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The Randomness of Golf

You can learn a lot in a round, and a chance pairing at a sporty 12-hole course led to a few revelations
while turning one player into a J.T. Poston fan

By Michael Bamberger
March 8, 2023

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla.—The question for all of us is really the same: When did you become a J.T. Poston fan? 

You are rooting for J.T. (above) to win this 50th playing of the Players, aren’t you?

I jumped on the Poston bandwagon somewhere on the back six of the 12-hole Yards golf course, a couple of miles and one or two housing developments away from TPC Sawgrass. This was on Wednesday afternoon, during the final practice round before the big show.

The course gets its name from the suburban backyards that line the first nine holes. You finish the round with three par-3s that casually occupy a large, flat playfield. 

I showed up at the public course (with memberships) at 12:50 p.m. and was on the 1st tee 10 minutes later, with two gentlemen in their 60s.

One of the gents was a retired flight attendant named Tom Spencer. When a plane flew overhead, Tom stopped, pointed his nose to the sky and identified the aircraft. He spent his career with Delta. Fly Delta Jets, as the sign at Hartsfield International in Atlanta has said forever. His drives, off his TaylorMade driver, were well-directed line drives.

Tom’s father, who is 99, flew 90 missions during World War II and went to Penn on the GI bill. He wrote a book called One Man’s Journey.

Tom’s playing partner was a Delta flight-attendant lifer, still working, an XXL man named Wolf Ressi. Wolf had a scary-looking wolf headcover on his driver, a pacific demeanor and a beautiful, rhythmic golf swing. He could flat out play (three birdies in the first nine holes), although he’d need three a side from his nephew.

His wife’s sister’s son is J.T. Poston, and J.T., by Wolf’s account, is just as nice as nice could be—in addition to being really good at golf.

I can’t tell you much about J.T. I can tell you (because I googled him) he’s 29 and newly married to Kelly Cox, and, per Wolf, Joel Dahmen killed it at the reception every way to Sunday. J.T. his own self brings to mind Adam Scott. That is, Adam Scott the actor, not Adam Scott the winner of the 2004 Players Championship. J.T. has won two PGA Tour events, has never had even a top 30 in a major and (by various accounts) manages his golf and life with both admirable discipline and a sense of fun.

Golf, like life, is just random. The tee sheet on the course website showed no openings, but my thing, always, is to show up, because you never know. Wolf is a Native American from South Dakota, but wherever he is in the world, people think that’s where he’s from. Saudi Arabia. Italy. Spain.

Tom retired to Ponte Vedra. He has kept himself in great shape. Wolf held his hat during one tee shot, when the wind came up.

The Yards is a suburban development course, trimmed from its original 18 holes, but there’s something stylish and inviting about it. There’s a nice grass range. There are basketball, pickleball and tennis courts nearby. There’s a wee par-3 course with six greens. The greens are spectacular, especially when Wolf is putting them.

“You play baseball?” I asked.

“I did.”

“What level?”

“Legion ball, when that was still a thing.”

Golf. Golf promotes conversation, and gives you the chance to learn about another person, as few things do.

We had a lot of fun. Just a random threesome.

By the 7th hole, we were giving each other the needle, just gently.

This golf.

The 5th green has a bunker in the middle of it with black sand in it.

This golf.

I have only played a half-dozen or so courses in greater Jacksonville. Each good, for what it is.

My ranking:

1. The Jax Beach muni.

2. The 12-holer at The Yards.

3. Timuquana Country Club (private, Southern, good).

4. The course at the Ponte Vedra Beach and Inn, with its island green.

5. TPC Sawgrass.

The only of those courses I don’t need to play again is TPC Sawgrass. Too hard, too big, too pretentious, too slow, too expensive, too corporate, too uptight. Lot of good holes, though.

The Jax Beach green fee is about $30, weekdays and walking.

The Yards was $75, walking.

Good golf is affordable, inviting, playable and does not take all day.

When we came in—we played in well under 2:30—a First Tee clinic and gathering was underway. Terry Holt, Bernhard Langer’s longtime caddie, was there. So were Webb Simpson and his caddie, Paul Tesori, who spoke meaningfully about how golf had shaped his life and how golf could shape the lives of the youngsters to whom he was speaking. Jimmy Roberts of NBC Sports was there. Clint Avret, the former head pro at Timuquana and now in the turf-management business, was there.

Plus, in the vicinity, J.T. Poston’s uncle, Wolf, and his golf buddy since the early 1980s, Tom.

You meet a lot of good people in this game. You can learn from all of them. I’ve tried Webb Simpson’s follow-through. Not for me but he’s doing well with it. Also, he’s a good talker. Reporters need good talkers.

Tom (below right) and Wolf (below left) and I lost some balls but found more, chiefly because Wolf had a retractable ball retriever.

This golf.

Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at [email protected]

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2 thoughts on “The Randomness of Golf”

  1. Stephen Collinson

    Another real treat. Thanks for writing about and going to find the true spirit of golf amid all the LIV/PGA tour nonsense. And in the Evil Empire’s back yard. I was watching the TPC this afternoon and it struck me that course isn’t golf in any form that I would recognize. I played a course by Pete Dye’s son a few times and it was the same. Surely a true test for the pros and single handicappers but requires precision that only the best club players could approach. A normal person could play Augusta off the forward tees and with slowed down greens and even hit it along the ground on most holes and have fun. Impossible at Sawgrass.

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