“Come on, Jay. Don’t embarrass yourself.” As if on a continuous loop, this thought kept running through my mind as I timidly lined up my tee shot on the first hole at the recently remodeled Olympic Hills Golf Club on an early-spring Friday morning.
My internal monologue was not always this bleak when it came to golf. But times and circumstances change. You see, until recently, golf had always played a significant role in my life. My earliest golf memories involved trips to a local park with my late father when I was about 6 years old. He would patiently stand there and watch me hit balls with an old set of clubs he had cut down to size upon which he had used a mixture of green athletic tape and duct tape to fashion grips. I continued to play throughout my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood and cherish all the friendships formed and life-lessons learned through the game of golf.
Following graduate school, my wife and I relocated from Southern California to Minnesota. Starting a new job, discovering all the Twin Cities had to offer, and contending with seasonal restrictions cut into golf time. The ensuing years brought with them several exciting changes, namely the purchase of our first home, the birth of our children, and moving from the city to the suburbs. It was also during this time that I made the calculated decision to leave my career as a forensic psychologist and venture into the world of real estate. While these changes have proved to be both wonderful and fulfilling, they also really cut into golf time. In the last 5 years, I have swung a golf club on two occasions. However, now that my kids are a little older (4 and 2 years old) and I have established a foundation in my real estate career, I have been pining for an opportunity/excuse/divine intervention to get back into the sport.
As fate would have it, Eden Prairie Lifestyle Magazine intervened. Namely, Andy Stavast, the publisher of the Magazine, asked if I would be interested in writing a story about golf at the Olympic Hills Golf Club. I told him my history with the sport and that I would be thrilled to take on the assignment. After chatting for a bit longer, we decided that an article about reconnecting with the game would be interesting. But the article would require one critical component – a round of golf by the author. As a Realtor with the Eden Prairie office of Edina Realty, I have heard numerous accolades from friends, colleagues, and clients about the course at Olympic Hills Golf Club. So, when Andy made arrangements for a tee time with his friends at Olympic Hills, I was elated.
On (the) Friday morning, I arrived at Olympic Hills Golf Club. I was greeted by Andy and Peter Eaton along with a number of most welcoming staff members. During my warm-up on the range, I quickly realized that a 5-year golf hiatus was going to provide for a very interesting round of golf. Gone were my aspirations of shooting a “respectable” round. I was now desperately clinging to the hope that I could complete a round of golf with 3 strangers (who quickly became friends) without embarrassing myself. Following the warm-up, I was introduced to my partners for the day: Adam Sklader, Tom Berg. Peter Eaton joined us to round out the foursome. After some brief introductions, we were off.
Adam, Tom, and Peter are all current members of the club. Peter has been a member since 1989, while Adam and Tom are both newer members. On the first tee box, each of these gentlemen hit impressively long drives down the center of the fairway. Then it was my turn. Consciously trying to push my nervous thoughts to the back of my mind, I lined up my shot and tried my best to put a smooth and easy swing on the ball, but sliced it into the rough off the right side of the fairway. Not ideal, but I made solid contact!
After getting over my first-hole-jitters, I was actually able to process the scenery around me. The course is beautiful, even in the early part of spring during which time courses all over the region are still waiting for much of the course vegetation to fully blossom. Several of the holes run along wetlands, which served as a majestic frame for the picturesque fairways and undulating greens. As we played, the pride that each of my golf-mates feels for the course became apparent. They discussed how they enjoy the challenging layout of the course, but appreciate that the wide fairways make the course approachable for less experienced golfers. One of the most striking features of the course is the greens. Even after a long hiatus from the game, I immediately realized that the greens at Olympic Hills are fast – some of the fastest that I have ever played on. Moreover, several of the greens were characterized by dramatic undulations and tiers – straight puts were a rarity. During his tenure as a member at Olympic Hills, Peter has assumed an operational role and was very knowledgeable of the changes that had been made to the course during the major remodeling that was completed in the last several years. As our group walked the course, Peter highlighted several of these changes and discussed some of the innovative methods that are being used to maintain the course, such employing use of solid-tine in lieu of core aerification methods for maintenance of greens and fairways. Others seem to have taken notice of the impressive changes at Olympic Hills too, as Olympic Hills will be hosting an upcoming NCAA Collegiate Golf Event this fall hosted by golf great Annika Sorenstam.
As our round played on, I found myself becoming less and less concerned about my performance (which continued to be pretty poor) and more focused on what I believe to be one of the most important components of golf: spending quality time with people. Adam, Tom, and Peter could not have been kinder and more welcoming. As we played, everyone seemed to enjoy basking in the joy of each other’s successes, occasionally mocking misfortune, and cracking jokes. We even added two members to our group along the way – Nick Oprish joined the group at the 11th hole and we added another Tom Groom on 16. Just like their Olympic Hills brethren, Nick and Tom were great guys as well. On one of the later holes on the course, Tom even invited us into his home that was nestled near to the green for a drink.
After we finished the round, I was filled with gratitude not only for the opportunity to play a round of golf on a spectacular course but also for the hospitality that was extended by the gentlemen that hosted me. The experience reconnected me with a game that I love and has also motivated me to start introducing the game to my own children. Thanks again to Olympic Hills Golf Club and everyone I played with. Hope to see you out on the course soon.