It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Asia. The jet lag, the culture, the language, the food, the exertion of travel, all take a toll. Some of these challenges are also the best parts of going to a far off land. To give myself the best chance to play well in my upcoming tournaments, I enlisted the help of the best looking caddy in the world (meet my girlfriend Sarah, pictured above). While she isn’t a professional caddy by any stretch, she is the perfect influence on my game and can read me like a neon billboard. We’ve never been to Hawaii and as a way to ease the transition from one side of the world to the other for PGA Tour China qualifying, I decided to stop halfway for the Sony Open qualifier on the island of Oa’hu.
Breathing in the Hawaiian spirit, tasting the local flavors and soaking in the island’s beauty was as important as playing well. I breezed through the Sunday pre-qualifier with an even par 72 at Hoakalei Golf Course, an ocean-side Ernie Els design. While I don’t often hear rave reviews of Hawaiian golf on the whole, Hoakalei was a really well-designed and fun course. It was very long, requiring a lot of driver selections off the tee and nearly always had bunkers strategically-placed to catch a less precise line, or a water hazard in the direction of the prevailing wind.
After a sun-drenched weekend filled with beaches, idyllic lagoon swims, rich and colorful Hawaiian cuisine, whale sightings, and a bit of practice, the Monday qualifier was at hand. We spent the weekend fueling up poke, lau lau, kalua pig, and squid luau. All were salty, deeply rich, beautifully colored and flavorful, with the exception of lomi salmon (if you love cold tomatoes and salmon, this dish would be for you).
I got off to solid start Monday morning, with an opening birdie and followed it with few long, towering drives on the following holes. Unfortunately, getting the ball close to the hole from there proved a bit elusive. Despite some mediocre iron play, I was still in position to qualify with 5 holes to play at -2. The plan was derailed when my 2nd shot on a par 5 landed on the greenside cart path and bounded O.B. I finished the day with a frustrating score of even par, 4 shots outside the qualifying score.
The takeaway from the qualifier is my play off the tee is very strong and my ability to make big, important, momentum-saving up and downs, is intact. I am heading to PGA Tour China Q-School well prepared to play the type of solid golf that secures a professional golfer a full season of events.
Once the sounds of “malhalo” and “aloha” fade and the drink begins to strip away the touristy facade, the locals of Oa’hu describe an island all too-small and overly congested. The traffic going into Honolulu in the morning and leaving in the afternoon rivals any jam in L.A. or New York. To escape the inevitable rage of this daily commute, one would need the perfectly clear, warm waters, picturesque beaches, and soothing strums of the ukulele, to return to sanity. This however, it’s a trade off I’d be willing to make more often. Bring on China.