An Afternoon with Links Friends at Winter Park 9
By Jason Bruno
On Tuesday Jan.22nd we fulfilled our media Demo Day obligations at Orange County National and proceeded to make the trek east across Orlando to the quaint urban setting that is Winter Park, Florida. Matt Ginella sent over an invite just days before, so Master Club Builder Dirck Storm and I ramped up our enthusiasm on day 3 of our PGA Show week that began on the Dye Course at PGA Village just two days earlier. Returning to “WP9” for me personally was long overdue (we experienced the Riley Johns/Keith Rhebb creation for the first time two years ago shortly after the redesign by the boys from Integrative Golf Design was completed).
Tardy as usual, we pulled into the packed parking lot just as groups were walking out to their assigned hole locations for the 3pm shotgun start of alternate shot team play. The event, a gathering of golf industry folks put together by Akbar Chisti of Seamus Golf (and Ginella) included colleagues and friends from virtually everywhere. Linksoul’s John Ashworth (who is the force behind Goat Hill Park in Southern California) was on hand providing some outstanding swag along with Seamus.
Upon checking in, we were assigned to hole 9 where nearly every hole had an A & B group based on field size. With two groups of 8 player teams each (we had 6), it made for quite the scene. Our group consisted of four lads from Ireland, Stormy and yours truly. The elder of the group was Liam Murphy from County Louth, John Lawler from The Island Golf Club in Dublin, Jeff Fallon from Royal Dublin, and Mark Byrne from Carr Golf. Paul Schmidt also of Carr, was the lone Central Florida local taking the stroll sans his sticks, but offered up some witty commentary and provided proper on course local knowledge. It was a chamber of commerce 65 degree late afternoon playing the fast n firm contours of Johns and Rhebb. After Stormy and I collaborated on a birdie on our first hole (the short par 4 ninth), we had earned instant turf cred from the boys of the Emerald Isle. At the turn we caught up with host Matt Ginella and Golfer/Musician Jay Horowitz, a fellow “Apple” native who I learned had won the NYC Am years ago on a course that my Dad and I went toboggan sledding on (the 10th at La Tourette GC) 46 years ago. It’s a small world for sure . . .
A great idea, this imprint sign in the sand “Thanks for Raking” sends a subtle message to be considerate to your fellow golfers. A team up & down for birdie was the result here on the par 5 fourth.
Dirck Storm, John Lawson, Mark Byrne, JB, Liam Murphy and Jeff Fallon
Our golf performance as a team was mediocre, but the camaraderie was off the charts. The score was far less important than it usually seems to be and it felt right. There were some brilliant shots like Jeff’s carved low cut around a large stand of trees on the par 5 third. It was a classic links strike, low punch with just the right amount of fade spin that trundled up onto the green perfectly, even he knew it was special. We finished in the gloaming and enjoyed the casual fare and music by Jay Horowitz with the nearly 100 links friends on hand. It was great to see Katie Ginella and little Bandon out there, and catch up with many I hadn’t seen in awhile like Brad Klein and Mike Bailey. There are many invites during PGA Show week, choosing which ones to attend can be tough, but this gathering will be an annual staple – a must attend.
We said thank you to the hosts and farewell to the gents from Ireland, promising to make the journey across the pond to visit them on their home turf. Before we headed out, I looked over at my partner in crime, Stormy had this big smile on his face, he had soaked in the vibe. It was PURE fun, like being a kid with your buddies all over again, and what’s better than that?
If you’re in Central Florida, Matt Ginella often hosts a Friday 3pm Skins Game. To check out the 9 holes of splendor that is Winter Park 9: