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Old Mac: A Day In Golf's Past

Bandon, Oregon | You have arrived from Florida mid-afternoon on the day before the “official” opening of Old Macdonald, the most heralded new golf course of the 21st century. It has been conceived and lovingly crafted as an homage to the late C.B. Macdonald, the so-called “Father of American Golf Course Architecture.” Macdonald designed the National Golf Links and Chicago Golf Club, two of the most widely acclaimed golf courses in America. And, by the way, he won the first U.S. Amateur in 1895.
    Your assignment is to talk to the people who made this project happen and see for yourself what all the buzz is about.
    You are greeted warmly in the Old Mac pro shop, a fashionably converted horse stable, by Mike Keiser, the visionary who owns the place. Keiser introduces you to George Bahto, Macdonald’s biographer and a consultant to Old Macdonald architects Tom Doak and Jim Urbina.
    Keiser had gotten in from Chicago earlier in the day, via private jet, accompanied by two top executives from Kemper Sports Management, Josh Lesnik and Jim Seeley. Those three have already played 18 holes and are going back out onto Old Macdonald for 18 more. You are invited to join the group of Lesnik, Seeley and Tim Hval, the
former pro at Bandon Dunes. 
You say, yes. You are not crazy. It is June. Daylight is not a problem on the Oregon coast. The wind is down and the temperature is cool and pleasant. This will be field research in the best sense. 
And it gets better.
Old Macdonald turns out to be as advertised in all the advance reports – playable and fun. It is also a grown-up challenge if you are hunting a low score. After the round with Lesnik, Seeley and Hval (who, on this day, is putting like Ben Crenshaw), there is time for nine more. It has been a long day. You and Seeley beg off. Lesnik and Hval play on.
    The next morning you are up early and excited about witnessing Old Mac’s public world premier. Your body clock talks you into a quick drive into “downtown” Bandon and breakfast at the Minute Cafe, which opens at 5:30 a.m. The locals in the corner are engaged in a lively discussion about the $137 million the state of Oregon just wasted on a road project. You order the blueberry pancakes and a side of thick, crisp bacon.
By 7 a.m. you are back out at Old Macdonald where the tee times began an hour earlier. You find Doak, who also famously designed Pacific Dunes, one of the three other courses at Keiser’s Bandon resort, hanging around the pro shop.
You ask him if Old Macdonald has turned out to be everything he wanted it to be. “I hope so,” says the man many design experts think will be the Macdonald of the 21st century. “We’ll see.”
(Keiser later confides that he senses Doak may have mixed emotions about the success of Old Macdonald. Doak and Urbina designed it, but the strict instructions were to make it like Macdonald would have. If it becomes as wildly popular as many predict, it could eclipse the prestige of Doak’s own baby, Pacific Dunes. Keiser tells me he will assure Doak that it’s all good either way.)
A few hours later you find the day’s first group finishing its round. The four mid- to high-handicappers have a gallery of one – Doak, who is always interested in seeing if his courses affect the players (of all abilities) the way he imagined.
Meanwhile, Mike Robin and a film crew are conducting interviews just off the 18th green. Robin is a near-scratch stick from Los Angeles. His Hollywood production company’s TV credits include “Nip/Tuck” and “The Closer.”  Robin’s passion is golf and he already has completed much of the work on a film with the working title: “A Journey to Golf’s Past: Creating Old Macdonald.” He is here to work on the finishing touches. It will be an homage to the homage. He hands you a DVD of the rough cut.
    So you ask him what Old Macdonald looks like through his lens. “It’s epic,” Robin says. “The scale and the scope are a little mind blowing.”
The next day is a full-out squall. You meet Keiser for lunch in the grill at Bandon Trails, the Ben Crenshaw-Bill Coore course on the property. Keiser asks you to play 10 holes with him and Seeley and Stephen Goodwin later in the afternoon. Seeley, a former pro, once played a practice round with Tom Watson at Turnberry. Goodwin (“Dream Golf: The Making Of Bandon Dunes”) literally wrote the book on this place. You and Keiser are partners. You don’t lose. 
Your final verdict: If all of this were baseball, Keiser would be the manager of the Cubs and Old Macdonald would be a home run with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth of the seventh game of the World Series at Wrigley Field.


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