Player's Journal: Jeff Fortson at the U.S. Four-Ball, Part 3
Jeff Fortson is journaling his week at Jupiter Hills (USGA photo)
Jeff Fortson is journaling his week at Jupiter Hills (USGA photo)

Editor's note: As a special to AmateurGolf.com, Jeff Fortson of Palm Desert, CA has decided to journal his experience playing in the U.S. Four-Ball Championship. This is his third entry.

Currently it is Friday night, on the eve of the tournament. I’m guessing this will be posted on Saturday morning, May 19, so I am most likely getting warmed up for my 11:48am tee time on The Village Course at the Jupiter Hills Club for the first round of stroke play at the 4th USGA Amateur Four-Ball Championship. The last two days have been a great experience getting ready for the championship.

On Thursday, my partner, Mike Walton, and I went through registration and were treated to the customary welcoming you grow to expect at a USGA Championship. Everyone on the Jupiter Hills Club staff and the volunteers, who are made up of mostly members of the club, went out of their way to welcome us and make us feel at home. I could spend many paragraphs describing all the little things that are done to make a player feel welcome, but I’d potentially crash the AmateurGolf.com servers doing so.

Before our first practice round on Thursday on The Village Course (the secondary course used for the stroke play portion of the tournament) I met my caddie, Dan Alvarez. I am very fortunate to have been paired with Dan for the week. Dan works at a local club in the South Florida area and has been wonderful. I think we gel together very comfortably. He’s very professional and was on point in all aspects of being prepared in assisting me in preparation for the championship. I am very fortunate that the tournament committee and Jupiter Hills Club’s professional staff matched us up.

We played The Villlage Course with two high school students from Southern California, Guy Clauss and Brandan Gonzalez. They are fine young men and bombed it by us old guys. I’ll be watching their playing careers as they progress into college. We were only able to play 12 holes before a storm came through that effectively ended our day on the course. Considering the Player’s Reception was at 6:30pm we decided to get back to our host’s house and freshen up for the night’s festivities.

The Player’s Reception was fantastic, as usual. We were treated to an amazing spread of food, a hosted bar, a chance to catch up with guys we have known for years and also chat with some new faces. For speakers, we had the President of the Jupiter Hills Club give us a history of the club which includes Bob Hope and William Clay Ford, Sr. as founding members, followed by a nice welcome from Mike Davis, CEO of the USGA, and then the featured speaker Tom Fazio. Tom Fazio’s uncle, George Fazio designed the Hills Course at the Jupiter Hills Club, and Tom Fazio himself designed the Village Course. He spoke at length about the architecture and construction of the courses. It was a pleasure to listen to how the facility was created and has grown. I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Fazio after his speech and he was very gracious in speaking with Mike and I for a few minutes privately. Mike’s father, Tom Walton, actually worked with Tom Fazio in the creation of The Vintage Club in Indian Wells, CA.

To top off the reception, the club had a Closest to the Pin contest from the balcony of the clubhouse with dozens of guys hitting shots off a mat in their coats trying to win the first contest of the week. It was a unique thing to witness and something I’ll probably never see again. The USGA provided the players with an Uber credit so that players could get home to their accommodations safely. Mike and I had a ride home in an Uber that will live in our personal lore forever. I can’t repeat much of what the Uber driver said but we were in tears for close to 20 minutes due to the comedic genius that drove us home.

Rain missed our area for the entire day Friday and we were able to play the Hills Course in full for our practice round there. I was so impressed with the course and conditioning. The Hills Course is unique to the South Florida area with lots of elevation change and no homes on it. It is a very good test of skill and I think it is a wonderful golf course for a big championship.

The maintenance staff has done an incredible job of preparing their courses for this championship. I can’t even imagine all the work they have done and do to make this possible. I would love to bore everyone with the minutia of every hole and all the details but I’ll just leave it at this… If a side finishes at par or better for the 2 rounds of stroke play qualifying and doesn’t make match play, I’d be surprised. The courses are challenging and par is a good score on every hole.

I’ll post another entry on Sunday after stroke play. Hopefully, I’ll be writing about how we made match play. If I don’t, this will still go down as one of the best golf weeks of my life.

Previous Journal Entries:

Part 2: A travel nightmare, meeting the hosts, and hope despite a threatening weather forecast

Part 1: the upcoming U.S. Four-Ball, the difficulty of qualifying, and what it's like to play in a USGA event

ABOUT THE U.S. Amateur Four-Ball

The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, the newest USGA championship, was played for the first time in 2015 at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif. The event, which has no age restriction, is open to those with a Handicap Index of 5.4 or lower. It is one of 14 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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