Last weekend I was back in Mississippi to tour Tunica’s nine casinos and three golf courses. I also got a ticket to an Ole Miss/Alabama game--my first experience of SEC football, and my first look at a place they call, “The Grove."
All of my scheduled golf was rained out, but I did hit balls at the 360-degree driving range at the Mark McCumber designed, Tunica National (pictured above: $50 during the week, $60 on weekends). McCumber should get credit for turning an old flat cotton field into a slightly undulating golf course. He dug out several small lakes to use the dirt for the countour. There's water on 14 of the 18 holes.
After a brief practice session, I jumped a bus bound for Oxford to see the big game--two ranked teams (Alabama, ranked No. 3 in the country, versus Ole Miss, ranked No. 20) would crack helmets in the trenches of the Southeastern Conference. Poor Jevan Snead (pictured below), the quarterback for Ole Miss, he looked like he was a year away from being ready for Pop Warner. And this is a guy who they say is a pro prospect. I didn’t see it. (Snead’s line for the game: 11-34, 140 yards, 0 TDs and 4 INTs.) The Tide's defense rolled over the Rebels, 22-3, in front of 62, 657 fans--the largest crowd to ever watch a football game in the state of Mississippi.
I sat in a catered box at the top of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium where I feasted on spicy chicken, ribs and sliders. I was pulling for Ole Miss, not only because they were the underdogs, but because I read the Michael Lewis book The Blind Side, which is a story about two things: The evolution and the importance of the left tackle, and Michael Oher (pictured below), an Ole Miss alum.
No summary I can give will do the book justice. It’s one of my favorites. If you haven’t done so already, go read it. Oher graduated from Ole Miss last year and is currently starting for the Baltimore Ravens. Last week, because of injuries to the offensive line, Oher played left tackle. By the end of the book you’ll also be an Oher fan and you’ll be looking forward to when the Ravens square off against the Colts on Nov. 22, week 11 of the NFL season--you’ll look forward to Oher trying to block Colts three-time all-pro pass rusher, Dwight Freeney.
But what’s so special about The Grove? I was also anxious to find out. The famous saying at Ole Miss: “We might lose the game, but we never lost the party.” Ole Miss lost the game last Saturday, but I can attest, they did not lose this party.
I took my little camera on this trip and cut a short video of my day in Oxford.
Now this is your tour of The Grove (click below to play the video):
In the past two years, I've also posted video tours of:
-Cypress Point's 16th hole.
-John Smoltz's backyard golf course.
-Ziplining at Kapalua Resort.
-Larry Bird's high school gym in French Lick, Ind.
-Old Macdonald, the fourth course at Bandon Dunes.
Have a great weekend. Go Ole Miss.
(Snead and Oher photographs by Getty Images.)