NCGA Golf

Spring 2018

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Y ou've read our cover story and just planned your ultimate golf road trip. Bandon Dunes. Pinehurst. Cabot Cliffs. You can't go wrong. Now PGA Tour pro Zac Blair comes along to say: Ultimate golf road trip? Why would you leave Northern California? Blair is a 27-year-old former BYU All-American who has earned over $3 million on Tour since 2015. He'll use the word "dude" in a sentence with breezy ease. Hence, the self-dubbed 'Blair Wish Project': Where Blair and his pal, Andy Johnson, took NorCal golf by storm in a four-day binge before the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Blair mused that while trips to eastern Long Island and Melbourne, Australia might rate higher, NorCal golf was "eye-opening … I was shocked with how good the golf was … the land, the topography …" DAY ONE: Blair tweeted to see if any members at Lake Merced Golf Club wanted to host him. He got a nibble. Blair enjoyed the "cool vibe" and holing out for eagle on No. 16. That afternoon, the same member arranged for Blair to play at San Francisco Golf Club, a place he'd never been. He'd heard of the old-school locker room, the A.W. Tillinghast design, the aura of SFGC. He arrived with high expectations. "It completely blew my expectations out of the water," Blair said. Among the things he loved: "Literally everything," he said. The smell. Holes the proper width to make strategy foremost. Green complexes that demanded the right approach. The size of it. "A pretty big ballpark," he called it. Blair walked off 18 thinking, "If I could play a place like this every day … it's exactly how a golf course should be." DAY TWO:With a 10:30 a.m. tee time at Califor- nia Golf Club, Blair and Johnson used the morning to scope out Sharp Park Golf Course. They walked a few holes and were smitten with the Alister MacKenzie layout. "Coming over the hill (in Pacifica) and seeing the golf course," Blair said, "where it sits, you're like: Wow, this is a public course?" At Cal Club, Blair gave two thumbs-up to the renovated layout: "Just the whole golf course is sick. Just another place where you're, like: Man, that would be a cool place to be a member, because they get everything right." With a free late afternoon, Blair and Johnson hurried to Olympic Club for nine at the Cliffs Courseat sunset. The only downside: the snack shack was closed, so no Bill's Burger Dog. Life is imperfect. DAY THREE: Hearing about Northwood Golf Club, a nine-hole layout in Monte Rio, from Marin resident and longtime Tour caddy Andy Martinez, Blair had made a tee time for 7 a.m. They were soon over- whelmed by solitude and beauty. "We were mesmerized," said Blair, who played with his hickory driver. "It was almost like a spiritual experience." Johnson launched his drone and burned through two batteries. "If you want to learn about golf course architecture," Blair said, "go there. Legendary." Still buzzing, they drove to Marin to MacKenzie's mountain jewel, Meadow Club in Fairfax. Blair had played it before, but "every year, it seems to get better, especially understanding golf course architecture more." DAY FOUR: On to Pasatiempo, holy ground for MacKenzie enthusiasts. Count Blair in. "The fact that the place isn't in the top five of every public ranking in the entire world is disgusting," Blair said. "The place is so beyond good, it's wild." He settled on the word "layering." "The layering," he said, "is legendary." Favorite holes? "I really liked 16, I really liked 15 ... 13 and 14 ... I liked 2, 3 and 4 ... basically, I was having a panic attack the entire round." Next, Monterey Peninsula Dunes Coursewhere Blair said he'd rather see more of the Seth Raynor original design take hold, but touted MPCC's 36-hole complex as underrated. "Its neighbors steal the head- lines, but it's a visually stunning property," Blair said. With daylight dwindling, Blair and Johnson sought an emergency nine at Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Course. It was packed. No tee times. By the grace of the golf gods, they saw a singleton on the 11th hole and joined him. Blair unsheathed his hickory driver as they played into the gloaming. The air was crisp. They gazed at the Pacific Ocean and the dunes. "Perfect," Blair said. Like a wish come true. Brian Murphy hosts the KNBR morning show "Murph and Mac" and was the San Francisco Chronicle's golf writer from 2001–2004. 80 SPRINGR 2018 | NCGA.ORG The Blair Wish Project BY BRIAN MURPHY M U R P H Y ' S L A W

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