Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Lake Hiawatha muni, then the TPC
A week of rainstorms and assorted weather events behind us, my playing partners and I sported weather-resistant apparel when we showed up at Hiawatha Golf Course Sat. June 2, 2007. We were prepared to chase some hail-sized golf balls, and as a result, the sun beat down throughout our round.
Hiawatha is a gem in the magnificent Minneapolis Park system. The parks were created by immigrants from the New England area, familiar with such elements as Boston Common. They believed a park system was necessary for mental health, and were willing to pay for it.
Theodore Wirth, Minneapolis Superintendent of Parks from 1906 to 1936, set the goal of having no child in the city farther than a quarter-mile from a park, no family farther than a half-mile from a full recreation center. That goal has been reached, with 6,400 acres of park– 1,400 of which are water – and 58 miles of parkways.
Minnehaha Creek winds from Lake Minnetonka through Minneapolis and its suburbs, some 22 miles. It's canoeable. I once accomplished the task of being up the Creek without a paddle: if I hadn't lunged knee deep into the water and made one last desperate grab for it, the implement might have floated downstream, dropped over Minnehaha Falls 53 feet, then made its way a mile on to the Mississippi River and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.
A few hundred feet of the creek doubles as a water hazard within Hiawatha GC, and golfers teeing off on the par 3 12th sometimes have to hold up so canoeists floating a few feet below toward Lake Hiawatha aren't put at hazard. (Lucky we delayed, too, as my shot across their stern sent ripples racing along the side of their canoe.)
Originally, this area was a swamp; in the 1920s the swamp was drained by the Army Corps of Engineers to create Lake Hiawatha, and the course was installed in 1934. For many years it hosted the Upper Midwest Bronze Tournament, a prestigious event for the Negro golfer.
Just recently the Park Board renovated the course, removing the last of the boggy spots, and they've done an admirable job. It still has some old elms fringing the course; one of my foursome had grown up playing the course, and was returning for the first time in 20 years.
Brian Wilson setting up on #14 at the TPC.
With that for a warmup, on Monday, June 4, I took a turn at the Tournament Player's Course (TPC) in Blaine, MN. This northern suburb hosts the National Sports Center, billed as the largest amateur sports facility in the world, with venues for soccer, hockey, golf, track & field, cycling, lacrosse, skating, broomball, football, ultimate disc, rugby...phew.
At the TPC, though, it's golf all the way, in elegantly-appointed surroundings. I played in the Minnesota Golf Association (MGA) Media Appreciation opener, on a course with greens as slick as glass, on a day that made the redwing blackbirds trill from their cattail perches and the Canada geese proudly enrich the grass as they shepherded their broods.
At over 7,000 yards, this Arnold Palmer/Tom Lehman design on a former sod farm hosts the 3M tournament, one of the most successful on the Champions Tour.
It is a lovely course, with water and native grass roughs both taking their toll. I told my playing partners, "I don't write my name on my ball, because I don't keep them long enough to get acquainted." It was certainly true on this course; I went through a brand-new sleeve and was reduced to rummaging through my bag just to--pardon the expression--stay afloat. When the day ended, I was down to my last two aged orbs...and that was after having rescued several from a watery grave.
Stu Groskreutz, Dean Lavato (the southpaw) and Brian getting ready to putt.

I told one of my foursome (a southpaw), after watching him set up and swing, "Watching your swing is like trying to read Chinese writing...everything's backwards." Unfortunately, when I would swing, my aching shoulder was more like the Chinese death of a Thousand Cuts: it had a tendency to twinge at precisely the wrong time, which would allow my shot to go even more awry than normal. I did make some good putts, though, and won a door prize drawing: an hour's evaluation at GolfTec.
Perhaps my comment to the starter, when asked for my handicap, that "Golf is my handicap" made them earmark the golf lesson for me...just to speed up everyone else's play.

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