It was up the coast again to Turtle Bay. For the second year, we made the hour drive to the North Shore. The Palmer course at Turtle Bay had been calling our name for a year. When we played the course a year ago, it was impressive. A course which had hosted the Champions Tour for their yearly tournament in Hawaii. No longer does that tour play a tournament there, as they have moved to the Big Island of Hawaii. However, they vacate one of my favorite courses, which winds through areas of vegetation and well placed lagoons. Palmer has become a favorite golf course designer of mine. Having played many of the courses put together under his watchful eye. On this day, the sun was shining without a cloud in sight. The weather up along the North Shore seems to be unpredictable at times. But, on the day we traveled up there, it welcomed us with blue warmth. Excitement and comfort filled the air while pulling into Turtle Bay. This round of golf had been looked forward to for months. As our bags where loaded onto golf carts for the day, a familiar face appeared.
While walking into the golf shop someone caught my eye. One of the guys working to get players ready for their round looked familiar. My purpose carried me inside the building thinking how recognizable the young man’s face was. He was easy to place, as we saw him at this golf course the prior year. On our first trip, up to play Turtle Bay. It would have surprised me if he remembered us. Someone working outside a resort golf shop probably sees thousands of people each year. The thought left my mind while beginning my process of warming up to play golf. Making my way out onto the driving range, the island sun was already relaxing muscles in my body. It wouldn’t take much time to loosen for our round of golf. After claiming the spot next to my brother, my swings began. Upon reaching satisfaction with my golf swing, heading back to the cart found our young man chatting with my mother. Mom was along to gain her days stepping goal by walking the course. Watching her sons play golf was probably just an added bonus. Their conversation arrived at its happy conclusion and off we went.
Driving from the clubhouse to the Palmer Course at Turtle Bay takes a good ten minutes. It can feel like traveling over the river and through the woods. We wind back and forth on walking paths, through trees and shrubs. At one point driving along with the ocean to our left. Resort guests are walking along the path, while some were out for their mid-morning jog. We’d wave while cautiously driving past in route to the first tee. When we arrived at the beginning hole, the starter greeted us, getting us ready to play. He took our cart numbers and inquired if we had played the course before. After letting him know we were familiar with the golf course, the gentleman saved his newcomer introduction. The starter simply nodded toward the first tee, letting us know the course was ready for us to play. As we meandered through our final preparation before walking onto the tee, mom talked about the conversation around the clubhouse. It turned out that young guy who jogged my memory also remembered our family.
Being remembered in this situation was kind of unique. We had only been up to Turtle Bay one time before. It was almost exactly one year before, probably just about down to the day. This guy must see thousands of people throughout any given year. For him to recognize and remember our family after interacting with us one time, the prior year, struck me as pretty cool. This kind of happening often has me thinking about cerebral palsy. It could be easier to recognized our family because CP causes me to look different. The disability has me walking differently, moving with choppier motions, and talking with slightly slurred speech. I’ve found myself being recognized throughout life before by people rarely seen. It often seems cerebral palsy plays a large role in being more easily remembered. Either way, the kindness of this young man caused comfort, making us all feel welcomed back for our second year to play the Palmer. Mom finished her story of the young man helping us load onto the golf carts. He had moved to the island from Florida and was living with his fiancé in Waikiki. It made for about an hour commute to the golf course each day. The two-hour round trip drive to the course for work was surprising. It seems there would be many courses between Waikiki and Turtle Bay for this young guy to work. Maybe he simply enjoyed the North Shore, they were planning on moving back to the mainland in a few years. He was interested in Las Vegas.
After gaining the history on our familiar gentleman, we walked onto the first tee. There was excitement running through my body stepping up to hit the tee shot. The Palmer begins with an inviting par-4 dogleg left. With a clear sky above and warm temperatures, my drive floated just wide right, and off we went. Our front nine was enjoyably familiar. Most of the holes were memorable from the year before, but still felt stimulatingly new. The greens were larger than memory served, leaving me with some long putts. Leaving the ball too far from the hole would cost me strokes on that opening nine holes. As we reached the par-5 ninth, my brother hit his second shot right of the green. It was struck with good distance, ending up pin high. He arrived at the ball, as the starter was bending down to pick it off the grass. Our starter mistaken it for a lost golf ball. My brother’s third shot would have to travel under a low hanging tree branch, bounce up a slope and onto the green. It would be a challenging shot and the starter wanted to take it on as well. After some discussion between the two over how to best execute this golf shot, they would both attempt it. Unbeknown to us, they settled on making the shot into a friendly challenge. Whoever got their shot closer to the hole would be victorious.
As my golf ball moved closer to the ninth green things weren’t going so well. Into a bunker, then out of the bunker, but still short of the green, then a chunked chip barely making it onto the green. Making a mess from 20-yards away, my attention was only momentarily caught by the conversation of my brother and the starter. There was no way of knowing the content of their interaction, but the shot facing him looked challenging. Walking up the slope onto the green, my brother had hit his third shot well, leaving himself with about ten feet left for birdie. There was another golf ball on my left just a couple paces onto the green. It was bright orange and looked to be forgotten. Paying the oddly placed golf ball no mind, my attention squarely on getting my golf ball in the hole to stop the bleeding.
We would learn later; the orange golf ball was our starter’s attempt at the shot of my brother. My brother would win that orange ball for hitting his shot closer to the hole. After finishing around the ninth green, we moved toward adventure awaiting on the back nine at Turtle Bay. The finishing nine at the Palmer was better than remembered. Holes felt more fun to play from becoming familiar with them the previous year. We took in the gentle lagoons meandering along many of the fairways. One of those pools of water gained my tee shot on the 13th hole. My shot journeyed off to the right on the par-3 and dunked right into the calm water. My putter began finding itself through the next couple holes. Better golf shots were proving better putting looks at the hole. A navigation wasn’t needed to line up my putts on the back nine. Then we arrived at the 17th hole of the Palmer course. A par-4 heading straight toward the Pacific Ocean. It’s an awesome golf hole, with the green sitting about 20 feet from waves crashing into the rock. We finished the hole, enjoyed some scenic views for a moment, snapped a couple pictures, and headed for the closing hole at Turtle Bay. Our round of golf didn’t disappoint and playing the course for a second time found me enjoying it more. We finished up and headed onto the clubhouse patio for something to eat.
With our stomachs full, we began our drive back to Ko Olina. Like our return trip last year, we stopped at a local bakery. Ted’s bakery was suggested to us last year and their pie turned out to be amazing. So, this year Ted’s bakery became a must stop for pie. We got two and motored back onto the highway. Arriving back at the resort, dinner ended with a huge slice of strawberry cream pie and reflections of our fun day. It was great driving to Turtle Bay for the round of golf. The Palmer course was better the second time around. With it’s interesting holes, gentle lagoons, and vegetation. The huge greens were inviting, but penalizing when you couldn’t get the golf ball close enough to the pin. Being recognized as we prepared to play added something cool to an already anticipated day. As we contemplate venturing to another island next year, our annual trip to Turtle Bay will be missed.