WILLIAMSBURG, VA - Patriotism-it's a big part of us these days. September 11th is but a month in our past, and the re-awakening of patriotic pride taking place in the aftermath of that day's infamous happenings is complete and far-reaching. Nary a segment of the country needs a nudge in order to display flags, ribbons or slogans. The feeling's everywhere.
Nowhere more so than in Williamsburg, Virginia, the colonial capital of the state and intellectual breeding grounds for a good portion of America's Founding Parents-namely George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Peyton Randolph and Patrick Henry. It's ironic that a good deal of what we're concerned about today are the same things they were concerned with back then. Our nation's basic principles are timeless.
Freedom's a precious concept. It must be preserved.
So it was perhaps fitting that the Michelob Championship, Virginia's annual PGA event, made its stop in this most patriotic of all towns a few weeks after our country was attacked; and even more appropriate that our nation's military response began during the tournament's final round.
I doubt anyone will claim that this particular golf episode had an effect on world events. But there's no denying that world events had an effect on this tournament.
Start with David Toms-whose fifteen under par total of 269 was good enough to win the tournament for the second consecutive year. In Toms' post-tournament remarks, he said the start of the United States' bombing mission in Afghanistan and President George W. Bush's comments-inspired him to go out and play a great round.
Sure enough, Toms used the patriotic fire to birdie four of the first seven holes on his way to a final round 68-good enough for a one-stroke victory over hard charging Kirk Triplett. Toms' lead was as large as four on the back nine, but the combination of three Triplett birdies and a Toms bogey on the par three 17th made things interesting.
Toms hardly made it dramatic on the final hole-hitting the green in regulation and leaving himself a reasonable three-footer for his par and the win. His back-to-back victories here have brought about comparisons of Toms' young career to another consecutive years' winner of the Michelob in '97 and '98-David Duval.
It was Toms' third PGA Tour victory of 2001, which includes the PGA Championship, and has many talking about Toms prominent place amongst the game's elite. Who could deny it? He's now third on this year's leading money list, has a major championship to his credit, and is second to Tiger Woods in number of victories for the season.
Toms concluded his remarks by promising to come back next year, and try for a Michelob 'three-peat.' Few in this year's attendance would bet against him.
Kingsmill Resort's River Course certainly shined during the final round-it was a bit breezy and cool, but the soft autumn sunshine certainly shed pleasant shadows on one of Virginia's finest courses. The 6853 yard Pete Dye design challenges players with accuracy over length, and attracts several excellent tour participants every October-this year, three members of the United States' Ryder Cup squad took part-David Duval, Jim Furyk and of course, David Toms.
It should also be noted that the River Course is only one of three fine courses at Kingsmill, all open to the public. There's also the Tom Clark/Curtis Strange designed Woods Course, and the Arnold Palmer/Ed Seay designed Plantation Course within hailing distance of the River. Quite a spectacular setting for some incredible golf. And the great thing is-it offers a private club's quality without the sizeable initiation fee.
Also in Williamsburg are several others of Virginia's best, including the Gold and Green layouts at the Golden Horseshoe (in Colonial Williamsburg), the three excellent courses at Ford's Colony (Marsh Hawk, Blue Heron and Blackheath), Kiskiack Golf Club, and to the west, Stonehouse, Royal New Kent and Williamsburg's newest track, Brickshire.
In fairness, there are more courses in the vicinity whose reputations are also excellent, though I haven't played, and can't speak from experience. I've been fortunate to have toured and written on all the layouts in the previous paragraph, and would be happy to recommend all to visitors to the region.
Fall's also a great time to get some excellent playing conditions. Most, if not all, Williamsburg area courses feature bentgrass greens that just seem to thrive on mild days and cool nights. In addition, the passing of the sometimes-brutal Virginia summer heat takes with it some of the Bermuda grass's intensity (or should I say, density?). There isn't a better time of year to enjoy the beauty of fall colors on the heavily wooded Williamsburg courses, along with the green green grass of its golf courses. A perfect slice of heaven waits for all who seek it.
Anyone who's familiar with this part of Virginia knows there's quite a bit more to it than just great golf courses (though a golf junkie certainly could OD on golf here, with some courses to spare).
First and foremost is Colonial Williamsburg itself, the living history museum restored through the generosity of John D. Rockefeller and his estate-and currently owned and operated by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The mile-long historic district contains 88 original buildings, and the town lives in a perpetual time warp that is 1775-the days leading up to the American Revolution.
Here you can dine in an actual colonial-era tavern, talk with the 'persons of the past'-historical re-enactors, discover the techniques of skilled tradesmen, debate the great questions of the day (as long as that day is in 1775), bid in a real-life auction for colonial goods, tour historical houses and buildings, and the list goes on and on...
Particular personal favorites are the evening programs at Colonial Williamsburg. Visitors can choose from concerts, stage productions, informative tours and lectures or even take part in colonial style dancing at the Governor's Palace, amongst other things. There's always something to do and see-and fall's a great time to visit-with smaller crowds and some great package deals available.
There's hardly a better place on earth to come and get a real sense of patriotism-on a year-round basis. For you're never far from the concept of freedom, and being here helps put some of today's worldly problems in proper historical context.
Coming to Williamsburg for the Michelob Championship, to play some great golf, or tour some of the historical sites-couldn't be easier. Being one of the region's largest tourist draws, there're a multitude of places to stay (and eat!) to choose from.
Having been to the area a couple dozen times, I've found there're no better accommodations than those offered by Colonial Williamsburg itself-for value, proximity and quality.
On this particular trip, we stayed at the brand new Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel, adjacent to Colonial Williamsburg's Visitor's Center, and just a short walk or bus ride away from the historic district itself.
The Woodlands is part of Colonial Williamsburg's constant building and restoration effort-and a fine example of the Foundation's efforts to provide the best possible stay for its guests. The Woodlands is a family-style hotel, complete with all the amenities you'd expect from a kid friendly environment.
If you're looking for more formal sleeping quarters, try the Williamsburg Lodge, directly adjacent to the historic area (and also the Gold and Green Courses of the Golden Horseshoe), or smother yourself in luxury at the newly renovated Williamsburg Inn. It all depends on your budget and preferences-and the nice thing is, it's available, and up to you!
This year's Michelob Championship seemed different than in years past. In some ways it was tangible-like the increased security presence. In some ways it wasn't different at all-with David Toms winning for the second consecutive year. And in some ways, the tournament's setting made it even better, and more meaningful than in previous years. For there isn't a finer place in all America to come and celebrate what it is to be American-Patriots from the beginning to the present. God Bless America!
October 4-7, 2001
Kingsmill Resort's River Course
Colonial Williamsburg Information can be obtained on its website: www.history.org, or by calling 1-800-HISTORY.
October 11, 2001