As we reached 2,000 feet and consumed spectacular views of lush rolling hills, Lake Berryessa and Mount Diablo--our flight pattern dictated by the wind--I reminded myself to live every day as though it is my last. On more than one occasion, I was sure Friday would *be* my last. My eccentric balloon pilot (think Christopher Lloyd's character in the TV show "Taxi") had an appropriate quote: "It's the unknown that keeps me going."
More on the balloon ride in an upcoming post, but on Monday I started making some calls to courses and resorts in Hawaii and along the Pacific Coast to see if there had been any damage to report. [#image: /photos/55ad7334add713143b424b07]|||Hualalai_aerial.jpg|||So far the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course at Hualalai, on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island (pictured above), is the only course or resort in the United States that seems to have been affected by the recent tsunami. Because of some debris on the course and in a freshwater pond off the 18th tee box (top left) and some minor damage to a cartpath, the course closed on Friday; play will resume on Thursday. "The Big Island seems to have been smacked the hardest of all the Hawaiian Islands," says Jessica Ferracane, a spokesperson for the Big Island. "We were expecting severe damage, but that didn't happen, and the tsunami barely touched golf courses." The resort itself suffered some minor damage and will be closed until March 21. Mauna Lani, another Big Island course on the Kohala Coast, delayed play until 9:30 a.m. Otherwise it was business as usual. Which seems to have been the case for almost all of the courses I called that are along the Pacific Coast. At Monterey Peninsula Country Club, which has two courses and some holes on the water, they delayed the start of play on the Shore course, but the Dunes course was unaffected. "We were fortunate that it was already a low tide situation," says Mike Bowhay, General Manager of MPCC. "I was here early that day, and at the time of 7:45, when it was scheduled to hit, there was really nothing unusual at all." Bowhay says play resumed on the Shore course at 8:15. I called Pebble Beach, which expected two-and-a-half-foot waves, but the surf never got that high and never affected play. At the Links at Bodega Harbour, a member in the golf shop said people there were on high alert in the morning--some members and residents noticed quicker than normal tidal surges--but that there was no effect on the course or to play. At Bandon Dunes there were tsunami sirens that started at 5 a.m., but there was never any effect to the courses, which are pretty elevated and off the water. At Sandpiper in Santa Barbara, which has a short par 3 that comes right down to the water, there was also no effect. On Friday afternoon I heard back from my brother, who lives on the North Shore of Oahu: His wife, three kids, three cats, two dogs, a few horses and his house were all OK. His text read: "All good. Very lucky!" --Matty G.*