There aren’t scores of men and women walking the Earth who can say they’ve played in an international golf tournament. I certainly never thought those words would come out of my mouth.
But thanks to some clever folks at the Rhône-Alpes division of the national French tourism services, I not only got the chance – but I got to play some of the most elite course in France along the way.
The 2012 Multi-Nationalities Media Golf Tournament invited nine journalists from around the world for a three-day contest at three luxury golf resorts in the Rhône-Alpes region near Switzerland. One writer each from Scotland, Denmark, Holland, Sweden, China, South Korea, Germany, France and the USA (as I was the only North American) arrived in Lyon last week to do friendly international warfare on the links.
I was obviously excited, but nervous for the start of competition. After playing since I was 10, I gave up the game for six years after the death of my father and longtime playing partner. I only grabbed a club again this past April – just prior to getting the invitation for the tournament.
So I spent May playing whenever possible and hitting range balls just about every other day. I got some of my touch back, but (if I’m honest) I never had a spectacular game in the first place. I was and am an average amateur golfer. I beat duffers. I lose to multi-game per week club members. I flew into Lyon looking only to finish in the middle of the pack and to hit enough good shots to leave a decent impression.
After landing at Lyon Saint Exupery Airport, my taxi driver – Bruno – drove me through France’s third largest city to Hotel La Cour des Loges. Built by the Jesuits in the 14th Century, the fully restored hotel kept a lot of the old features and dark, winding hallways – making for a very atmospheric and classy night’s stay.
The next morning, the contestants were escorted via posh bus to the Lyon Golf Club, the sometime home of the French Open. After an apéritif welcome by the course executives, we headed to the tee for our first round.
The club course plays very much at the professional level you’d expect. Fairways are immaculate and narrow, with the rough thick and unforgiving. The course was built and redeveloped with a focus on maintaining the area’s rolling hills and tall, closely knit trees. There are no roads nearby or power lines to obscure the view or provide unwanted out of bounds distractions.
Water hazards visit your ball in the guise of small lakes. I know from first hand experience because my water magnet shots got wet so often I decided it might save time for me to simply chuck balls into the hazards.
An unusually strong seasonal wind made our round even more challenging, forcing me to club up at least two notches on many shots. Those gusts also brought fresh aromas from the French countryside and welcome breaks from the pleasure of playing a really well-manicured, if unsympathetically difficult golf course shouldn’t be underrated.
During an elegant lunch at the clubhouse following the 18, we accessed the damages, the young journalist from China took the first round with his refined swing and controlled iron play. I finished in the middle of the pack after day one and was perfectly happy sipping my wine with that in mind.
That wrapped up day one and left only the 90 minute bus ride to our day two destination, Saint Clair Golf in Annonay.
My first round of amateur international tournament golf was in the books. And the best news was I would get to do it again the next day.