Monday, September 22, 2014

Ryder Cup Surprise at Ponte Vedra Inn and Club

Balcony view from the historic Ponte Vedra Inn
Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, Florida
September 2014

     There is a buzz in the air this September in Ponte Vedra.  Ryder Cup.  Ryder Cups, past and present.  75 years ago, within weeks of being held on the Ocean Course at Ponte Vedra, Florida, the Ryder Cup was cancelled with the onset of World War II.  It would have been a grand match.  Some of the Americans who were practicing when Charles Roe, secretary of the British PGA, cabled their apologies and a promise to return for their cup "when we have settled our differences and peace reigns....." included Byron Nelson and Sam Snead.  With the tournament on hold until 1947, Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen would go on to captain exhibition matches throughout the war years in support of the USO and the Red Cross.
     Commemorating the historical significance of this year at the Ocean Course and to further the Ryder Cup buzz on this side of the Atlantic, Lanny Wadkins has loaned the Inn his 1991 trophy from the War on the Shore at Kiawah Island.  Coincidentally, that course is ALSO named the Ocean Course!  What a surprise to find it proudly displayed with the rich historical artifacts and military memorabilia that make a guest feel both amazed and at home here.  With nearby Naval Air Station Jacksonville and Naval Station Mayport, Ponte Vedra's connection to our nation's military is significant. 
     Begun in 1928, the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club is a gracious experience with attention paid to
every detail.  The 2014 Ryder Cup Package included all the golf we wanted with some of the
finest accommodations we've ever had and unmatched service at every turn.  They made us feel
not just welcome, but appreciated.
     Thinking the par 70 Lagoon Course would warm us up for the next day's round on the par 72
Ocean, we teed off in the late afternoon as the sea breezes reminded us to pay attention.  The yardage book came to our rescue or at least gave us fair warning of hazards and traps.  They could be obscured by surprising terrain or suddenly within our range when impeccable fairways rewarded a clean hit with extra yardage.  It's easy to get a full measure on the ball here but you will use every club in your bag.  We wished we had one that reached to the top of a Cabbage Palm on the 18th, because that is where our last Bridgestone E6 is residing!
Bald Cypress Corner on Lagoon's 16th
     Both courses wind through waterways that are magnets for birds, and balls when distracted by birds, but the Ocean Course has a different feel.  Wider, wilder, longer and taller, it retains the elements that competitive golfers love.  An iconic island green on the 9th is in full view of the clubhouse turn but is well bunkered on the back, affording a last ditch chance into sand before all is lost in the water.  We kept our dignity with bogeys. 
     Ponte Vedra also has some of the tallest dunes in Florida and when the yardage books says it's a 2-club difference into the wind on the 16th par 3, they mean it.  The last two holes play through some of the toughest elevation changes on the course and it seems the gusts never end.  You can imagine those players of old coming in with the wind roaring in their ears and their adrenaline rushing through their veins.

Recording a Birdie on Ocean's 14th

     It's hard to believe that this strip of ocean edge east of Jacksonville and north of St. Augustine was once mined for minerals used in World War I.  Now it boasts some really big golf, including The TPC at Sawgrass and The Dye Valley Course where the Tour Championship is finishing as this is being written.  Right up the road, the Ocean and Lagoon Courses at Ponte Vedra Inn and Club offer their own incredible skill tests and an unbeatable retreat packed with history and surprises.

     For a look into Ponte Vedra's past by Mark Aumann on, go to
Ponte Vedra holds unique place in Ryder Cup history.

     And watch Golf Channel's Golf Detective Matty Blake investigate
The Lost Ryder Cup of 1939.