It has been difficult to pull free from the web of comforts at the Dove Mountain Ritz this week, but on Thursday afternoon I went off property to play the Sonoran Course at the Omni Tucson National, about twenty minutes down the road.
With the yellow paint and tall palm trees, there's a retro mobbish Florida feel to the Omni's facade:
I was paired with a twosome of local golf buddies, Jerry Senzig and Richard Harmon ("like Butch," but no relation). As much as I enjoyed the golf, my playing partners made the day.
[#image: /photos/55ad72c5b01eefe207f695f9]|||Jerry_Richard.jpg|||Harmon (right) and Senzig, both walk with limps and gimps, swinging around several ailments of age. When Harmon started listing spots on his body that cause him pain, Senzig cut him off: "Quit your whining and get in the cart." With that, I knew I'd like these guys. There was non-stop ribbing and occasional rooting throughout the round.
Senzig, 70, lives in Wisconsin in the summer and winters in Tucson:
They're characters, and they're crafty.
I asked them how much they paid for their tee time. "Probably like you did, we used GolfNow," said Harmon. "We booked a couple days ago and we paid $43."
I asked them if they had a match. Harmon's a 12 handicap; Senzig's an 18. Senzig said, "We don't play for money, we play for bragging rights at coffee."
Which isn't to say they don't take it seriously. I was tending the flag when Harmon putted his ball to inside three feet from the hole. I asked Senzig, "Is that inside the circle of friendship?"
"There're no gimmies for that prick."
After Senzig got on a hot streak, Harmon remarked, "That's three good shots in a row -- cut that s__ out."
I felt like I was playing with my Dad and a few of his friends.
Harmon is about 6'3", and at one point in the round, as he got out of the cart, he walked into a low-hanging branch on a tree. It dropped him to a knee. I saw the impact and I thought I was going to have to call 9-1-1. He said he was OK, and kept walking into the fairway, where he stopped and bowed his head for several scary moments. NOW I need to call an ambulance . . .
Turned out he was just reading the yardage off a sprinkler head. The next whack was Harmon hitting a shot to the green.
A tough old military dog, Harmon was in the Air Force from 1964 to '68. Senzig played minor league baseball for the Braves in '59 and 60. "Joe Torre beat me out," he said.
These guys play a lot of golf in the Tucson area. Senzig said he played 32 different courses in five and a half months last Winter. I asked them their favorites. They like Star Pass and Arizona National, which is one of the home courses for the University of Arizona golf team. "There's nothing wrong with this one either," said Senzig.
I'd agree. The Sonoran Course is a fun track. The first six holes are a little tight, wandering through some houses. The third hole gives you the first great look at the Santa Catalina Mountains, which are stunning:
As you turn for home, the 515-yard 15th hole is quite a climb:
"I can't hit it that far," said Senzig.
"I was just trying to be encouraging," said Harmon, who played all 18 with that same lousy Top Flite.
There was no way of keeping track of who has bragging rights at coffee, but I'd give Harmon the win when it came to trash talking.
After I told them they'd be included in this blog, Harmon offered up his e-mail address so I could send him a link to the story.
Then I asked him for Senzig's e-mail.
"Just send it to me," Harmon said. "I'll call him over and we'll read it together. He's computer illiterate. Actually, he's illiterate."
Spoken with all the love and tenderness of a true golf buddy.