It was a day of golf you couldn’t put a price on — a round in the 84 degree Florida sunshine at the exclusive Old Palm club and a chat and a beer with Lee Westwood afterwards. Oh, and a cheery wave from the legendary Raymond Floyd as he swept past in his buggy.
It was all thanks to Chubby Chandler, founder and managing director of International Sports Management who look after the interests of many sports stars including Westwood, Darren Clark and South Africans Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosterhuizen.
Chubby invited son James and myself and Derek Lawrenson of the Daily Mail to Old Palm and the hospitality was incredible. Old Palm is an excellent course — designed by Floyd — which winds its way through a vast gated housing complex.
It is now home to the Westwood family who moved to the States from Worksop two months ago. They were renting a house on the complex until Monday when they moved into the one they’ve had built on the edge of the 14th fairway.
Painters were still putting finishing touches to it as we played past on Tuesday and to say it looks magnificent is putting it mildly. With the kids happy with their school, the Westwoods have settled in quickly and you wouldn’t be surprised at that if you saw the place.
The golf club is the social centre of the complex and the luxury hits you as you drive up to the ornate clubhouse and hand your car over for valet parking. We were directed to the carpeted, oak-lined locker room where we found lockers with our names on and a complimentary golf shirt inside.
After lunch in the swankiest spikes bar I’ve ever seen, overlooking a spectacular waterfall, we went to the course and that’s when reality hit us.
Chubby, who used to be a pro on the European Tour and actually won a Tour event, suggested that he played with Derek against the Corrigans. Seldom has there been a worse miss-match.
James used to play off 11 but hasn’t played more than a handful of games in the past three years or so . My game doesn’t need explanation to readers. Chubby said they’d give me a shot a hole and James ten shots.
What followed was an embarrassment and James’ major achievement of the first few holes was to make me look a half-decent player.
He couldn’t get it off the tee and I certainly couldn’t cope with the opposition. Chubby claimed they were seven up by the fifth and what added to our discomfort was that each pair had a caddy who rode on the back of the buggy, handed us our clubs, gave advice and helped us look for wayward balls.
They are both in their early 20s and excellent golfers. There are 18 full-time caddies at Old Palm and ten of them are off scratch or better. One is called The Animal and when he was caddying for Lee the other week he challenged him to a driving duel.
A small wager was transacted and Lee’s drive was 60 yards short of the Animal’s. It was only afterwards that the Animal confessed to having been the 2010 World Driving champion and regularly hits it around 440 yards.
Needless to say, we lost the match by a massive score and the only consolation was that James won the last. But it didn’t convince us we should ask to go around again. What a day.