Week 1: Sydney
G'Day, Mate! (My swing coach made me practice that the last few lessons before flying out to Sydney.)
Day seven here in the land Down Under. Thus far, we are adjusted to Australian time and loving every minute. In Sydney, we are 16 hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone and in the summer season.
Following a long and bumpy flight from Los Angeles, my friend Tessa and I landed and made it through customs with ease. After proving our golf shoes and clubs were clean and explaining our love for all things nuts (I brought cashews, peanut Larabars, and peanut butter), we were on our way!
We happened to land in Australia on January 13th, my birthday. My second birthday present of the day (the first simply being in Australia) was driving on the other side of the road. We managed to drive to a Macca's (McDonald's) before changing into our summer clothes. There, we were able to map a way into the city. Finding parking was difficult, but we found ourselves a nice, little parking garage, paid a fortune, and walked to Circular Quay It was amazing seeing all the sides of Sydney. There were old buildings that were reminiscent of New Orleans, alleys that looked like they came right out of Philly, skyscrapers rivaling those of New York, and, of course, Sydney Harbour, which reminded me of the Chicago waterfront.
From Circular Quay, we could see the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. As we walked, we discovered that the area where the bridge was built was originally an Australian army base named Dawes Point. The fort was knocked down in 1925, and the bridge construction began; the Harbour Bridge opened in 1932.
After taking in the views, we backtracked to The Rocks, or the older area of Sydney, where we found a nice cafe for lunch. We needed to fuel our energy because we still had a ways to go before meeting our host family.
Since we knew we would be back to explore Sydney further, we decided to drive to a mall. There were three reasons for the decision.
It was finally time to meet the host family, or billet. We drove to our first pro-am destination, Castle Hill Country Club, and proceeded to meet Graham and Tammy as well as eat a nice dinner. Tessa and I barely made it to our rooms before collapsing and catching up on some much-needed sleep.
The next day, we picked up Meghan from the airport before heading to our first practice round at Pennant Hills Golf Club. Fortunately, we spotted Meghan before having to drive through arrivals again - a 45-minute adventure filled with buses and weary travelers. Tessa and I decided to forgo international cell phone plans and rely heavily on wifi - so far, so good!
Then the fun really began - it was time to golf! Expecting some body tightness, we arrived at Pennant Hills early in hopes of hitting the range. Turns out driving ranges are very rare in Sydney, though there are small ranges scattered throughout the city itself.
Pennant Hills was beautiful. Trees lining narrow fairways, soft greens, thin rough - we had a fantastic time. Of course, there were plenty of hills to traverse with our pull carts. We played our practice round at Castle Hill Golf Club the next day, and it was very hilly as well. These courses, along with our host family's grandchildren's rendition of The Sound of Music in the car one morning, were the inspiration for this post's title.
The day after our Castle Hill practice round, Tessa and I piled into the car with the grandkids and enjoyed the views as our host parents drove us to the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. We stopped at the West Head and North Head lookouts as well as drove by Manly Beach. Of course, the North Head lookout included ice cream for all.
As side note, the food here is very Celiac-friendly. Whether on the plane, in the city, or even at my hosts' home, there are gluten-free options everywhere. I would definitely recommend Sydney (and probably the rest of southeast Australia - I'll let you know) to all people traveling with Celiac. Plus, their bread is delicious!
The pro-am at Castle Hill was on January 17th. The night before, we had a rookie meeting and our first shoot-out. A hole-in-one garnered you $10,000, and a closest to the pin earned you $1,000 in credit for a member's jewelry store. Unfortunately, I did not win the jewelry or the money, but there are still five weeks left. Since the weather for our first pro-am the next day reached well into the 100s, we took carts; thank goodness I was in the morning wave! I played well at Castle Hill, shooting +3 and just missing the first pay cut by one stroke. It really proves that every stroke counts out there. I also had the honor of playing with Amy Chu, a very talented Australian amateur looking to play in college in the U.S. - keep a look out, coaches!
Since our practice facilities were relatively limited compared to home, Tessa and I did not feel guilty about sightseeing and then practicing our short game at the course later. Graham and Tammy explained the bus system to us, we bought our Opal cards, and then we took off for the aquarium and the Sydney Tower Eye in Darling Harbour. We walked in glass tunnels and had sharks and dugongs swimming above us. I had never heard of dugongs before, but they look like manatees with a whale tail. The sharks were terrifying, but I have always been fascinated by them; it's a love-hate relationship I don't mind having on land or in glass tunnels.
We then went the opposite way and took the elevator to the top of the Sydney Tower Eye. We were 400 meters in the air, twice as high as the Sydney Harbour Bridge. From there, we could see the harbour, the airport, stadiums, and the tops of the skyscrapers.
We knew we had to meet our new host family for the Pennant Hills Pro-Am that afternoon, so we went back to Graham and Tammy's, packed up the car, and made the 20 minute drive to Pennant Hills. There, we met Margie and Ray (and their dog, Banjo). Margie was the former president of Pennant Hills. Graham is the current president of Castle Hill, so Tessa and I felt like we had a good run of presidential suites thus far. Ray originated from South Africa, where he fell in love with saving rhinos from poaching. Check out this Tedx Talk he made in the Opera House to learn more about his noble cause. There is some graphic content near the middle of the video involving a poached rhino.
On the 19th, we played our first round at Pennant Hills. I played with Gloria, a golfer on the Korean LPGA, and two fabulous amateurs, Lee and Jen. We had a great time, and I shot +1, placing me in the afternoon wave the next day. The scoring the next day wasn't so hot, but I played with Lane, Lyn, and Leonie, who was from England. We had a great chat at the pro-am party afterwards, and I look forward to visiting Leonie and her husband whenever I get the chance. Hello, Harry Potter tours!
It has been a very exciting and fast-paced first week in Sydney. We can't wait to see what our next week here has in store for us!
Instagram & Twitter: KellyOkunGolf