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My wife, Suzette, and I are Canadians and inherently curious, so after we turned 60 and started thinking about retirement, we decided we wanted to visit the U.S. and explore its culture. I'm a golfer (20 handicap) and a golf fan, and one day as I was looking at a PGA Tour schedule, I realized that unlike the calendar of any other sport, the Tour's stretches almost an entire year and covers a giant portion of the country. So last year, for our 35th anniversary, we gave ourselves an unusual present: We sold our house in Montreal and bought a motor home. We contacted Tour officials and told them that we wanted to spend a year attending their events. They facilitated our journey with season passes. Later they asked if we'd write a weekly diary (Postcards from the Road) for PGATour.com.
Starting in January we attended 44 straight tournaments, drove 32,500 miles and zigzagged across North America in a slashing trail that would make Zorro proud. Our grand adventure ended at the Tour Championship in Atlanta, and we're feeling nostalgic. The year went by so fast.
It seems like yesterday that we started out at the Mercedes Championships in Hawaii, where Suzette's knowledge of golf largely consisted of one name-- Tiger Woods. At first she wasn't a fan of his because his large galleries made it difficult for us to watch him, but Tiger won her over with his intelligence. She knows other players now too. Last week, as we sat in empty bleachers by East Lake's 1st tee, Vijay Singh walked past. Suzette waved. Vijay smiled and waved back.
Golfwise, the most impressive thing we witnessed was the 16th hole at the TPC of Scottsdale. It was amazing to see 20,000 people crowded around the short par-3. The fans chanted, did the wave, stopped to let a player hit, then started all over again. It was truly a happening. And very loud.
We visited landmarks-- Hoover Dam, the Alamo, Niagara Falls, West Point, the Library of Congress and the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame--and museums too numerous to mention. We drove a stretch of Route 66 in Illinois. We saw Notre Dame's golden dome, attended the Toronto International Film Festival and mingled with longhorns on a Texas ranch. We followed the Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur, stopped for a picnic lunch and were awed into silence by the magnificent surroundings. We had drinks in a restaurant in Carmel then watched the sun set over the bay. Suzette shed a few tears because the scene was so beautiful. I discovered Frederick Remington's Western sculptures. Suzette discovered Johnny Cash's music.
Running through it all like a five-lane interstate was golf. (I can't believe I played only twice, at Kapalua in Hawaii and also in Miami during the Doral.) The tournaments not only provided an itinerary but also many wonderful memories. One that Suzette cherishes most was watching Vijay eagle the 18th at Pebble Beach while a group of seals frolicked on a rock in the background. In fact, it's those moments--when the game intersects perfectly with nature--that we truly love.
What we gained on our trip is a feeling of freedom, which has a different meaning for us now. Freedom isn't doing nothing; it's learning. And learning is what we want to do for the rest of our lives. With the season over, we'll see friends in Miami, spend the holidays with family in Quebec and visit our son in San Francisco. Then we'll drive to the Pacific Northwest and keep exploring.
After that, who knows? There's so much more to learn, and if we're lucky, more golf, too.
GOLF PLUS will next appear in the Nov. 27 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.