttons . . . now might be your only shot.

Playing with the Zambos clan is a great experience, and goin mano a mano with the stick of

the family (Phil) made the golf even more memorable.Our individual matches came down to

the last hole each day (too bad he left before Pine Needles, he would have needed to go low

that day to cash in).

The uphill approach to the 17th at the Dormie Club



I had arranged a review (after the round at Dormie Club) of the newly renovated Pinehurst

No.2, the weather was turning ugly just as we arrived (thunderstorms/lightning in the area),

so time was an issue.

Tony Z drove me around to each hole as I studied and snapped photos of each of the famous

18 on No.2.In a way it was better than playing the course, I was paying attention to all of the

details instead of attempting to hit golf shots and the emotions of trying to make a score.

I was surprised by how flat the property was (aside from a few holes).The legendary greens were

not at their usual firmness, and because of the opressive heat wave, they had to be kept very

shaggy and slow .

A few holes stood out to me, the fourth was a spectacular par five that just rolled downward

and right to left, the sixteenth and Seventeenth were very memorable as well.The green

complexes were some of the most creative and severe I'd ever seen, so that quality certainly

lived up to all that I had read and heard about.Crenshaw & Coore removed all of the rough and

restored No.2 back to its sandy origins of Donald Ross.The place just exudes history (it is an

American classic), and make no doubt the place should be seen by all . . . but as far as value goes,

I'm not going to put Pinehurst No.2 on that list.There is another Donald Ross classic just down the

road for less then half the price, and for my opinion it measures up quite favorably.



This statue right beside the 18th green at Pinehurst, pays homage to 1999 U.S Open Champion Payne Stewart



One of the legendary landmarks in Pinehurst is the Pine Crest Inn.The Pine Crest Inn

was at one time owned and operated by guess who, Donald Ross himself.This is the

hot spot to meet the who's who in Pinehurst golf.On any given evening, professionals

from any of the clubs in town can be found here enjoying a libation at Mr.B's Lounge

or an incredible dinner.Be sure to order the Pine Crest signature 22oz center cut pork

chop . . . I can attest, it's amazing.

Another staple of Pinehurst, the Pine Crest Inn



Day Four was on the OTHER Ross classic, Pine Needles Golf Club & Lodge.Pine Needles

to me is similiar to Hamilton Farm, in the sense that it is sooo underrated as a golf course.

It has received it's share of praise, and has hosted 3 Womens U.S Opens in recent years,

but Pinehurst No.2 gets all of the fan fare.I've played and and walked quite a few Ross

courses, this one is right up there with Siwanoy and Seminole at the top of my list.The

property at Pine Needles rolls and cambers, when you combine that with Ross greens, and

outstanding conditions, you have sheer brilliance (not to mention beauty).

The par 3 sixteenth at Pine Needles

Later that Sunday afternoon, I boarded a flight back to Palm Beach, as the Zambos

clan headed to the Greenbrier for festivities at the PGA Tour event being held that

week at the Old White course.


Course reviews of the four Pinehurst courses coming soon in the Course Review

/Travel section.


My next stop was the Dick Wilson classic: Pine Tree in Boynton Beach, Florida.

Thanks to Jim Musick for being the point man for everything Pinehurst, and to the

Zambos Clan for their hospitality and friendship.




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