Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dana Point, California

Jacky and I flew out to Los Angeles on Thursday a couple weeks back for the annual Balpex Shareholders Meeting and social event. We were shuttled one hour south to lovely Dana Point, California and the spectacular St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort.


The room was crazy. Pretty much a junior suite, with a great couch, king sized bed, 47" Plasma television, balcony and an awesome washroom too. I think it was just as good, if not better than Princeville.


That's the view of the Grand Lawn from one of the stairways leading to the pools and the Monarch Beach Golf Links. We arrived around noon, grabbed some lunch, then headed straight to the beach, as there was nothing official on our agenda that afternoon.


The resort has a ten-person tram that takes the guests down to the beach area, as it's about an eight minute ride. Gorgeous beach with great views of the hillside in both directions. You get a good sense of the prime real estate in the shot above.

We had a 'Marche' style dinner that night on the Grand Lawn and closed the place down with a few of the other younger couples, good preparation for the day ahead...

On Friday, I woke up early in order to get down to the golf course for my 8:00am tee time. Monarch Beach GL is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design built in 1984 and is notable for the fact that most of the holes have ocean views. However, only one actually runs alongside the ocean - again, it just shows that the real estate development in the resort took priority. The course has some PGA TOUR pedigree, as it has hosted the Hyundai Team Matches in the past...what the hell is that?! Canadian Lorie Kane teamed up with Janice Moodie to win the last installment on the women's side at Monarch Beach in 2002.

There's your useless trivia for the day!


That's the view from the third tee shown above, a 315 yard sharp dogleg left. The view is great...the hole is decidedly average, with only the shortest hitters able to use a driver. However, the greensite is lovely.


Unbelievably, out of the 109 people attending the social, only FOUR played golf during the five day stay. You see the other three in the shot above.

The course had a few notable stretches. There are consecutive par threes on the fourth and fifth holes, something I'm sure I've never witnessed in person before. Also notable is the diabolical par five seventh hole, a 612 yard monster named 'Tsunami' that certainly did a fine job of reaking havoc on my round. The tee shot calls for a drive of well over 200 yards to clear a large ravine with the greensite 400 yards away back on the other side, necessitating another cross. I put two balls into the hazard here on my way to a delicious 10!

I would end up shooting 80 on the 6601 yard par 70 course, not bad considering the blowup hole. The course is decent but drastically overpriced and I turned down the opportunity to play a second round in the blink of an eye.

Funny enough, we had dinner that night at the clubhouse restaurant, eating sea bass, beef tenderloin and creme brule in something that would become a recurring theme, intentionally or not, during our stay at the St. Regis.

We had our shareholders meeting on Saturday morning at the crack of dawn and it lasted a whopping three hours. It's very low key, as I learned during my first meeting last year. For that, I showed up in slacks and a shirt and tie and was embarrassed when I found everyone wearing shorts and sandles during the session. Didn't make that mistake this year!

After the meeting, the families all got together again and were shuttled to beautiful Newport Beach. We then boarded the Wild Goose, John Wayne's old yacht. We took a lovely cruise through the harbour and had a great lunch aboard the vessel. There are some incredible homes on the man-made islands throughout the harbour, as you can see below.


The house on the left used to be where John Wayne lived back in the day. I believe his actual house has been torn down and rebuilt to what you see today. On the right is a house owned by actor Nicolas Cage.


We had access to all the rooms on the yacht, including the games room where Wayne and friends like Sammy Davis Jr. got together for regular poker games. That shot above is for my buddy Cal, a poker degenerate.

Dinner that night was geared toward the kids, with plenty of games and events for all the little ones. They even got the adults involved somewhat, as there was an 'East vs. West' relay race through an obstacle course with six participants from each side of the country facing off. Running through tires, doing a high jump, downing beer, hula hoops, balance beams...pretty fun. Being one of the younger guys there, I was picked and it ended up being a great time.

On Saturday, everyone boarded a train for San Diego, where we would be spending the entire day. We started with brunch at the Museum of Contemporary Art downtown then got the opportunity to browse through the museum.


MY GOSH! MY WIFE IS BEING DWARFED BY OVERSIZED FURNITURE! Cool picture but I got reprimanded for taking the shot...couldn't resist though. The rest of the art was underwhelming...the contemporary stuff isn't my thing, I guess.

From there, the group split up into three groups: some went to the famous San Diego Zoo, some went to SeaWorld and others went to Old Town San Diego for site seeing and shopping.

We were among those who did the shopping. Ugh. Worst part of the trip for sure. We were stuck down there for over four hours in stifling heat in an area where an hour or so is enough.


As you can see though, I got a picture of possibly the ugliest golf course I've ever seen in my life, Presidio Hills. Brock Golfland and Fairview Golf look like Augusta compared to this mess! I think they had 18 holes in a 1000 square foot area with maybe 15 blades of grass throughout the course. Sheesh. To top it off, there were a lot of people playing out there too. I hope they got a deal...

We had some great Mexican food for lunch, walked around for an eternity before settling in with another couple from our group in a local bar, where we both waited anxiously for the bus.

The saving grace for me was that the bus showed up a bit early and we were able to take a quick tour of the San Diego waterfront and all of the military ships on display. It truly was something special. We passed by Petco Field as well, home of the baseball Padres before heading to Mister A's restaurant on the top floor of a skyscraper. Stunning views of the city and once again, sea bass, beef tenderloin and creme brule.


Monday was a free day, which meant hitting the unbelievably gorgeous pool and once again laying out on the beach. It was a welcomed break from the very structured and busy schedule.

Dinner the last night was at the Stonehill Restaurant in the resort, where we finally got a break from the sea bass and tenderloin. Instead, we had halibut and prime rib. Ha! Great meal and we ended the night and our stay at the St. Regis by closing down the lounge with about 16 of the attendees.

Tuesday was departure day, with most of those attending the conference heading back home. Not the case for Jacky and I.

We had Hertz drop off our rental car, a nice V8 Chevy Impala and we took off up the coast on the Pacific Coast Highway. Our destination?

Pacific Palisades, California and The Riviera Country Club!

Sorry Harry...you have to be dying right now but...

To be continued...

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the shout out on the V* Chevy Impala. Especially nice to hear form a foreign car driver.

    NOW EVERYONE GO BUY ONE!!!!

    And no wonder you were in the obstacel course. If you were the youngest person, the rest of the people mus have been in wheelchairs or using walkers.

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  2. Thats a sexy poker table. I wonder if they were donks.

    Forget the golf, i want to hear about more lovely places and things.

    T

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  3. Both Nicolas Cage's home and the one to the left of it, sit on the property that was once John Wayne's home. http://www.findadeath.com/Deceased/w/wayne/waynehome.jpg

    My husband and I spent many hours fishing off of that point, back when the fish in Newport Bay were edible.

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