Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hello Lone Star State!

After a few frustrating weeks for Jimmy in Florida, we are really happy to be back in the Lone Star State. I admit, after growing up in Utah and going to college in Colorado I never thought I would call Texas home. But after six years here I have really grown to love this State, it’s people, and I too have a sense of pride when I see the Texas flag. (I assure you my mother is having a heart attack as she reads this. Don’t worry mom, Utah will always be home!)

You couldn’t engineer a more perfect stop for the Walker family than Houston. There are not many weeks out of our hectic year where the stars align, and both our passions take place in the same city at the same time, but this week is one of them. And with Jimmy’s long time sponsors, Insperity, calling Houston home, it makes this week even more special.

With Houston being the fourth largest city in America, to say it’s easy to get lost here is an understatement. Two main freeways circle Houston like big racetracks – the Sam Houston Tollway and the 610 Loop. Between the 610 Loop and Downtown, are some of Houston’s most exclusive and historic neighborhoods and prime real-estate for shops and restaurants. I am going to focus on a few special spots that are “inside the loop” to make this big city feel a bit smaller.


LA. Chicago. New York. These cities will gasp in horror when I say Houston can beat them all, or at very least, go toe to toe when it comes to spectacular cuisine.

First off is Ibizia located between midtown and downtown. The goal of owners Grant Copper and Chef Charles Clark was to create a sleek and sexy setting where the patrons, chefs and servers can all interact and enjoy an amazing dining experience. The open kitchen, contemporary décor and the 4,000 bottles of wine ensconced on the wall do just that. The first time I was fortunate enough to eat at Ibiza was when I was an intern at Compaq during college. I remember the food being amazing but lets face it, I was a starving college student so at the time cup-o-noodle was amazing. But ten years later, Ibiza is still in the same location and Cooper and Clark are still creating Mediterranean cuisine truly worth remembering.

Considered by many to be the Holy Grail of Houston dining, the fact that Mark’s American Cuisine is located in a renovated 1920’s church is appropriate. Winner of numerous culinary awards, including the #1 rating since 2001 by Zagat’s Houston Restaurant Survey, the list of Chef Mark Cox and his restaurants achievements are endless. Houston resident and TOUR player Chris Stroud and his wife Tiffany are big fans of the restaurant, and they will be the first to tell you that Mark’s lives up to the hype. The Recommended Menus of the Chef’s personal choices change daily and use the freshest seasonal ingredients. On your next trip to Houston, be sure to make a reservation at Mark’s for a meal you will not forget.


Located at the Westheimer and Drexel streets just off 610, be sure to check out Highland Village. For more than 50 years, Highland Village has been a Houston shopping tradition. Today the center is a mix of carefully selected national retailers and unique boutiques. Be sure to check out Tootsies, an upscale boutique that carries shoes, denim and contemporary and classic collections from American and European designers. Valobra is a spectacular southern jewelry and antique store located in Highland Village and, are also a big sponsor of this week’s Pin Oak Charity Horse Show. (More of that to come!)

Highland Village is perfect for late afternoon shopping paired with an evening dinner, in one of Houston’s unique districts.


The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa are situated on 18 acres of wooded bliss, in the heart of Houston and just outside the 610 loop. The 289 guest rooms are elegant and offer floor to ceiling wooded views, offering guests the chance to relax and have all the city stress melt away.

Whether you choose to de-stress via the spa or workout route, The Houstonian has two amazing facilities for guests. The 125,000 square foot workout facility has been voted as one of the nations top-10 fitness centers, and guests have access to three resort style swimming pools, a rock climbing wall, boxing ring, tennis courts, 30 certified personal trainers and group exercise classes.

At Trellis, the spa at The Houstonian guests will be treated to one of the most beautiful and functional spas in the country. With 17,000 square feet of space and over 100 wonderful treatments, Trellis is definitely worth a visit while staying at The Houstonian.

Also, while a staying at the hotel, guests have access to Redstone Golf Club’s Tournament Course where the Shell Houston Open is played. Although it is a bit of a drive from the hotel, the Tournament course at Redstone designed by Reese Jones and David Toms, is well worth it. At over 7,400 yards from the tips, the course is one of the longer on TOUR and always in meticulous shape especially in the spring by the time the TOUR heads to town.


This week is a special week for me because not only is Jimmy playing golf in our home State but I am riding in the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show. The show is one of the oldest and most prestigious charity horse shows in the country and a social and fundraising event that is unique to Houston. The Pin Oak Charity Horse Show benefits the Texas Children’s Hospital, one of the country’s leading pediatric hospitals and #3 in the nation for cardiac care, as well as the Ronald McDonald House.

After our son was born last year, he was quite sick and spent 10 days in the NICU. While we were there, we became friends with some very special people named the Johnsons. The Johnson’s son Field was born with some heart issues and has undergone a few surgeries to correct those issues. His latest was done at Texas Childrens Hospital and Field’s mom, Lisa, raved about how wonderful the doctors and the staff are. And the Ronald McDonald house really helped them feel welcome while staying in Houston.

So not only do I get to participate in something I love, but it also benefits a cause that is near and dear to our hearts. And, by the way, little Field is doing amazing and our boys will be friends for life.

I hope I have helped make this large city feel a bit smaller. Head out to Redstone to support the golfers and be sure visit the Great Southwest Equestrian Center in Katy to watch some of the best equestrian athletes from around the country. The $15,000 Hunter Derby takes place at 7:30 PM on Friday evening and the $35,000 Pin Oak Grand Prix starts at 7:45 PM on Saturday.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Great Times & Golf In Orlando

Jimmy was pretty disappointed about missing the cut in Tampa because he loves the golf course, but the great thing about golf is there is always another week. And this week we are in Orlando for the Arnold Palmer Invitational at famed Bay Hill Club and Lodge. It’s been 6 years since we have had the privilege of playing this tournament and we are really excited to be back.

Another reason we were excited for the week (and for the delay in posting the blog) is Jimmy was picked to host the Golf Channel’s Inside the PGA TOUR show and the lil’ one and I got to tag along. After the crew spent about 2 seconds with our nine-month-old son it quickly transitioned into the “Mclain Walker Show,” and Jimmy and I were off the hook. The whole day was truly first class, and we were reminded how truly privileged a life we lead on TOUR.


As soon as you drive through the gates of the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando you immediately get the feeling you are in for something special. When Steven Spielberg was consulting on Universal Orlando Island of Adventure Park, he suggested each of the three hotels on the property has a special theme to make them unique. And are they ever! The Portofino transports you from busy Orlando to the beautiful Italian Riviera. With everything the Portofino has to offer, in the ultimate role reversal your kids will have to drag you kicking and screaming away from the hotel.

While filming Inside the PGA TOUR, we were treated to a fabulous lunch at one of the Portofino’s charming restaurants. Sitting in the sun at Trattoria del Porto, overlooking the “piazza,” you really feel as you could be in Italy. With eight different bars and restaurants, the dining options at the Portofino offer enough variety to keep everyone happy.

The Loews Portofino Bay may be located in Orlando and look Italian, but it is an amazing world-class resort that couples looking to get away and families of all size can enjoy.

The Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort


After our fabulous lunch at the Portofino, we took a boat from the hotel straight to Universal Orlando Island of Adventure theme park. The idea behind Island of Adventure is that each aspect of the Park is centered around a “storytelling theme.” From Dr Seuss to Harry Potter, you will be amazed at the attention paid to every small detail at both Universal Orlando Parks.

With rides, shows and shops to please every age, Universal Orlando Resort maybe be the “other park” located in Orlando, but I can assure you, the Parks are second to none and should not be missed.

Jimmy, Mclain and I filming Inside The PGA TOUR


Although it may be hard to tear yourself and your loved ones away from the theme parks in Orlando, Arnold Palmer’s tournament at Bay Hill is pretty great excuse to do so. With all the golf heavyweights scheduled to play, it’s a tournament that commands attention and respect must be paid to the challenging course. Fast greens, water on most holes and with wind usually a factor, Bay Hill is a perfect for spectators looking to get their fill of everything great golf has to offer. Be sure to check out the tournament if you are ever in Orlando during the week of Bay Hill.

For the 50 other weeks a year when the PGA TOUR is not in town, golfers can get their fix at Orange County National. Located in nearby Winter Gardens, every other year OCN is the site of dreaded PGA TOUR Qualifying School and for 10 years running was voted as one of Golf Digests “Best Places to Play.”

Orlando is a great city with so much to do and see, be sure to plan accordingly. Our whole week has been a wonderful experience, and we can’t thank the Golf Channel and Universal Orlando Resort enough for our memorable day. Be sure to watch Inside the PGA TOUR this Tuesday evening (3/29) on the Golf Channel to get a great look at Universal Orlando Resort and our life on TOUR.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Time for Tampa!

After three wonderful weeks in Gulfport, Mississippi indulging in my hobby, hunter/jumper horse shows, it’s time to get back to golf. I enjoyed success in the arena, riding to Champion of my division two out of three weeks, while Jimmy and the rest of the Honda field battled the wind and the Bear Trap in West Palm Beach.

My mare, Sahalee, and me.

We are enjoying being back together as a family this week in Tampa at the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club. The famed Copperhead Course at Innisbrook is a player favorite and one of the hardest non-major courses of the year. It has enough tough holes to keep things interesting, but with four par-5’s, there are also plenty of scoring opportunities if one’s putter is hot.


Located about 40 minutes from Innisbrook is a truly can’t miss experience, Berns Steakhouse. Don’t let the quirky décor reminiscent of the Haunted House ride at Disney World fool you. Berns has been rated as one of America’s Top Restaurants time and time again and boasts the largest private wine collection in the world. Much of the food is organically grown especially for the restaurant; and for dessert lovers the private Harry Waugh Dessert Room is it’s own epic encounter in and of itself. For a special occasion and truly unique night, make a reservation, dress up (Yes! There is a strict dress code!) and head to Berns.

At the opposite end of the spectrum from Berns is the Wing House, located not far outside the gates of Innisbrook, on US 19. In typical wing restaurant “fashion,” spandex hot pants are a plenty, but the wings are tasty and sweet tea refreshing. After a hot day on the course, golfers are frequent patrons of the Wing House to enjoy the food, sports bar atmosphere and perhaps the hot pants too.


Upon entering the gates of Innisbrook Resort, the hectic north Tampa traffic and pace melt away. As you wind your way past lush courses dotted with massive Spanish moss covered oaks and accommodations named after the most famous golf courses in the world, you can’t help but feel a little bit like you have escaped to Kellerman’s from the movie Dirty Dancing.

After Dr Sheila Johnson, CEO of Salamander Hospitality, bought Innisbrook Resort in 2007, the true grace and glory of the property has become the main focus. Major renovations have taken place to help make Innisbrook Resort a premier golf destination and according many TOUR players, the Copperhead course has never looked and played better.


For sports fanatics and even the casual observer, spring is a great time of year to visit the Tampa area. For five weeks a year the worlds best baseball players head south for spring training. Nothing beats a day on the golf course, an evening at the ballpark and beautiful mid-70’s weather.

Tampa is the perfect spring break spot for adults and by making the Transitions Championship and Innisbrook Resort part of your travels plans I guarantee you will not be disappointed!


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Florida Swing Kicks Off

It was quite the four weeks on the West Coast for the Walker family. These past few weeks were our first of 2011 traveling together as a family, staying in our bus and some fantastic golf from Jimmy. I must admit, it felt wonderful to be together and great golf was just the icing on the cake, especially since it’s the beginning of the year and the West Coast has not typically been Jimmy’s best finishes in years past. Those darn mutating greens can be quite tricky but as Jimmy’s putting stats indicate, they didn’t get the best of him this time around.

From West to East and Bent to Bermuda, after a much-needed week off Jimmy heads to Florida and the start of the Southern Swing in West Palm Beach at PGA National. The “small one” and I are enjoying my passion hunter/jumper horse competitions for the next few weeks, and I am sad to be missing this stop as WPB has everything I enjoy.


Located in southern Jupiter you will find Leftovers, one the Quigley family’s favorite restaurants. (451 University Blvd, Jupiter 561-627-6030) Leftovers is a wonderful family friendly place with fabulous “sub-tropical” dishes where fresh fish is the highlight of the menu. The specials change daily but always aim to please and do just that. The atmosphere is light and casual but get there early as they don’t take reservations and the locals know how great this place is.

Café Chardonnay is another gem of the area, located in Palm Beach Gardens. (4533 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens 561-627-2662) An amazing wine menu paired with creative American cuisine makes Café Chardonnay a perfect spot for adults wanting (or needing!) a romantic night out.

Lastly, for an upscale twist on an old favorite, try Vic & Angelos Coal Oven. (4520 PGA Blvd, Palm , Beach Gardens 561-630-9899) Vic & Angelos pizza is a favorite among Jupiter residents Will Mackenzie and Rickie Fowler, but the menu offers up a lot more succulent Italian dishes than just pizza. From one gnocchi lover to another, Vic & Angelos Ricotta Gnocchi is one that should not be missed. A happening spot especially during the Tournament week and MLB Spring Training, reservations are recommended.


Suggesting an indoor mall isn’t usually my style, but because of it’s proximity to PGA National, The Gardens Mall located on PGA Boulevard is my pick for the week. Whether it’s rain in the winter or heat in the summer that drives you indoors and over 160 shops and restaurants to tempt you, don’t feel guilty if shopping is the reason you stay indoors. The beautiful Gardens Mall is retail heaven.


The Honda Classic in WPB is one week that truly spoils us on TOUR. If you are going to make a trip to the area, there is no better place to stay and play than PGA National Golf Resort & Spa. There are not many weeks where we get to stay at the course but this week is an exception and exceptional it is!

With 5 courses to please players of all levels, PGA National is the perfect choice for a golf vacation. Feeling confident with your golf game? Be sure to play the Champion Course, the same course the TOUR pros play during the Honda Classic. This formidable course boasts three of the most challenging consecutive holes in golf known as “The Bear Trap,” named after designer Jack Nicklaus. When TOUR Pro’s pray each day to the Golf Gods for even par through The Bear Trap, you know you are in for a challenge.


For an opportunity to watch the worlds best in my favorite sport, equestrian stadium jumping, drive 30 minutes south to Wellington. Every winter equestrian athletes at the peak of their sport gather in south Florida. Friday March 6th is the Nations Cup Grand Prix, a team competition consisting of 4 riders from each country battling it out over massive 5’+ jumps with big money and bigger bragging rights at stake. A great competition that even non-horse lovers will respect and admire.

Golf, horses, wine, food, shopping. The Palm Beach area has everything this TOUR Wife could want and I hope you enjoy the spots I have shared with you!