Defending Indiana in California

My wife and I have been on some awesome travels in recent months. Our friends are truly starting to hate us. This time we spent a few days in the Coachella Valley in the southern part of the Mojave Desert. We are just that adventurous.

While that is technically correct, it was actually just a golf trip to LaQuinta.

I love California.  And I know I will spend more and more time there as I get older because of that.  But I don’t think it could ever be my home.  I will think about that some more, but in the meantime, let me tell you about the trip.

The first thing I want to share is that Indiana native Pete Dye will always be one of my favorite golf course architects.  We played two more of his designs in the desert on this trip and loved both of them.  But in the pro shop at the first course, I overheard a pro talking on the phone about his own course say that it was “a Pete Dye course and if you have played one, you have played them all.”

If I had not been on vacation, I might have engaged in a debate with this young, ignorant golf pro.  I so badly wanted to ask:  “have you ever played the Pete Dye Course at French Lick?  Or maybe Whistling Straits?  Didn’t think so.  Give me that phone, junior.”

I let it slide though and headed for the first tee.

The starter had Jim Kauffman, an attorney and insurance industry executive from San Francisco, join us.  Our answer to his “what do you do for a living” question was still hanging in the air when I thought honesty in this case was truly a mistake.  For some strange reason, admitting to being a lobbyist invites a smorgasbord of judgemental diatribes that are often inescapable.  And when both me and my wife give that answer, anything can happen.

Mr. Kauffman complained about California Democrats having no fiscal restraint.  Their frivolous spending has led to his state income tax rate of 11%!  It really is hard to listen to anyone talk about their burden while they are playing golf in the middle of a beautiful man-made desert oasis on a Monday though.  And I think he got that.

More interestingly, he commented with regard to the differences he sees since his state’s legislature changed from part to full time and the instituting of term limits.  He says the legislators there start planning for their next job immediately after being elected to their current one.  He claims it kills their productivity and that it has reduced the entrance into a life of “public service” about nothing more than achieving, and then desperately attempting to maintain, power.

I don’t know much about the California legislature, but every elected body needs to reflect occasionally and ask if this is the image their own constituents might have of them.

Later in the trip for our last round, we were paired up with Marty and Norm.  Norm was a local real estate guy and Marty was a friend of his, visiting from Sacramento. They were terrible golfers and didn’t seem to know it.

They whined about Pete Dye as if he was some sort of crazy sadistic demon when he built the course we were playing, the Stadium Course at PGA West. With my experience earlier in the week still fresh, I decided to defend Indiana’s finest. I told my new friends that we are from Indianapolis, play Dye courses all of the time, and actually are friends with the man.  That last part is a lie, even though I have met him a couple of times over the years.

We think Dye is a genius, I told them.

Marty and Norm didn’t care much for me after that.

As I travel more, I find myself in these discussions more as well. I don’t appreciate people criticizing Indiana or those of us who are from here. Some of the things we do are hard to defend or explain, but most of them aren’t.  And that’s how I know this is home.

Between you and me, I don’t love every Pete Dye golf course.  But that’s for those of us from here to discuss, inside the family. And if ever anyone on the outside takes a shot at one my columns, Mr. Dye, it will be your honor to return the favor and defend mine.

Deal?