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Family for Christmas? Golf to the rescue!

By Jennifer Mario, Contributor

I'll admit it: Some of my best ideas weren't my ideas at all.

Golf in Christmas
Christmas is even more special for the family that golfs together.
Golf in Christmas

Call me a copycat; call me what you will. But I recently interviewed Duke University's top female golfer, NCAA champion Amanda Blumenherst, and ended up shoplifting an idea straight from her playbook.

See, the sophomore phenom didn't start golfing in a vacuum. Her mom golfs. Her dad golfs. Her grandparents, sister, cousins, aunts, uncles - they all golf, and once a year they hold what they've named the Blumenherst Open. They must have one heck of a handicapping system, because as much of a superstar as Amanda is, last year was the first time her team won.

I was intrigued. An annual family golf tournament? It was an idea worth considering.

After all, I have a sister, two brothers-in-law and a daughter who golf. Not only that, but I'd soon be hosting an annual family gathering of my own, with 17 relatives expected and three days' worth of activity to plan.

In my family, there are two things we take very seriously. The first is food. We love food. If we're not eating a meal, we're planning the next one. Often we're doing both, discussing the lunch menu over our bacon and eggs.

After I got married I was shocked to discover that not all families are as food-oriented as mine. Sometimes my husband's family doesn't know what they're going to eat for lunch until lunchtime. What is that all about?

The second thing we take seriously is Christmas. We love it so much that that we celebrate not one but two Christmases. One is on Dec. 25. The other happens the weekend before, when my entire family descends on my home here in North Carolina.

My family isn't small - counting all the spouses, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., and depending on who brings along a boyfriend or girlfriend, we've had up to 20 relatives in attendance. We cook a turkey, sing carols, wait up for Santa and open gifts. It's exactly like the other Christmas, only earlier.

Why two Christmases? It's genius, really. The first few years of our marriage, my husband and I fought over whose family we'd spend Christmas with. So, apparently, did my sisters and their husbands. One of us came up with the double-Christmas plan, and we've stuck to it ever since.

The logic is indisputable. If you're married, you have two families. Christmas is all about family. Therefore, if you have two families, you need two Christmases. So far it's worked great - no more spats, everyone's happy, no one's sacrificing a thing.

At this point you're probably asking yourself, What does this have to do with Amanda Blumenherst and golf? Relax, I'm getting there.

This year we had six golfers and a niece, a nephew, a boyfriend, a brother and a sister with nothing better to do than spectate. Sounds like a golf tournament to me.

A turkey takes four and a half hours to cook, right? And a round of golf takes ... hey! After we got the bird in the oven, the crowd of us headed out to the course. With the benefit of a wide-open course and an understanding ranger, we ended up playing a modified six-some, girls against boys. Match play, best ball, losers wash the dishes.

For some reason, I couldn't get off the tee. My column last month was about fighting first-tee jitters. Well, in this, our inaugural family championship, I had first-, second- and third-tee jitters. It was getting a little ridiculous, actually. But my sister picked me up and carried me on her back with her 200-yard, arrow-straight drives.

The guys played valiantly but tended to all do well on the same holes. If my husband hit a great drive, so did the brothers-in-law. If one of them hit a bunker, the other two would hit into the woods.

I think I had one decent drive the whole day. But my sister and I made a great ham-and-egg team, with my sand saves and putts. Even my 8-year-old daughter contributed here and there.

Do I need to tell you who won? Let's just say the Blumenherst family's idea saved me from dish-pan hands.

It's funny the way things go. A few years ago my mother read an article about George W. and his brothers playing golf on Christmas. "Golf on Christmas! What kind of family plays golf on Christmas?"

Now here was her own family, trooping off to the course without her.

Next year, my niece, who just started taking golf lessons, plans to join the team. I hope my mom comes along to watch. We girls need all the cheering we can get.

Jennifer MarioJennifer Mario, Contributor

Jennifer Mario is a regular contributor to the TravelGolf Network and the author of "Michelle Wie: The Making of a Champion" (St. Martin's Griffin, 2006). A graduate of Duke University, she lives in the Triangle area of North Carolina with her family.

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