Late last week, my mom and I had the chance to defend our title at the 2013 Mountain Magic golf tournament! This marks the third consecutive year that we’ve been partners (read 2011 and 2012 recaps here), and it was as fun, exhilarating and exhausting (in a good way) as ever. We arrived at the opening party on Wednesday night and were greeted with our own parking spot thanks to our win last year. If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is.
It was an absolutely gorgeous afternoon, and the views of the course are always spectacular.
The theme of this year’s event was “safari,” as evidenced by the icy elephant used to make cocktails.
I tried the strawberries ‘n creme, a blend of strawberry purée and whipped cream vodka. Yum!
The food was as delicious as ever, too. We started out with flavorful crab cake.
Then tried a delicious plate of sweet potato purée, veggie quinoa, mozzarella cheese with tomatoes and a scallop over mashed potatoes. Everything tasted so amazing, it’s hard to choose a favorite.
We weren’t sure what was in store for us over the next three days, but we were super excited to compete and have the chance to spend some mother-daughter time together out on the course.
The next day we woke up bright and early for our 9:00 shotgun. In keeping with the safari theme, Mama Bender purchased a pair of zebra-striped hats for us to wear, in addition to zebra socks and golf gloves. Needless to say, we were very festive.
She also got us some dice to hang from our golf cart in hopes that luck would be on our side!
Breakfast on the first morning was a mixture of sweet and savory. I really enjoyed the chicken sausage, smoked salmon and capers, as well as the blackberry and strawberry crepe.
After fueling, we were off! Our first course was called Chiricahua. As it has been in previous years, our opening round was a best ball, which means that as partners, we take the lowest score out of the two of us on each hole to come up with the combined best score possible. There is both a gross score – the actual strokes we get on each hole – and a net score, which is determined by handicap.
Despite the fact that the wind was howling around us for most of the round, we did an incredible job! The 18 holes were a consistent mix of birdies, pars and a couple bogeys, with the exception of one hole where we both got “7.” It’s always unfortunate when both partners’ worst holes happen to be the same one, but we still managed to finish with a score of 78 gross, 67 net.
This year we were in the top flight, which meant we were playing with women who have much better handicaps than us! We were a bit bummed to find out that we had missed qualifying for the second day shootout by one stroke, but the same thing had happened the previous year so we took it as a sign that we were on the right track.
While on the course, Mama Bender and I really enjoyed the Lorina premium French sodas offered to us at the first and ninth tee boxes. I loved the Eiffel Tower on the logo, and the pomegranate-blueberry flavor was so delicious! We ended up trying several flavors in all – strawberry, blood orange, pomegranate, to name a few – and are now determined to find these in stores. Perhaps World Market will have them?
Once back in the clubhouse, we enjoyed a nice lunch. Fresh salad, watermelon with feta, veggie wraps, chicken sausage sliders and fruit covered in yogurt were among the options I chose. There are always so many great dishes that it’s impossible not to at least try them all.
We also grabbed a couple of to-go desserts to share. The carrot cake cupcake was delicious, but the raspberry and dark chocolate “decadence,” as it was called, really stole the show. It was so rich and melt-in-your-mouth sweet.
Our next day of play was on Cochise, which was the first time that the course had been thrown into the three-day rotation (previously it was a course called Apache, which is actually one of my favorites). Though we were in new territory from a tournament perspective, we were up for the challenge of a scramble, which means that each of us hits a drive at the start of the hole. From there, we pick the best shot and hit again, pick the best shot and hit again, and on and on that way until you finish the hole, hopefully with the lowest score possible. The only catch is that you have to take at least six drives from each person, so the pressure is on to be accurate.
Typically on scramble days it all comes down to putting. With the ability to have two chances on every shot, many teams are able to get on the green in regulation the majority of the time, so the difference is in whether you birdie or par. And I have to say, we ROCKED it!
Whether it was my mom hitting us in close and giving us the easy birdie putt or me being able to see her putts and put mine in on our second try, we managed to only have one bogey the entire round. We also managed to stay out of the sand traps, which can easily be our downfall! The only time we got into one, I ended up putting out and fortunately put the ball close enough to the hole for par. We ended the day on a high note with a chip-in for birdie.
As a result, we shot our lowest second-day score ever of 68 gross and 64.2 net! Our round under par put us in great position heading into the third day – fourth place gross (down by four strokes) and second place net (down by 1.4 strokes). We were thrilled!
A round like that deserves a pair of margaritas, don’t you think?
The club also had a delicious build-your-own salad bar after the second day of play. I topped my spinach with marinated mushrooms, cucumber, avocado, red pepper, blue cheese and chicken with an herb vinaigrette. I also had a small fish taco topped with spicy salsa.
Mama Bender and I couldn’t pass up the option to share some desserts again. This time we tried (clockwise from top) a white cupcake with strawberry icing, key lime tart and cannoli.
That night we went home and hung out with Bobby, Eric and Papa Bender, who provided plenty of words of encouragement. Papa Bender made us fajitas while Eric told us all about the 75 he had shot on the course that day – his personal best and, much to this sister’s dismay, two strokes lower than my lowest personal score of 77. Only kidding about the dismay – I’m more jealous than anything. 😉 But very proud of you, little bro!
We had the chance to sleep in a bit on Saturday with an 11:00 shotgun, so we had an easy morning of recovery before heading back out to the course. Even though we’re in carts, the Arizona heat combined with 36 holes of mentally and physically tiring golf can really wear a person out! By the time we got out on the course, however, we were ready to play.
Just like last year, we played the Geronimo course and another best ball, except this time around we were able to pick the best drive on each hole and play out from there. Mama Bender and I started out with a pretty steady first nine and were really hitting our drives well. The putts weren’t falling quite as nicely as they had the previous day, though, and we found ourselves with a few more pars and bogeys than we would have liked, especially when we had put ourselves in a position to make birdie and missed, or had been on the green in regulation and three putted.
Although we were still having fun and balancing each other as always, we were having trouble with our iron shots on the par threes, too. Most of the time we managed to eke out pars and get a little lucky, but unfortunately that was not the case on the final hole. It’s a short par three that we’ve hit the green on more times than we can count, but that was not to be on our last day. Mama Bender went first and ended up over the green – we weren’t sure yet whether it was in the trap or rough, but we knew we didn’t want to have to take her shot if we didn’t have to.
I don’t think I can blame it on nerves because I approached the shot as confidently as I could, but one bad swing later and my ball was in the hazard. Looking back on it, I probably should have hit a provisional so that we had the option of taking my second shot and putting for four (assuming my second shot had hit the green), but our tired brains didn’t come to the same conclusion as it was happening, and so we decided to take Mama Bender’s ball.
A few shots back and forth over the green, in the trap and beyond later…we were putting for a very disappointing triple bogey (six). Mama Bender made the putt to put us out of our misery, but it’s definitely not a fun feeling knowing that you were in the hunt for first place at the start of the hole and completely out of it altogether by the end of it, all in the span of 10 minutes.
As it turns out, we would have needed to birdie that hole to make second place net, and do a few things differently throughout the day to have won first. The ladies in our division were tough competition and everyone did an incredible job.
Though it was certainly a bummer to come away without a trophy this year, Mama Bender and I still had a lot to celebrate. We kicked butt for 54 holes of golf, shot the lowest we’ve ever shot in a tournament together on day two and, most importantly, had a blast hanging out with each other. Congratulations to all the winners in every flight – it was another amazing year at Mountain Magic!
Of course, the fun wasn’t over yet – there was still one more meal and plenty of dancing to be had!
Not to mention photo opportunities with safari hats and vehicles.
The dining room was also decked out – I loved the zebra tablecloths and giraffe centerpieces!
We had a fantastic sit-down meal with whole wheat rolls and fruit salad…
…tender steak and more crab cake…
…as well as a sweet ending in the form of a banana-chocolate dessert.
I’m feeling hopeful that I’ll be invited back next year.
After all, we do have a parking spot and a feather trophy to reclaim. Love you, Mom!