CHARLOTTE, N.C. - When I was a kid, I wanted to be Batman. Superman just didn't seem plausible, and Batman had all those cool gadgets.
As I got older, my attention turned to sports, and I would head out to the basketball court in my driveway in Naples, Florida and pretend that I could shoot the 3-pointer like Steve Alford and Steve Kerr.
Once I got to college, and realized that I was never going to be Batman, or play a minute of competitive collegiate hoops, I began to fixate on more realistic heroes. The attorney, the city planner, the marine biologist - these were noble pursuits.
Now, as I approach the big THREE ZERO, I have gone and changed my mind again. My quarter life crisis is kicking in, and I know exactly what I want.
I want to be Ron Garl.
Garl is a Renaissance man. I think he knows it, he but doesn't let on that he does. This is my theory, because I live on a street with Renaissance in the title, and when Garl asked for my mailing address during an interview, he knew how to spell it.
He is the only person, so far.
Garl is a golf course architect by profession, a turf scientist by scholastic training, an airplane pilot by passion, and a fisherman in his spare time.
A day in the life of Garl goes something like this, and if it sounds like part of this itinerary was stolen from Ernest Hemmingway, there's nothing I can do about it. It is the truth.
This Thursday, Garl is hopping a plane for Costa Rica. Once there, he is going to visit the site of a golf course he is building in Quebos. Then he is going to slide on over to Royal Pacific, an exquisite layout that he and his firm designed about three years ago.
"It was voted the best new course in the country!" Garl proclaims. "Of course, the little sidebar here is that at the time, there were only two courses in the entire country."
After visiting his work in progress and his work of art, Garl will gather some friends and clients and go Snook and Tarpon fishing for a few days. Then it's off to Costa Rica's other coast for some Marlin fishing.
"I love Snook fishing," Garl says. "Did you know that the biggest Snook ever caught is in a bar in Costa Rica called Key Largo?"
Of course I didn't know that. But I WANT to know things like that. These are the type of useless, manly facts that Hemmingway, John D. McDonald, Carl Hiaasen, and the rest of my literary heroes would be able to rattle off as easy as the Heisman Trophy winners from the past 20 years.
After Garl gets back from Costa Rica, he's headed to Puerto Rico to oversee the construction of a new oceanside course, Cannon Ridge, that is destined to rank as one of that tropical paradise's best layouts.
"All eighteen holes are on the ocean," Garl says of Cannon Ridge. "Some are on the beach and others up on cliffs. And the history behind the site is amazing. This is where the British were going to hide Winston Churchill and his family during World War II if Hitler took control.
"Oh, and we are also building a marina with 1,500 boat slips. It is the biggest in the Caribbean, and as far as we know it's the biggest in the Atlantic Ocean. You gotta see this thing."
Sure, I'll squeeze it in between my next road trip to Myrtle Beach.
But the great thing about Garl is, this romantic lifestyle of exotic locations, fine golf, and sport fishing is not what he is all about. Sure, these noble pursuits are his true passions, but they don't define his existence.
All Garl really wants is for more people to take up, and stick with, the game of golf.
"This game is at a crossroads," he says. "We lose as many people as we gain each year. It costs too much money to play most of the courses, and not enough people get the proper instruction. If the game is too hard, and too expensive, of course you are going to quit. All the awards we win for our golf courses, that just helps pay the bills. What we really want are to get and keep people in this game."
All I really want is to go along on that Costa Rica trip.
Is that wrong?
August 29, 2002
Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.
PGA pros are hitting the ball longer than ever, and the tour views the onslaught as problematic, at least if you judge by how often they seek to lengthen tournament venues. Throughout the rest of the golfing community the distance issue has become even more pandemic, one that views nearly every important golf course as a potential victim of obsolescence. So what should golf course owners, club committees, and architects - presumably also key figures in the equation - do about it? Senior Writer Derek Duncan has is suggestion, or lack there of.
... full article »