Monday, September 17, 2007

Hawaii: Golf at Pearl C.C.

I was determined to play at least one round of golf during my stay in Oahu - that was the easy decision, the harder one was which course to play. There are some famous and exquisite courses on the island and I was keen to avoid three possibilities;

1) Paying even more money for a round than I usually do in Japan
2) Not having to travel more than 2 hours to reach the 1st Tee
3) A course that wouldn't break my record for total lost balls in 18 holes

Fortunately for me a family friend of my wife had contacts* at the Pearl Country Club in Pearl City and the home of the Hawaii Pearl Open. I can't say that I knew too much about the course and there are certainly far more famous courses on Oahu, but what a fantastic course it turned out to be!

A round of golf inevitably involves waking up moments after you have seemingly sleepily closed your eyes, and this was no exception. Thankfully the drive to the course was not too long and any tiredness was immediately dispatched when entering the clubhouse and viewing not only a splendid looking course, but amazing views of the clear blue water of Pearl Harbour just beyond.

Today's round was also going to be ground-breaking due to the wife, in what can only be described as a profound moment of spousal harmony, wanting to come along and watch. This worried me a bit, as well wives generally aren't exactly going to be the best people to turn after pulling a shot into the undergrowth. Nor was she likely to contribute much towards looking for any balls that may just have slightly landed plum in the middle of a mini rain-forest.

My Driver!

My partner for the round turned out to be a Japanese businessman (obviously!) who originated from Hiroshima, but was now located in Tokyo. A very nice man by the name of Shingo Tsuido, who was very taken by my (Japanese) wife accompanying me on a round, and so giving up the opportunity to inflict more damage on the family credit card.

The 1st Hole was a rather cruel long par 5, which I remarkably managed to gain par and in the process impressed my playing partner. He posted a bogey and I tried to inform him that, well this really isn't the norm in my game and disaster would be soon upon me. Although the first 9 holes were very competitive and we both gained a couple more pars each. At the turn my predictions of woe turned out to be a bit off the way. Only two lost balls, sadly on the same hole a rather unadventurous par 4 (just one of those holes where everything goes a wry) and I carded a respectable (for me) 46.

My wife, for safety's sake it turned out better if I controlled the peddle, was starting to get a bit bored by the golf, although some of the views of the harbour were breath-taking and that did occupy her attention for a good while. She informed me that after the 11th hole she was hitting the club house to rest her weary limbs...So for most of the back 9 I was on my tod and it meant I talked more with my playing partner - someone it turned out with an interesting take on world history.

The back 9 was a slow going, not to any poor shot play, although that did sometimes happen, as we were stuck behind two 4-balls of the octogenarian club. They were of the belief that any total under 200 would be a personal highlight as any hole completed in single digits was greated with joy that would normally by seen by a player chipping in for eagle to win The Open!

I just shaded the match by 2 strokes and with a score in the low 90s (OK 93) I was somewhat pleased with my days play. It was a strange round in which my putting after the long put for par on the 1st was totally abysmal, too many 3-puts helped to elevate a round that should have been lower. But the course was worth the play alone, and any opportunity for play there should be snapped up. Although it is maybe best if the wife is encouraged to not tag alone...

(My favourite hole was the par 5 8th, an elevated tee and 347 yards to the flag. In what can only be described as "a bit lucky" I perfectly timed my drive and the ball eventually came to a stop 317 yards down the hole. Of course it then took me 5 more shots to get it 30 yards and into the blastered hole, but the drive alone will keep me happy in my darker moments playing in the future.)

*Many thanks to Kawaji-sensei, a true gentleman who arranged the golf day for me as well as taking the time to pick us up from our hotel and deliver us back again.

Hawaii: Water of Pearls

Ever since I was child I have had a mental list of places, that given the right circumstances, I was determined at some point to experience. This year allowed me to tick 2 places of this list, starting with the Eternal City in March. Rome is hardly an original choice, but that is for very obvious reasons. Any one place that allows a visitor to delve into the Colosseum, The Forum, St. Peter's Basilica, The Sistine Chapel and Keats-Shelly Museum is a must. It doesn't require religious fervour or love of ancient history to be deeply rewarded by a visit to Rome, being human should be enough. The 2nd place was harbour in Oahu called Wai Mami, or Water of Pearls.

To be entirely honest this was not my first visit, but the circumstances of which I laboured under on my previous visit nullify that trip - the non-stop bus tour and only being 4 years old. Like Rome, Pearl Harbour is deluged by hungry tourists trying to have a their own "unique experience" of the visit. It should be pointed out from the off that as a harbour there are far more beautiful ones to be found in say Sydney or even Cornwall. Of course everybody knows why millions of tourists flock every year and it isn't to dive for pearls.

The USS Arizona Memorial and Museum is I am sure a deeply moving experience for most American and indeed Japanese visitors. I have to be be honest from the start and say that I found aspects of the experience slightly uncomfortable, but as I am not an American (or Japanese) it would be wrong for me to criticise this overtly. All I would like to contribute is the need to be careful about exhibiting too much hubris. It is an American war memorial and obviously this can result in opinions being espoused that in a more considerately environment you would like to believe would not be heard.

Upon entering the museum section of the tour, the visitor is greeted by a grey anchor with a black python of a chain standing detached and forlorn, it is one of the great anchors of the USS Arizona and creates the perfect note of contemplation whilst queueing. The museum, despite being compact and occupying 2 rooms was for me an interesting experience. Lots of audio-visuals to help with the original artefacts and photographs on display. The small USS Utah cabinet a fitting and poignant reminder of the other sunken Pearl Harbour ship that visitors almost entirely overlook because of the USS Arizona.

I was intrigued to find a small photograph and description of the USS Phoenix, a ship that survived the Pearl Harbour attack and saw active service through the war. It was later sold by the US Navy (I continue to find this strange) and later was sunk during another war, but under a different name, the General Belgrano. It is sad that this ship is probably more famous for a tabloid front page than any service it performed.

Before commencing the visit to the USS Arizona Memorial, all visitors sit through a 30 minute documentary detailing the attack, the immediate aftermath and the later events that resulted in the construction of the white memorial that floats just above the wreck.

The visit to the wreck itself is a 25 minute round trip, allowing the visitor to have about 15 minutes to observe the ship below. It is a moving experience, more so when reading the list of names of the sailors entombed below in the wreck.

I just wished that ignorant, naive and offensive thoughts had remained inaudible to me during my visit. The terrorist attacks on September 11th are not equal to Pearl Harbour, nor were the Japanese the Al-Qaeda of the time. Those that perished during Hurricane Katrina also didn't deserve their fate, despite any warnings that may have been broadcast beforehand.

The highlight of my visit was my brief chat with Mr S. Cole a US Navy shipyard dispenser who witnessed the attack and was enthralling to listen to. He is I believe 88, the other eye-witness present the day I visited was 94. Time is encroaching on these men and women and I was indeed a little humbled at the grace of they showed to all nationalities visiting. Some of their compatriots I heard that day should have listened to them more carefully.

Overall I enjoyed my visit to Pearl Harbour, a place that embodies some of the horrors of war, but also the sacrifices of military personal on both sides who were killed serving their countries.

USS Missouri & USS Nevada Anchorage USS Arizona

USS Utah
Pearl Harbour from USS Arizona Memorial