Fairways and Freeways

The very best and most popular golf circuit in existence, attracting the vast majority of
top professionals from all over the world, is right here in the United States. The
governing body for this field of finely tuned performers is the PGA (Professional Golfers’
Association) Tour, and it sanctions around 50 tournaments per year. Every week, from the
first part of January through the middle of November, there is a golf event show-cased at a
perfectly manicured course anywhere from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Miami, Florida. These
ball-striking warriors, 140 plus, attack the “battlefield” on Thursday and play through
Friday until a cut line is established where the field is reduced to a mere 70 golfers, who
share the privilege of playing on the weekend for a share of very generous prize money.
Professional golf is the only sport I can think of in which the lower the score, the higher
the monetary reward. Purses range in the multi-millions per event and total more than $200
million by the end of the season. Quite naturally, with that kind of incentive, the best of
the best compete fiercely every week. The top 125 golfers make in excess of a half-million
dollars in prize money alone. Most have commercial endorsement agreements, as well, that
add to their income, thereby making this sport very attractive if you can meet the
super-rigid demands. High-profile and TV-intensive, the game played at this level produces
sports heroes galore. Needless to say, a regular player on the tour has a tremendous travel
schedule to contend with, along with the rigors of competition. Getting from one event to
the other can be nearly as stressful as the play itself. About 11 years ago, a tour caddy
bought a travel trailer to use as living accommodations during his job-related stays at the
tournaments. This method of bringing a hotel room with you was a convenience that was soon
noticed by the players. One thing led to another, and Jay Don Blake, a tour veteran,
thought a motorhome might be a good idea for both travel and housing for his PGA Tour
stops. Jay Don graduated from Utah State University in 1981 and was named Collegiate Player
of the Year at the same time. In 1980, as a junior, he won the National Collegiate Athletic
Association Championship, a prestigious honor, and was runner up the following year. He
also is a drag-racing aficionado, and during the 1990s was very active in the National Hot
Rod Association, winning several times on the circuit. Jay Don was actually the first
golfer on the PGA Tour to use his motorhome extensively for travel between events. I had a
chance to sit down and talk with him and his wife, Marci, during a break at the Buick
Challenge on the Mountain View Course at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia. Jay
Don gladly shared his RV history. “About 10 years ago, I bought my first motorhome, a
23-foot Southwind, which we loved,” Jay Don said. We saw immediate advantages with this
kind of transportation. Shortly we moved up to a 28-foot, then a 33-foot, and last year
bought a 40-foot Monaco Dynasty with three slides that really provides all the comfort and
conveniences we could ask for on the road. “The primary advantage we see, however, is the
cost savings. We eat most of our meals on board, which naturally cuts down on restaurant
expenses. Also, with the heightened airport security and hassle, it’s almost as easy to
pack up and go directly from the campsite to our next destination. My tour itinerary is one
way from one city to another and that raises a red flag for us as travelers, thereby
guaranteeing airport hang-ups. I have even had security frisk my 4-year-old daughter, and
you know that’s hard to tolerate. I currently drive my unit 30,000 to 35,000 miles a year,
and the usage will be increasing. “Our motorhome is also used vacations. We go to the lakes
around home (St. George, Utah), tow a boat and bring the whole family with us. The nice
thing about our current coach is we can all travel in one vehicle, visit along the way
while driving, and live in the unit during our stay.” Regarding his drag-racing career, he
volunteered: “I actually got started taking the motorhome to my drag-racing events. Rather
than traveling by truck and staying in a motel, we could take the rig, park at the track
and be right there on location. I have actually cut back on the drag racing because, as of
a couple of years ago, the PGA Tour prize money increased significantly. “Professional
racing is a much more demanding sport physically, and I was having some back problems that
were aggravated during the race schedule. I then rededicated myself to golf and have
enjoyed a more lucrative career as a result. My future plans are to join the Champions
(Senior) Tour in six years (at age 50), but we’ll cross that bridge when it comes.” Asked
how long he plans to use his motorhome, Jay Don very emphatically stated, “My motorhome
experience is for life.” As we all know, behind every good man there is a woman, and Marci
Blake is equally as enthusiastic about their life on the road. “I’m not married to a man to
have him gone as much as this sport requires. I want to be with my husband as often as
possible, and our motorhome allows for that. When we are on tour in the motorhome, we are
home. We sleep in our bed and reside in familiar surroundings. When we stay in a motel, Jay
Don has trouble sleeping in strange places and often doesn’t get enough rest. In our ‘road
home,’ he’s so relaxed he’ll often fall asleep on the sofa, watching TV. “I also like
having my own kitchen and being able to bring all the food we’ll need, and I can pack more
clothes than allowed for airline travel. Plus I can really take advantage of sale items for
Christmas shopping all through the year, realizing the savings and packing the gifts away
in storage. The absolutely beautiful tournament cities we visit certainly allow for great
shopping experiences. “Next year, when our daughter, Miranda, gets to be school age, we
will probably home school just so she can be with us. We truly miss our motorhome on the
few trips that require other means of travel.” While I was working on this article at
tournaments in Orlando, Florida, and Pine Mountain, I stayed in two different campgrounds
with Bob May, his wife, Brenda, and their two children. Bob is a successful PGA Tour
veteran, as well, who bought the same brand of motorcoach as Jay Don, only a different
color. Bob is especially remembered for his head-to-head duel with Tiger Woods in the final
round of the PGA Tour Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2000.
Paired with Woods in the final round, he ended up losing on the last hole of a
heartbreaking three-hole playoff, but he still shares the PGA Tour Championship scoring
record of 18-under par with Tiger. Like Jay Don, Bob is sold on motorhoming, and told me he
had a $17,000 expense savings by using his motorhome in just his first six months of
ownership. Although skeptical at first, Brenda May’s motorhome enthusiasm now knows no
bounds. Their triple-slide unit provides ample room for the entire family. There are two
top pros who have recently purchased custom-made units in the million-dollar-plus range,
one for the second time. A couple of PGA Tour officials currently use motorhomes and
several other players are seriously investigating following suit. Although professional
golf appears to be a glamorous way to make a living, there are many long, hard, lonely
hours involved. Being able to travel and live with your family during those pressure-filled
tournament weeks is catching on. Add to the togetherness factor a considerable savings on
food and lodging, and an attractive picture begins to take shape. Motorhomes aren’t just
for campers anymore. For the 2003 PGA Tour schedule, see www.pga.com.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here