Rozner: Gulf golf offers chance to spring ahead

 
 
Updated 3/22/2019 10:24 PM
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  • This area in Southern Mississippi was hit by a 27-foot storm surge during Hurricane Katrina, and Pass Christian Isles Golf Club rebuilt its clubhouse high off the ground.

      This area in Southern Mississippi was hit by a 27-foot storm surge during Hurricane Katrina, and Pass Christian Isles Golf Club rebuilt its clubhouse high off the ground. Barry Rozner | Staff Photographer

  • The Gulf Coast of Mississippi offers some beautiful views and some reasonably-priced golf this time of year.

      The Gulf Coast of Mississippi offers some beautiful views and some reasonably-priced golf this time of year. Barry Rozner | Staff Photographer

  • The view from a Waffle House looking out on the Gulf of Mexico.

      The view from a Waffle House looking out on the Gulf of Mexico. Barry Rozner | Staff Photographer

  • Golf at the crack of dawn included fog and high humidity, which is a whole lot better than a Chicago winter.

      Golf at the crack of dawn included fog and high humidity, which is a whole lot better than a Chicago winter. Barry Rozner | Staff Photographer

My wife tossed me out of the house last week.

Frankly, it was long overdue.

It's also not the first time. About 10 years ago, during a particularly bad and endless winter, she also sent me packing.

The issue then was similar in nature.

"For the love of God," she uttered in desperation, "please go somewhere and play golf."

Well, I mean if you think …

"You're going to sit here every night," she explained, "and whine about the snow and ice."

But …

"Yes, I know," she continued, "you think the greens are going to be ruined because of the ice and wind. I know it by heart."

I just worry …

"You haven't touched a club in five months," she offered with great concern. "You need a vacation."

I could pretend she was overstating it, but she wasn't. She did leave out the staring daggers through the window every day, waiting for the snow to melt and the grass to dry.

Whining may be understating it.

In any case, and devoted as I am to keeping the boss happy, I headed south to a place I've been before, to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Why not Florida, South Carolina, Vegas or Scottsdale?

The simple answer is I found this beautiful spot by accident in a rush to get out of town 10 years ago when a similar exchange occurred and before she could think better of the offer.

It's easy to get to and much cheaper this time of year than any of the aforementioned spring break destinations.

It's also quiet. Very quiet. And this time, it was as much for the solitude as the golf. The last few months -- really, the last few years -- have been so absurdly loud.

That's life, right?

But sometimes you just want to walk out of a Waffle House and sit on a beach bench, looking out at the Gulf of Mexico and watching the waves roll in.

The courses are terrific, by the way, in Southern Mississippi and Alabama. There's Jack Nicklaus and Trent Jones tracks. Tom Fazio's Fallen Oak, just north of Biloxi, is hosting the Champions Tour next weekend.

There's tough and there's easy and everything in between, but many are inexpensive and tee times plentiful, and rarely will you encounter someone who isn't inviting.

On or off the course.

Maybe what drew me again is the pace of life and the way folks treat one another. You can't walk past someone on the sidewalk, in a restaurant or hotel, without them saying hello and asking how you're doing.

Strangers. Can you imagine? Yeah, it takes some getting used to. Same for how they drive. No one's in a hurry. No one cuts you off. You're not in fear for your life on the roads.

After about a day, you start to slow down, too. It's not a terrible way to exist.

I particularly like the small towns on The Coast, each with a sign along Beach Boulevard that points to downtown, if you consider a single block of stores, maybe five on each side of the street, a downtown.

Pass Christian -- pronounced Cristianne -- is one such city. It rests innocently at a corner of the Gulf Coast and Bay St. Louis, and less than an hour's drive from New Orleans.

The Pass, as y'all know it from the locals, was destroyed almost entirely by Hurricane Katrina, hit by a 27-foot storm surge that traveled a half mile inland and flattened everything in its path.

Pass Christian Isles Golf Club had a trailer for a pro shop the first time I played there a decade ago, having seen all their facilities washed away. The new clubhouse exists high on stilts, protection against the next monster storm.

There are areas along the Gulf Coast still rebuilding 14 years later. Maybe that perspective has something to do with why everyone is so affable, or maybe it's just their way of life.

One morning I met a man walking his dog on the golf course at 7:15. He tossed me a Pro V1 and we got to talking. When he heard I had briefly escaped Chicago, he told me the story of how his daughter is a dentist on the North Shore. She doesn't care much for our weather and misses the Gulf.

I get it. It's so very pleasant. So slow, so quiet. It's good for the soul, even if for only 60 hours, even if the 90 holes of golf weren't as well played as the scenery was pretty.

I did not complain -- when I returned -- about the inability to manage my 4-wood, or a consistently thin sand wedge. I did begin again to check our forecast and stare out the window.

But as usual my wife was generous, and correct, and I'm grateful for the way she looks after me, this time forcing me to get away.

The short time to clear my head and smell the fresh air, to enjoy the humidity in shorts and a golf shirt, to pass the time with easygoing folks, was the perfect tonic.

Soon enough we'll be outside again. Spring break means the kids are home. The Masters is just around the corner. And a deep breath is enough to remind us just how good we have it -- and to never doubt the boss.

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