So, here’s something crazy: I played golf in Maui with Joe Torre on Thursday.
As will surprise nobody, especially Yankee or Dodger fans, he’s a great guy, as is his wife Ali. (And as is our host, Kapalua’s Gary Planos, who made this all possible.)
But I’m getting ahead of the story.
In fact, when I was heading to The Plantation Course, I had no idea I’d be golfing with one of the greatest managers in baseball history.
Amidst my vacation, I had an epiphany — I should invite my parents to join me in paradise (shameless sucking up!). So, the plan was for Gary, my stepdad Hank and myself to play. I emailed Gary to confirm our 11:30 tee time.
“Try to be on time,” Gary replied (my reputation precedes me), “So our five-pack can go off before the people at noon.”
“Five-pack?” I asked.
“Fivesome,” expiained Gary. “We’re playing with Joe and Ali Torre.” (Sweet! More brownie points for me with the step-dad who is a big sports fan.)
I casually break the news to my parents. “Huh? Joe Torre? The Yankees manager?” Hank, my befuddled step-dad inquires.
“Former Yankees manager,” I clarified. “He was with the Dodgers the past few years, but he’s “retired” now. Gary is good friends with Joe. We had dinner with the Torre family the other night. They’re really nice, down-to-earth. I liked his wife Ali a lot — she’s all class. What am I talking about? They both were.”
Anyway, back to playing on Thursday. I asked Ali if she and Joe had played this week yet. She laughed and said something like, “No, I asked Joe the other day if He wanted to, but he said he was in a good mood and wanted to stay in one.”
I picked a good day to have my best ballstriking day and shoot my best score. It was also the first time I actually warmed up before my round (I’d played four other times). I played the full round (notwithstanding the 17th hole) from the red tees. After all, I didn’t want Ali to play from alone!
And boy, was it fun! Except when I forgot I couldn’t hit driver on the first hole and my perfectly struck drive went into the gunk (because I’m so huge!). It was actually a bit of an adjustment to play from the forward tees since I’d been teeing up from the whites (except for a hole here or there). But, I was loving the drivable par-4s. The Plantation Course is so much easier when you’re playing from 5,700 yards rather than 6,700. Imagine that.
There’s also significant advantage playing with Gary, who knows every little nuance and which way every putt breaks. He was dashing from one person to the other, telling us where to hit and reading our putts. I’d played the course a few times already that week, so I tried to let him help the others more — except when it came to putting because like I’ve mentioned, those greens sure are grainy (but I think I’ve just about figured them out — you were right, Gary!).
After my stupid bogey on the first hole, I got the stroke back by dropping a 20-foot bomb on the third hole for birdie. Finally! I made a putt over 10-feet! The rest of the front nine was pretty ho-hum for me. I hit a lot of fairway and greens (not complaining) and turned nine at even-par 36. I was disappointed I didn’t drop more birdies, though.
Ali made an awesome birdie on No. 7, a tough, long par-4, which, Gary says hardly anyone walks away with a score in the red. Meanwhile, Hank was befuddled by the windy conditions. Apparently that was the most wind he’s played with — and he’s played at other courses in Hawaii. In college when I was on the Yale team, we went to Oahu for spring break one year and played a few tournaments and I thought it was windy, but it probably didn’t blow 25-30mph at least on every shot.
Since that was years ago, I figured the winds at Plantation was standard in Hawaii. Same with the tough greens. But nope, I guess there’s a reason why it’s a championship course and a PGA Tour stop. As hard as it is, I haven’t gotten sick of playing it yet (and I’ve played 6 1/2 rounds in 8 days).
Unfortunately, I lost some steam on the back nine, which is easier than the front and I like it better. I think I got tired because, you know, it’s been pretty grueling to walk two yards from the cart to my ball. Man, I’m in such bad shape that I’m not even in golf shape! This is the most golf I’ve played since, oh, circa 2004 in college.
I made a bunch of stupid bogeys coming in and shot 42 for a five-over 78. I was disappointed with my finish, but I can’t complain too much over my 78, which I’m pretty sure was the best in our group.
Joe finished strong with pars on the last two holes. Ali had that awesome birdie. Gary was a rock star host and “caddie.” Hank, the sandbagger, shot 94 (despite being “nervous” to play with a celeb). And we all had a delightful afternoon.
“So, you’ve been playing for a while, huh?” Joe asked me. “It was fun to watch.”
As much as I despised the Yankees (and still do and I’m impartial to the Dodgers) while he was manager, it was fun to watch him lead them to four World Series. Okay, maybe that’s a lie, as I hated watching the Yankees win, but I always respected Torre as the manager. And it was enjoyable playing golf with him.