Have you ever popped a champagne cork at 38,000 feet? Well, we did Monday! We were the lucky travel companions of the Wilson family after Mark’s second win of the year. The Wilson’s are a wonderful family, and we were excited to share in their success. With big names or the latest, greatest 350-yard bomber who usually captures fan and media attention, it is great a guy in his 30s from Wisconsin who continues to prove that you can’t discount the rest of the field. Congratulations, again, to Mark Wilson on his second PGA TOUR victory in 2011!
After a very comfy flight and a bit of celebratory champagne, we have arrived at the Monterey Peninsula. The AT&T National Pro Am at Pebble Beach is one of my favorite tournaments of the year. AT&T puts on a first-class event for the pros, amateurs and their families and with the most famous public golf course in the world as our setting it’s a recipe for a spectacular week.
Oh where do I begin? Some of my favorite places all year are located on the Monterey Peninsula. I could write and write and write about places to eat here, but for your sake, I’ll limit my suggestions and save some for next year.
Our first stop of the week is always The Cheese Shop in Carmel-By-The-Sea. (Carmel Plaza, Lower Level, Ocean & Juniper 800-282-9463) A cozy little shop located in the Carmel Plaza, this wonderful little store had been in business since 1975 and is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. With hundreds of unique cheese and hard-to-find wines, this is the place for the true connoisseur. Proprietor Kent is a master of boutique wines, and for a wine lover like Jimmy, this shop is truly heaven.
My next suggestion is Hula’s Island Grill & Tiki Room in Monterey. (622 Lighthouse Ave, Monterey 831-655-4852) A fun restaurant with a tropical theme, Hula’s is a favorite of Brett Quigley, Rory Sabbatini and especially their kids. Fresh fish and seafood with a mix of Asian, Latin and Caribbean flavors makes Hula’s a unique dining experience perfect for a night out with the family. Amy Sabbatini highly recommends the sweet potato fries and I recommend making reservations for large groups, especially during the tournament week.
Lastly, be sure to hit Kate’s Place in Carmel before leaving the Peninsula. (Mission Street between 5th and 6th Carmel, 831-624-0199) Hands down the best eggs benedict I have ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth. A warning – expect a long wait if you get there past 9 AM and they only accept cash. Trust me, Kate’s Place is well worth the wait and the hassle.
Since I already suggested The Cheese Shop located in the Carmel Plaza, take advantage of the location and visit the rest of the shops in the Plaza. Located on the corner of Ocean and Juniper Streets in Carmel, the Plaza is a fun center that is a mix of super posh stores like Louis Vuitton and local flavor like the Carmel Coffee and Coco Bar.
Heaven on earth has a name, and it is The Inn at Spanish Bay. An elegant and slightly contemporary lodge, The Inn is my top choice for accommodations inside the gates of Pebble Beach. The view from the north side of the Peninsula where The Inn is located is simply spectacular. Be sure to grab a glass of wine (or the most fabulous raspberry martini invented) and watch as the bagpiper serenades the setting sun. Absolutely nothing about The Inn at Spanish Bay disappoints. Yes, the rooms are expensive but well worth it for a truly amazing experience.
I completely understand how paying $600 + a night for a hotel room can make one feel ill, so I am suggesting a great alternative. Until this year, when Jimmy and I decided to give the RV lifestyle a try, one of our favorite alternatives to a hotel is the website Vacation Rentals By Owner – www.vrbo.com. VRBO is a site that offers private homes for rent across the United States and around the world. The Monterey Peninsula is a perfect spot to take advantage of the wonderful homes available on VRBO. Whether you want a cozy cottage that sleeps two or a mega mansion that sleeps 20, there is usually a home available for every size and budget.
Yes, Pebble Beach is home to quite possibly the most famous group of public golf courses in the world, but some of the best golf in the area can be played at Fort Ord’s Bayonet and Black Horse courses. The website’s affirmation of “the best 36 holes on Monterey Bay” may cause a few chuckles, considering whom they are up against, but after you play you may agree. If you ask any TOUR player what courses come to mind when asked which are the best, undoubtedly Bayonet will be high up on the list. As Jimmy says “It’s an overlooked gem in the Monterey Bay area.”
Rumor had it when Tiger Woods agreed to play in the AT&T National Pro Am again he made a big push to have Bayonet be a part of the rotation, and that says a lot about the quality of the course. With green fees under $100 for midweek play, it would be a major bogey to pass up Bayonet and The Black Horse. For more information visit www.bayonetblackhorse.com.
With clear skies and temperatures in the mid 60’s, we are ready for a perfect week of golf at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula Country Club. Come out and support all the players, whether they are a -6 or a 40 handicap, and enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in the world!