What started out to be a casual telephone conversation a few weeks ago about golfing soon turned into a mutual admiration society based around hockey – Canadiian style. Jeff Wilson, General Manager of Catta Verdera Country Club, a fellow Canadian and nephew to Canadian hockey and golf legend Mr. Del Wilson couldn’t have been more accommodating and kind in hosting us at the more than incredible Catta Verdera.
Under a bright blue, beautiful sky and perfect day for golf, we had a short warm up but not before we joined Jeff in his office for what was the best show and tell moment of my life. Looking around his office was like being in a mini sports shrine. Pictures of him with his beloved uncle and his Mom with golf legend Gary Player, Jeff and Uncle Del at the Masters and then the showpiece moment, Jeff handing me his Uncle’s actual diamond encrusted Stanley Cup ring from the 1986 Stanley Cup Champion Montreal Canadiens.
With staff members waiting for Jeff to head up a 10 AM meeting and Myra and me 20 minutes from tee off, we had to cut short our sports memorabilia love in until after the round. The guys in the pro shop Kyle and Eric got us set up on a cart and not wanting to have starter Greg Williams put us on the naughty list, we quickly hit about 10 balls each, putted for 2 minutes then off to the first tee we went.
The first hole did not really take our breath away and this may have been the intent of course designer Richard Phelps as it seemed he was saving the best for last or in this case the last 16. After a fairly understated and benign opening couple of holes, the first of many eye popping moments began and never ceased. Starting on the long, straight Par 4 3rd hole and then again on the Par 3 4th where 2 humungous boulders were positioned half way down the hole on either side of the hole framing the green to perfection. We walked off with a par each, one of our favorite moments, we call it “Double Par”.
The use and effectiveness of these huge massive boulders was tremendous and presented a stunning visual. Adding to that were circular, white powder greenside bunkers. By the time we got to the 9th we were in awe and with the green perched above the fairway and the pristine white Spanish style clubhouse in the background I was poised to hit a good approach shot. It left the club with precision and when we got to the top of the hill there it was a mere 12 feet past the flag. Birdie eluded me on these perfect groomed slick greens, but par was very adequate.
Among many delightful features were the 12 small stone faced bridges that carried the golfers over a meandering creek system which made its way through this quintessential Northern Californian valley laden with groves of spectacular oak trees.
As we came off the 9th green, there was Mr. Jeff Wilson to greet us and ask how everything was going. We were both grinning from ear to ear and our good play continued as we teed off on the elevated 10th. What back to back Par 4’s those two holes are. Again with a dramatic boulder situated down below on the right side of the fairway, we were both in a groove and playing some great golf.
After making “Double Par” again on the Par 3 13th we both agreed that this was a real highlight of our golf review trip and Myra stated as we approached the tee box, “Wow Bill, each hole is prettier than the last”. How true, how true! Then there we were at the last, which Greg the starter had told us was a must photograph and the signature hole for sure.
The short blind Par 4 didn’t seem like much, but when we drove over the rise to the top of the fairway we were in awe at the view over water to the green below and the clubhouse positioned directly behind the green. One absolutely outstanding finishing hole and my one last chance for birdie which was made even more possible when I hit my approach shot high over the water and had a decent chance from about 18 feet. It eluded me as it did on the 9th, but what a way to finish.
My 42-41= 83 was a pretty decent round and even Myra’s 56-54= 110 was something to be proud of as the lightning fast greens were tricky for both of us to negotiate.
The day was capped off by enjoying a drink with Jeff Wilson and being given a personal tour of the members lounge adorned with framed autographed jerseys of members who had made their mark and living via professional sports. One in particular that caught my eye, that of Hall of Famer Oakland Raider receiver Fred Biletnikoff.
We shared the highlights and thoughts of our round and then as Jeff guided us outside we again thanked him for one of the most rewarding days of golf Myra and I have enjoyed anywhere in the US or Canada. It’s easy to see why the course is doing well with a strong membership base, busy charity golf calendar and is highly regarded as venue for weddings and special functions.
This 6 time LPGA tour stop is in my top 10, which is a list that is not easily attainable. See you in 2018 Mr. Wilson, we now have to come back, with a few Coffee Crisps of course.