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I met a man at Streamsong with long white shorts and an unhurried gait named Ric Kayne, a private investor from Los Angeles who has hired Doak to build him an oceanfront course in New Zealand. Kayne considered nobody else for the job, and he figured out for me what the Renaissance Cup really is: a Star Trek convention for the green-acres crowd, populated by Doakies. Not that there weren't BC-ophiles there too. For instance, for the second course at Cabot, Cowan-Dewar hired the original revolutionaries, Coore and Crenshaw. Crenshaw found the Star Trek analogy amusing. He reminded me that Mark James, his counterpart at the '99 Ryder Cup, was a Trekkie.
When I talked to Brad Klein, the architecture critic for Golfweek, he compared Doak with John Coltrane and Coore-Crenshaw with Artie Shaw, references I am beginning to understand after a visit to iTunes. Coltrane seems to be making stuff up as he goes, and Shaw seems to have thought about the music every which way before deciding on a route.
Klein's main point about Doak and Coore-Crenshaw is that they got into the business in the 1980s committed to certain unmanicured principles rooted in golf's wasteland past. (Doak cannot even feign interest in overwatered country-club golf.) They stayed true to their mission statements even as others got far more work. And now they have seen the pendulum make a swing in their rugged direction.
Coore and Doak did the routing of the 36 holes together and because of that Doak refers to the Red as "Bill's course." Tact is not his strong suit. (Authenticity is.) Crenshaw, the most humane of elite golfers, has known and admired Doak for decades, and he accepts the whole package. "Tom is fierce in his views," Crenshaw said the other day. "It stems from his wonderful knowledge. He has softened his edges a bit over the years, but artists can be a little difficult to get along with. It can't have all been smooth sailing with Alister MacKenzie, either." MacKenzie, designer of Cypress Point, is a hero to both of them.
"We had a friendly competition at Streamsong," Crenshaw said. "Our crew would peer over a hill and see what they were doing, and they would do the same with us. It was fun. His bunkers—my God, they're beautiful." We'll see what Ben says after he actually plays out of them.
Crenshaw is social by nature and Doak is not, but the Renaissance Cup is a home game for Doak and therefore different. At a communal Sunday night dinner in the beautiful, modern rectangle of a clubhouse, Doak spoke to his people, maybe 200 of them, about his admiration for Streamsong and the men and women who built it. He laughed at things I didn't understand and urged us to play the Himalayan Golf Course in Nepal. I sat with one of my favorite people in all of golf, my colleague John Garrity. The room could not have been warmer.
The Renaissance Cup is played as a series of nine-hole, two-man better-ball matches. My partner, Mike Donald, and I lost our first match to Garrity and his partner, Jim O'Neal, the head pro from the Meadow Club, near San Francisco. Through the happenstance of loss and fate, Mike and I then played 18 holes with two people we did not know, the guy in the white shorts (Kayne) and his partner, a superb golfer from Los Angeles named Terry Quinn. Over the course of our four or five hours together, we shared stories, dreams, histories, observations. It was intimate.
I told Doak about our unexpected experience. He wasn't surprised. "You all love golf," he said. "That's the first thing. You love golf in cool places, that's the second. You were in a place where you could relax, where you could let your guard down."
I asked Doak if there were places where he could do that. He thought about it. "At Ballybunion. Lahinch. Bandon Dunes." This kind of conversation doesn't come easily to him. "You know: places that bring out your emotion."
Emotional impact of golf experience. That's not a category course raters are required to summarize with a number, not that I've heard. Should it be? I don't know. I will defer to those who study these matters. You, maybe. In the meantime, I'm planning a return trip to Polk County.