Golf's Hot Spot
Continued (page 2 of 3)
"We've enjoyed our 47 years in Palm Beach County and hopefully we'll have a lot more years here," Jack said before leaving a recent county golf association banquet, where he was a keynote speaker. "It's been a great place to raise a family, and the support I've had from all of you is terrific." The legend exited, of course, to a standing ovation.
Old Palm GC, across the street from PGA National, was the work of Jack and Barbara's close friends, Raymond and the late Maria Floyd. Raymond intended to make Old Palm his Bear's Club with Maria, who oversaw the clubhouse, making her design statement in Palm Beach/Southampton style.
Westwood saw the Old Palm community and fell in love with it, renting space in the Floyd Cottage while his palace along the 14th fairway was completed. Word around the club during the holidays was that Westwood made himself right at home. He attended the Christmas Eve buffet with his family and was at the New Year's Eve party of a club member. He was there on "Pub Night" with wife, Laurae, and "Kids Night" with his children, Sam and Poppy.
The 22-time European Tour winner finally committed to Palm Beach after years of going back to his compound in Worksop, England, during the dreary winter months in the British Midlands. At Old Palm he rode a golf cart to the gym and the driving range, where most of the evenings concluded in 75 degrees at sunset with 11-year-old Sam on the short-game area. Before he flew off to start the season in Dubai he told me on the range one night that he was three to four weeks ahead of schedule in preparing for 2013.
Westwood stayed sharp with games at Seminole, with Donald Trump at Trump National, Jupiter, which the The Donald recently acquired, and also at The Fox Club against Eoghan O'Connell, the Irish former Walker Cup player who runs the club. He also had a knock around Old Palm one day with his agent, Chubby Chandler (who has a U.S. base at Old Palm), accompanied by one of the club's legendary caddies, George (The Animal) Slupski.
While Old Palm has a group of mini-tour players working in the caddie yard, George is a little different. He's 6-foot-4, 250 pounds and -- little did Westwood know -- the Senior Long Drive Champion. After some prodding, George finally grabbed Lee's new Ping G25 driver and pumped one 50 yards past Westwood's tee ball. Around the club, the story has become an instant classic.
Jupiter Island is a world unto itself, with seven- and eight-figure homes making it some of the most expensive real estate in the country. At the North End, near Bridge Road, is the Jupiter Island Club, where Tiger addressed an old-school men's group last year called "The Whiz Kids" and, according to witnesses, wowed them.
Norman, who lives less than a mile away, thought when Tiger moved into the neighborhood amid his personal turmoil that they could perhaps buddy-up and be friends, but Woods gave Norman the cold shoulder, although Tiger did rent office space in Norman's old building and also became a member at Norman's signature club, Medalist. The chill between the two escalated after some of Norman's comments about Woods at the 2011 Presidents Cup, but Tiger just kept being Tiger, using the club not only to shoot commercials, but to host outings for his foundation and knock balls around with his son, Charlie. Accompanied by close friend Ahmad Rashad, Woods also shot a course-record 62.
Norman left Medalist last December in a dispute over the club's redesign strategy, pulling his name off the course and the Great White Shark off the wall above the bar in the men's grill. De Mudd, the club president and also a member at The Bear's Club, was pushing for a restoration to the original Norman-Pete Dye layout, but Norman didn't want that and Dye didn't want to get involved. When Mudd hired Dye disciple Bobby Weed, Norman severed all ties. After a phone call by Dye, Norman became an honorary member at The Dye Preserve in the horse farms of West Jupiter, where up-and-coming tour pros such as Scott Langley, Morgan Hoffmann (two of Rickie Fowler's roommates) and Steve LeBrun are members.
Mudd didn't want to lose Norman, but he has been trying to boost the membership by giving the club some sizzle, and Woods' apparent comfort around Medalist is a win-win. "The hang factor of him going out to the range, going out practicing on the course, bringing his teacher in -- it has been a seamless relationship," Mudd says. "Yes, he's special, but as he walks around here, he's comfortable because he's just one of the guys."
Woods gets nothing but high marks from members and staff for the way he treats them on the range and interacts at the halfway house. He is said to write generous checks for the employees' holiday fund. Tiger prefers playing most of his golf with Rashad or by himself early in the morning, avoiding the Wolf gangsomes usually made up of groups that include Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Steve Marino, Marc Turnesa, Hank Kuehne and occasionally the LPGA players who have taken up membership, Belen Mozo, Meaghan Francella, Alison Walshe and America's top-ranked player, Lewis. As head pro Buddy Antonopoulos says, "Go out to our range and it looks like a tour event."
When Woods first moved south during the summer of 2011, there were stories of him checking out the nightlife in The Gardens and Palm Beach. Not any more. When you hear he is out to dinner, it is usually with his son, daughter or mother Tida, who has relocated from California to a home along the Loxahatchee River. It's not like the days when Woods would drive down from Orlando to spend time on his boat, Privacy, docked at Old Port Cove in North Palm Beach. In those days, sightings -- whether at Starbucks or the Gold's Gym in Jupiter -- created a local buzz. Now, Tiger's got a gym in his house, a driving range in his back yard and when he pulls up to the Benjamin School (that Nicklaus' children also attended) to drop off Charlie and Sam, it's not a big deal.
Although he loves living on the water, Woods actually ended up in Jupiter because his ex-wife, Elin, was the former nanny of Jesper and Mia Parnevik when they lived at Admiral's Cove, and she wanted to be closer to her Swedish friends. After the divorce, Elin bought a home just down the ocean from Seminole GC. She too maintains a low profile although the Halloween function she hosted for tour players and their families in 2011 is still being hailed as the party of all parties after she hired Universal Studios to convert the dwelling into a haunted house. After the bash, where Mark Calcavecchia famously dressed as Fowler and Fowler as Calc, Elin had the house torn down and is building her own dream home.
As with Parnevik, who came from Sweden to attend Palm Beach Community College, Calcavecchia is one of the originals, moving to the area at age 13 from Nebraska, learning the game on the North Palm Beach CC muny before settling in the 1980s at Bear Lakes CC, where he and Ken Green became synonymous with the place. To this day, most of Calcavecchia's friends are the ones he grew up with -- other former county amateur champs such as Dave Pesacov, the long-time instructor at The Presidents CC in West Palm Beach, and mini-tour legend Adam Armagost, who is now one of the most respected caddies at Seminole.