The 2019 Famers Insurance Open
We happened to be in San Diego at the same time as the Farmer’s Insurance Open. Coincidence? We’ll let you decide, but we didn’t let ‘fate’ pass us by and went to the opening day of the FIO tournament held at Torrey Pines. We bought our tickets for $35 each when we played golf at Goat Hill Park the day before. And, the best part of it, more than half of the ticket price went to support the North County Junior Golf Association!
Arriving at Torrey Pines Golf Course
We woke early and were welcomed by warm blue skies, the very type that San Diego in the ‘winter’ is famous for. We made our way to Sea World and caught the tournament-sponsored bus that took us directly to Torrey Pines Golf Course. Torrey is a special place for me (James), as I used to work on the driving range many, many, ok many years ago. I have been telling Menekse of this magical place for years, and I was really looking forward to showing her the location of some of my fondest golf memories.
We stepped off the bus and entered the gate on the South Course, close to the 11th green and 12th tee. Perfect spot, because oh boy did I have a story to share! The South Course is home to one of the best rounds of golf in my life and is tied with my lowest score ever (67). So many years ago, I came to the 12th tee after going birdie, eagle, and birdie on 9, 10, and 11 respectively. Then proceed to make bogey on 12. If you don’t know the 12th hole at the South Course, just picture the longest most difficult par 4 of your home course- and double it. I used to have to bust a persimmon (!) tee shot and still would have a 4-iron in. And then a wedge, if I was lucky!
Time for a strategy!
Upon entering and giving my poor wife a shot-by-shot recap of that glorious round a thousand years ago, we walked straight to the 8th tee. (She doesn’t think it’s so funny that I can remember almost every shot from a round of golf from the late 80s but can’t remember what she said an hour ago!)
But why the 8th tee? Good question upon reflection, but I was convinced that the tee box of the 179-yard par-3 would be prime real estate for watching great golf. Not only would we be able to see players hit their tee shots on eight, but we would also be able to see their approach shots to the long par-4 seventh. But, when we got there, it wasn’t quite the great location that I had led it to be. But it didn’t matter, because Rory’s and then Tiger’s group would be passing us in about 45 minutes.
We were fortunate to have gone to the Ryder Cup last year and experience told us that if we wanted to see any of the marque players ‘up close’, it was important to stake out our spot well ahead of the crowds and wait. So, this is what we did. While the FIO is a big deal, in contrast, it isn’t quite the crowds of the Ryder Cup. And being Thursday, the crowds weren’t what we were expecting- which, we found very refreshing.
Seeing Tiger Woods
As groups full of stars after groups full of stars went by, slowly the crowds began to thicken. And they became louder. And we began to see more red! We knew the time was upon us when people started arriving wearing their Tiger pajamas! Hold your line was all we could think! Our strategic thinking paid off though, as we were able to see Tiger’s approach shot from the middle of the seventh fairway, his two-putt par, and his tee shot on eight!
After a couple more groups, we decided to walk around so we could see more golf. Throughout the day, we saw Rory, Rickie, Spieth, Finau, Jon Rahm, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day, as well as tournament winner Justin Rose, just to name a few. We were very happy to also see the local favorite, and former Junior World champion at Torrey, Pat Perez.
Torrey Pines, Bringing Back the Memories
As we continued to walk the fairways, the memories started to roll in. Probably my fondest memory is also related to the tournament. I worked at Torrey during 2 tournaments- in 1989 which was won by San Diego State alumni Greg Twiggs, and in 1990, which was won by Dan Forsman. (See, I told you it was a long time ago!) After the tournament was finished on Sunday evening, and the crowds were gone, a bunch of employees would go out and play as many holes as we could play, which was usually only about 4 or 5. But, to play inside the ropes, complete with towering grandstands and Sunday pins with cups still painted white, was simply indescribable!
We made our way to the 15th tee and found a great spot right next to the tee box. We stayed here for probably an hour and were rewarded with the view that we thought we would have earlier in the day at eight.
The golf course was in absolutely superb shape- I’ve never seen it looking better. It was definitely in much better shape than when I used to work here. I trust that there is no correlation! And the North Course- wow, what a fantastic change! I must embarrassingly admit, that while I have played countless rounds on the South, I have played relatively few on the North. She has come a long way!
Roaming around the South Course at Torrey Pines
As the tournament for the day was closing, and most of the crowds had left, we continued to savor the moment and roamed around until the last bus. I really wanted to take Menekse to the driving range, but unfortunately, we did not have sufficient credentials. I tried my best “but I used to work here” line, but our pleads were met with uncompromising stares. We quietly walked around the course and I shared with her one of the best places to watch the sun as it began to set. As we stood there watching the sky change colors while holding hands, I was reminded once again of how lucky I am.
Thank you for the memories Torrey Pines- I am so happy that I was able to share this special place with my wife! We look forward to coming back and playing both the South Course and the North Course. And to create new memories!