As I approach the final twenty five courses on my quest, I've decided to share a little more about my life, what drives me, how important everyone on this journey with me has been and how much I appreciate you.
As Steve Martin said in the Jerk, "I was born a poor black child." For me that quote is a reality. My life began in the backwoods of Texas in a house without electricity or indoor plumbing. Drinking water was drawn from a well by a bucket or collected during a rain. Food was cooked on a wood burning stove. What we ate was mostly grown or killed. Heat on cold winter days was generated from burning wood chopped by our own hands.
With that type of start to my life, setting and working hard to achieve aggressive goals are a way of life for me. The first significant goal that I can recall setting was when I was five years old. I set a goal to become the first person I knew who graduated from high school. Yes at five years old, no one I knew was a high school graduate. I did not attend head start nor kindergarten, but by the time I was five, I already understood the importance of education and how it could serve as a pathway to escaping poverty.
Certainly by the time I graduated from high school I had met others who had done it, starting with my first grade teacher. So, I did not become the first person I knew to graduate from high school. I did however become the first in my family to do it and the first in my family to attend and graduate from college.
I've set challenging goals throughout my life to demonstrate to myself that what we achieve and contribute during our lives is determined not by the circumstances we face but by how we deal with those circumstances. What we do at the intersection of aspirations and adversity is the determinant of our life's achievements or failures, not the circumstances. I believe that circumstances define what we must deal with to achieve our goals. I do not believe they determine whether we can achieve them or not.
I believe that what we do when our biggest hopes and dreams are threatened by our biggest challenges is what defines us. I also believe in the goodness of people and that it is our interconnectivity that makes the achievements of any one of us possible. I believe that we can do many things alone, but that anything meaningful and lasting requires the help and support of others.
The most amazing thing about this quest has been the efforts that have been demonstrated by old and new friends alike. I have been touched by your hard work, your determination, and your generosity. I could not be where I am on this quest without each and everyone of you. Thank you for who you are and what you have done.
It is Sunday morning, the start of a much needed day of rest. I played (I use that term very loosely because I don’t know if you can call my performance yesterday, playing) Quaker Ridge under overcast skies and some light rain as the 78th course of my quest. This beautiful and challenging course was my seventh course in five days.
The week started Tuesday with play on both Winged Foot East and West. On Wednesday I played Sebonack followed by Friar’s Head on Thursday. Friday was a tough and long day with National Golf Links of America in the morning and Maidstone in the afternoon. I was exhausted and finally got a good night’s sleep on Friday night. I’ve walked every course and other than normal physical and mental fatigue my body continues to hold up. Nothing is hurting or sore.
In my last update, I stated that I had most of the remaining courses scheduled between now and June 11th, but was still challenged on a few. Friends and I are working hard to get those last few scheduled. I also stated that I would send out a distress signal if the courses were not firmed up by Friday. Well despite valiant efforts by several friends, there are four courses that remain elusive.
The four courses are Shinnecock, Pine Valley, Gozzer Ranch and Lake Club, and The Golf Club at Black Rock. The most challenging of these is Shinnecock due to some necessary restrictions they have in place as they prepare to host the US Open in in a month. I’ve learned much during this amazing journey. One of the mistakes I made was not spending enough time n New York during September. If I’d done a little more research and had a little more forethought I could have avoided the issue with Shinnecock.
Any assistance that any of you can provide with the four remaining courses would be greatly appreciated.
There are 31 days and 22 courses remaining through June 11th. The days I’m not currently scheduled to play are May 20,21,26, & 28 and June 2-8.
Great news everyone! I was introduced to a member of the Golf Club at Black Rock today. Without delay and with great speed he has scheduled play for us at both Black Rock and Gozzer Ranch Golf and Lake Club. A day that started out with a round on my 80th course, Kittansett, just got even better.
On another note, I was given some good words of advice today by a very wise friend. He reminded me to not get so caught up in completing the Top 100 Courses, that I lose sight of my true goal to Play the top 100 courses. This sage advice is very timely. As I complete the final 20 courses, I'd like to savor and relish every moment on the course and with the people I share those moments with. I've said it several times before and I will say it again, the greatest pleasure of this journey is all the wonderful people I've met along the way and all of the special moments we've shared.
It has been an amazing two weeks. Today I completed a round on the 84th course of my one year quest to play all 100 courses on the Golf Digest 2017-18 list. I've played on thirteen courses in twelve days. It was a lot of golf, but it was much more than that. It was an extraordinary opportunity to spend time with others who have a real passion for the game. At every club I visited over the last two weeks. I took the time to talk with the golf staff, the locker room staff, members, and at most clubs the food and beverage and maintenance staff. Every conversation and interaction enriched the experience for me. I am truly a man most blessed.
The winter has been long and harsh, but during the last two weeks, the weather has cooperated. I only played in rain once and that was just for about six holes. There was a lot of wind to contend with on several of the courses, and some fog, but temperatures were mostly moderate. I couldn't have asked for better weather in the May in the Northeast.
With just sixteen courses remaining and things looking up for playing at both Shinnecock and Pine Valley before June 11th. I enter the final three weeks of my quest as positive and confident as ever, that together we WILL get his done.
I'd like to thank my hosts and the staff at each of the clubs where I played over the last two weeks, for making my visits and rounds at each a very special experience.
Please remember that you can see a list of all the course played so far under "The Quest Begins" on my blog Jimmie's Blog and follow the final weeks of the quest on Twitter at @Top100GolfNomad.
Every inch of my body aches,but I think that is more the result of the six hour drive from Cincinnati to Atlanta than the five rounds of golf that I played this past week. This week I played Shoreacres, Olympia Fields, and Butler National in the Chicago area, Garden City in New York, and Camargo in Cincinnati.
In case you are wondering, I am taking the time to savor each experience during the round and the visit to each of the clubs I'm playing. This past week I received tours of the facilities at the courses and had lunch at a couple of them with my hosts. While the time frame is compact, none of the experiences have been rushed.
I shot in the eighties everywhere but Garden City where my muscles tightened and my swing completely abandoned me after 13 holes. Prior to that I was on target to shoot in the eighties there too. I've now played 89 courses.
Today is a day of relaxation in Atlanta. I'm back at it tomorrow. Here is my schedule for the remaining eleven courses:
Sunday, 5/27 Diamond Creek, Elk Banner, NC
Monday, 5/28 Aronimink, Newtown, PA
Wednesday, 5/30 Chicago Golf Club
Thursday, 5/31 Rich Harvest, Chicago
Friday, 6/1 Oak Hill, Rochester, NY
Thursday, 6/8 Gozzer Ranch Golf and Lake Club, Harrison, ID
Friday, 6/9 The Golf Club at Black Rock, Idaho
Sunday, 6/10 The Ocean Course at Kiawah
Monday, 611 Wade Hampton, Cashiers,NC
TBD Pine Valley
TBD Shinnecock Hills
I'm still holding out hope that Pine Valley and Shinnicock Hills will work out. I have a tentative date of June 3 for Shinnecock, but no confirmation yet.
When I was in college, I once did a stupid thing. I don't drink so that limits the number of stupid things I can do. My teenage daughter loves hear stories from me that start with " When I was young and stupid." It's one of the few times she listens to me. In one of my early engineering classes with a professor that I was taking a class from for the first time, I completed my first exam in 45 minutes. I walked up to the professor's desk while everyone else was completing their exams. I told him that out of respect for how busy he was with his research, I'd taken the time to prepare a key for him to use to grade the exam. Like I said, it was stupid!
When I received my exam back, it had a -1 circled at the top of the page next to a 99. I asked Dr. Yeh why he had deducted one point from my score. He said, "because no one gets 100 in my class." Dr. Yeh and I have remained friends for almost 40 years. He attended my wedding and my 50th birthday party. He would have attended my retirement dinner had he not had a previous a conflict that had been long planned.
When I started this quest, I fully expected to complete all 100 courses by June 11th. It was not just an aspiration, it was a committed goal. Up until a few weeks ago when my round was regrettably canceled at Shinnecock HIlls, I still fully expected to meet my goal. I must admit that as I struggled to find a replacement host even with a lot of hard work by several of you, some doubt begin to creep in. I thought back to that first 99 that I got from Dr. Yeh and wondered if I'd receive a 99 in my quest instead of a 100.
Even in the midst of this doubt, I continued to believe that somehow, someway, it would all come together. I continued to forge forward with playing the remaining courses at a horrid pace. I refused to let up. I learned at any early age when I played football that you don't let your team down. You fight to the end. You leave it all on the field. Honestly, I couldn't give up. I did not want to let all of you down that had done some much to help write this incredible story. I also believed that you would do what you had done up to this point. Something incredible. And you did!
Yesterday I got confirmation on a tee time at Pine Valley. Today I received confirmation from one of the folks working to get me on at Shinnecock, that we are scheduled to play on Sunday morning. I am overcome with emotion. Together we are nearing the end of an amazing journey. Below is the schedule for the remaining eight courses. Thank you again for all you have done to make this journey possible.
With heartfelt gratitude,
93 May 31 Rich Harvest Farms
94 June 1 Oak Hills
95 June 3 Shinnecock Hills
96 June 5 Pine Valley
97 June 7 The Golf Club at Black Rock
98 June 8 Gozzer Ranch Golf and Lake Club
99 June 10 The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island
100 June 11 Wade Hampton
We have one week, five courses, and 5844 miles to go before we complete our quest to play the Golf Digest 2017-18 Top 100 Courses in America. My goals for the quest were to complete all 100 Courses by June 11th, get my USGA Index to single digits, make a hole in one, and make new friends.
Here is where I currently stand on each of those goals. I've played 95 of the 100 courses. The final course, Wade Hampton is scheduled for the afternoon of June 11th. My index is currently at 10.0, I had three tough rounds this week, Chicago Golf Club, Rich Harvest and Shinnecock. I can't have any more of those types of rounds. I need to finish strong on the final five courses. I've come very close to five holes-in-one during the quest, but haven't sealed the deal. There are 20 more par threes remaining.
Regarding the final goal of making new friends, that has been the best part of this journey! Many of you who are receiving this note were not known to me a year ago. Several of you have become dear friends. All of you have enriched my life. I hope I have enriched yours also. Long after the last putt drops into the cup on the 18th hole at Wade Hampton, I will remember the role that each of you played in what we together have achieved. And long after I've forgotten many of the details of every course, every hole and every shot, I will hold some wonderful memories of what has been a great testament to the goodness of people.
As Tiger said to Jack on the final hole at Valhalla as they walked off the 18th tee in Jack's final major, "Let's finish it off the right way."
At 5pm EDT, on the final day of my self-defined year, the last putt of this amazing journey dropped to the bottom of the cup on the 18th hole at Wade Hampton Golf Club for a par. It is a self-defined year because Augusta National closes each year in May. I played it before it closed in May of 2017 as the first course in this quest but did not start the remaining 99 courses until June 12th. My goal from the beginning was to complete all 100 courses in the 2017-18 Golf Digest ranking by June 11th. It is a year with an asterisk for playing Augusta National slightly before the official year started. I hope you can understand how important it was to play it first and how it would have been very difficult to start the remaining courses before I retired. To give you a sense for how busy I was during my last month of work, I did not leave the office on my final day of work until 7:30 that night. I did better with this quest. I completed it on the final day by 5pm!
I did not have a detailed plan for how I would play all 100 courses in a year. What I did have was a belief that across the year I would meet some great people who would make it possible. You are those great people. Most of you who are receiving this email were unknown to me and me to you a year ago. Yet we came together linked by a common goal and pulled off an amazing feat.
Consider this, a black, a Jew, and a woman walk into a clubhouse… (Sounds like the start of a crude joke, but it’s not, it’s a tribute to who we are as a people and how great we are as a community and a country) … they were welcomed and respected. I’ve spent the last year traveling around the country and have had the privilege of playing golf at some of the most exclusive and prestigious clubs in America. I felt welcomed, respected, and admired for the quest and for my passion for the game of golf at every one – a perfect 100!
I believe in the rights of people in private settings to have what ever free associations that they choose. But it has been so refreshing to see that across this great country of ours, those associations in the world of golf are less and less determined by race, gender, or religion.
There is so much more that links us than there is that separates us. I believe it is possible to have differing beliefs and views and yet respect each other. During the last year I have traveled to the Northeast, the Midwest, the Southeast, the Deep South, the Southwest, the Rockies, the West Coast, and the Northwest. We are much more the same than we are different. We love. We laugh. We cry. We wish for ourselves and the ones we hold dear a better life and a better world.
From what I saw, we are achieving just that. There is currently all this talk about tribalism. I am 59 years old and came of age in the segregated south. We live in a much more blended country than ever. We haven’t solved all of problems and there is still too much hatred and poverty, but on average, we are in a much better place than we have ever been.
Most people are going about their lives loving and caring for themselves and their families. They work hard, they spend time with family and friends and yes, they laugh, and they cry. But though it all with very few exceptions, they make the world a better place. I reject the notion that we are only as strong as our weakest link. That holds true for a chain but not for a society. Let’s not be defined or define others by our or their weaknesses, but rather by our and their strengths. There are far more people who do good every day than there are that do ill.
Ours is a world that is much better than it was 25 years ago, 50 years ago, or 100 years ago. I believe that you can take any 100-year period and compare it to the previous 100-year period and find that the most recent 100 years is better than the 100 years that preceded it.
I believe that there were four critical components needed to complete this quest - an understanding and supportive spouse, time, financial resources, and connections. Save the understanding wife, I would have been hard pressed to have the other three one hundred years ago. One hundred years ago, my time would have been totally consumed with obtaining the basic requirements of food, shelter, and clothing. Today so many more of us have much more time for leisure, more disposal income, and a much larger circle of friends and associates than we would have had one hundred years ago.
Yes, I really do believe that ours is a world that is better today than it ever was. I also believe that in another hundred years, it will be even better. This I fully believe because our imaginations, our creativity, and our belief in things bigger than ourselves will make it so.
Thanks again for being a part of this wonderful journey. May God bless you and all those you hold dear as much as He has blessed me and all those I hold dear.
In the game of golf and of life, hit it long and straight, and keep it in the short grass!
With the warmest of regards and the greatest of gratitude
I have finally posted the summary of my round at The Golf Club at Black Rock, the 97th round in my quest to play America’s 100 Greatest Courses in one year. I wrote the blog over a month ago but didn’t post it out of fear that my remarks on race would be offensive to some and cheered by others. I seek neither. I resisted posting the blog as I watched and listened to increasingly caustic language pitting American against American and debated with myself on whether I wanted to risk having my words on the racism I experienced and observed during my boyhood years added to the mix.
We all have our own stories and experiences, but once they are in the public domain, we lose control of the narrative. Our words can become tools for others to promote their own agenda. In the end I decided to not self censor. I decided to post the blog but preface it with this note that clearly states what I believe when it comes to race in America while making it clear that I know not whether my beliefs are right or wrong but are simply what I believe.
Having experienced bouts of racism throughout my life, I know firsthand that it exists but across my sixty years I’ve seen it exist less but talked about more. But I also recognize that with the multiplicative nature of the internet, it takes fewer racists to have the same effect. Like way too many other Black men I’ve been stopped for driving while Black and have experienced White women searching for and closely clutching their purses when I sit at the table next to them or on the train in the seat across from them. But still I’ve learned that while a particular slight might be rooted in prejudice or hatred, not every slight is. I’ve learned that for every person who doesn’t like me because of some immutable trait, there are many more who might not like me because of some unlikeable thing I’ve said or done. Yes, there are racist in America, but I do not believe that makes America a racist country. I am able to recognize racism as a part of my experience as a Black American and yet not see it as the whole of my experience as an American.
We all have contributed to making America the great country that it is and we must reject all attempts to pit us against each other and make it our individual responsibility to bring our country together by not demanding we all see the world in the same way, but by finding common ground in what links us. We should not and can not look to others to do what “We the People” must do and that is trying to live our lives each day in ways that respect others whether we agree with them or not.
Recently I returned to Pikewood National to try to find redemption from my previous disastrous round. While there I again had the opportunity to visit with one of the two designers of the course. I told him that my only complaint was the fescue that interrupts the fairway on the fifteenth hole. I told him that I thought he was punishing a good drive. He said, “Jimmie, golf is hard, deal with it.” Folks, coming together is hard, but I know we can deal with it better than we are.
I hope you enjoy reading about my round at Black Rock and my opinions on my experiences with racism in America that I’ve sprinkled in.