Week 3: Gold Coast
I love Queensland. I competed here eight years ago in a high school tournament (go Team FL/TX/LA!) and always wished to come back.
When we landed in Brisbane, I was so excited I literally dragged Meghan through the rain and traffic to Robina Woods (now renamed Palmer Gold Coast). I remember playing this course like it was yesterday. My friend/caddy this week, Paul, is a member there and had a tee time for us, but the delayed flight and traffic unfortunately made us miss it. However, the first and eighteenth holes look just how I remember them.
Meghan was happy to find our first grass range in Australia at Robina Woods. We met a sweet family who owned the range beside Robina. Both the man and wife were professional golfers, and their parents and daughter (and dog) helped run the business and pick the range.
After a short, wet practice, we drove back up to the Gold Coast, where we met our hosts for the week. Clare and Wayne are living the dream - they have a beautiful house, a marina/downtown area that reminded me of Kiawah in South Carolina, and cart access to the village and other golf courses. We never had a chance to play at Sanctuary Cove, but hopefully we can if we come back. The best part of all? Adam Scott grew up here! He has been one of my favorite players since I first started golfing. I (very) discreetly tried to find him but failed.
Meghan and I played our practice round at Links Hope Island on Saturday and then practiced Sunday. After getting some quality time in with my LiveViewGolf Camera, where I can livestream my swing so I can stay on plane, and meeting my caddy, Paul, we decided to hit the windy roads and hike in the Springbrook National Park.
The prime parts of the hike definitely had to be the waterfalls. Walking behind such powerful water reminded me of a smaller Niagara Falls while the swimming areas were reminiscent of Yosemite National Park. And the water was just as cold! No jumps this time, though - we were not prepared for a swim.
The Links Hope Island Pro-Am began the next day, and we were off! I was paired with another Aussie pro, Ali, and two amateurs, Matt and Stan. We had a great time but definitely did not win anything. I had a bit of a rough time with my putting, but it was still fun watching kangaroos jump around the course without a care in the world.
The rest of the week was dedicated to the RACV Gold Coast Challenge at Royal Pines, previously known as the Australian Ladies Masters. The practice round went really well - I shot one under and was ready to go for the week. We practiced the next day and participated in the Long Drive Contest with golf icons such as Laura Davies, who can still bomb it, and Phillis Meti, two-time World Long Drive Champion - most recently in 2016. Even though I had no shot (Phillis carries it almost 330 yards), I can now say I have competed against Laura Davies in close quarters.
Afterwards, we had a welcome party. Our host mom, Clare, is very involved with Gold Coast golf and helped put on the event. She also knew everyone - we were introduced to an 83 year old who could pass as 60 and was still golfing. We also met Dawn Fraser, the Michael Phelps of Australia. Dawn was named "World Athlete of the Century" and held over 40 world records in the pool. She is a phenomenal athlete and very down to earth. Her daughter also suffers from a gluten intolerance, and she helped me connect with the chef at Royal Pines so I could eat there this week. Thank you, Dawn!
Teeing off in the morning wave on Thursday, I was paired with Leticia from Germany, and two amateurs, Graham and Mark. Paul and I decided to walk the course, but I still could not find my rhythm. Sometimes, it just isn't your day. While I was happy to break 90, I knew I had to put in some work on my swing. The range at Royal Pines had closed while we were finishing up, so I dragged Meghan to another DownUnder excursion course - Emerald Lakes. When I was 16, we played a round here at night because the course has lights everywhere. This also meant they had a night range, and I spent some quality time getting back on plane for the next round.
While Friday's round was immensely better, I found that my putts just weren't dropping. No matter - I knew that meant I would have good karma soon. Patience and positivity keep you sane in this game. Moreover, Paul had been a great caddy all week, and he was the reason I did not shoot 90 that first day. His club selection was perfect!
The RACV was hosting an Australia v. The Rest of the World cricket match after the last round on Saturday. A few of us decided to get some practice in after playing on Friday and had a blast. Meghan, Kyla, and I learned how to bowl and bat from our fellow Aussies. It was so much fun, and we finally had a grasp on how the game was played! I know I would definitely be a bowler (or a pitcher in baseball terms) and not a batsman.
Since we did not make the cut, we had Saturday left to explore (although we heard the "rest of the world" won the cricket match for the first time in years). Meghan and I decided to check out Surfers Paradise. We walked along the beaches, found some boat races, and finished up some souvenir shopping. However, the highlight of the trip (literally), was revisiting Q1, the tallest residential building in Australia. This is where my team stayed when we played at Robina Woods. Just like last time, we snuck onto the elevator and punched the button to the highest floor. I was surprised to see the penthouse pool just as unguarded as it was eight years ago. The view was breathtaking - there were no walls, only windows, and you could over look the city and beaches from the infinity pool. I was a happy camper the rest of the day.
Next stop - Melbourne and the Oates Victorian Open Qualifier. Clare and Wayne were great, and we're hoping to see them again either in Melbourne or when we come back to Queensland in a couple weeks.
Meghan and I would also like to give Apex Car Rental a special shout out for taking pity on us and giving us a free GPS for the week; while we still got lost, we did not get super lost thanks to your compassion.
Addendum to Previous Post
After talking to more Aussies, I found out that Australia never gained its independence from Great Britain. In 1986, Australia officially became a Commonwealth state. This means that Australia has its own government, but the monarchy can only intervene if the queen is physically in Australia; from Great Britain, the only power the queen really has is to appoint her own governor-general of Australia.
Aussies continue to debate the idea of complete independence but to no avail. Some wish to be rid of the queen but maintain the common laws (complicated and most likely impossible - I'm still a little blurry on those facts) while others understand the queen has little influence on their daily lives and are indifferent to her title.
For more about Queen Elizabeth II's duties, please check out this website.
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram at @KellyOkunGolf for live updates and photos!
Just a golfer who loves to write and a writer who loves to golf.