Last Updated on Thursday, 04 April 2013 22:42
Thursday, 04 April 2013 22:36
by Alfie Lau
It's a scheduling quirk in the PGA Tour calendar that the fine folks of San Antonio are happy to capitalize on.
With an extra week of tournament golf before The Masters, the Valero Texas Open moves from its traditional May spot during the Texas swing to a better spot just after the Shell Houston Open and right before The Masters.
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy signed on for San Antonio and he's the feature attraction, despite shooting a pedestrian even-par 72 on the opening day of the tourney.
The fine folks at the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau have gone the extra mile to bring more media types to the tournament and along with covering the tourney, I've been treated to some luxurious accommodation at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa.
Director of Golf Mike Champagne accompanied myself and Sports Illustrated's Art Stricklin for a round at the Hill Country course and the track is eminently playable for all skill levels.
Champagne can really hit the ball a long way and the Bermuda greens rolled straight and true. We also enjoyed a great breakfast and lunch at the hotel and the made-to-order omelettes were a great way to start the day, while the margaritas were an even better way to cap off our rounds.
Once Elegant Transportation's van took us to the course, we were treated to a picture-perfect 70 degree San Antonio day where the sun was shining, the volunteers were friendly and most importantly, the media dining tent was filled with Keuring Newman's dark roast custom coffee and ice cream!
Canadian Brad Fritsch is playing his way toward another nice paycheque, as his (-2) 72 is within striking distance of leader Matt Bettencourt, who shot a 5-under 67 and leads Padraig Harrington and Billy Horschel by one stroke.
On my first foray into San Antonio, I was struck by how different the city is from other Texas cities I've visitied. While Dallas is just a vast, spread-out city, and Houston is full of oil derricks – San Antonio seems to have much more of a community soul.
Walking along the world famous River Walk, there were families, young couples and kids all having a great time. The Pearl Brewery district features a whole bunch of new restaurants and our first dinner was actually cooked at NAO, the local culinary institute's restaurant which showcases the work of up-and-coming student chefs.
The trained bartenders at NAO were busy brewing us up the 'Fitzgerald', a gin-based drink that I may have had a hat-trick of before my Mexican colleagues convinced me that when in San Antonio, we should be drinking margaritas.
I haven't made it to the Alamo yet, but that tour will come Saturday, along with perhaps a chance to see the three-time world champion San Antonio Spurs.
It hasn't gone unnoticed by Vancouver NBA fans that Tim Duncan is still playing great ball after 16 years. The Grizzlies didn't have a chance to draft him in 1997 and instead had to settle for the immortal Antonio Daniels.
The Spurs then went on to three NBA titles and the Grizzlies ended up in Memphis four years later. (Not that we're bitter about that in Vancouver).
Tonight's dinner will be at the J.W. Marriott at the TPC San Antonio and it will be a treat to sit down with San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau's Michelle Vigil for a Texas repast.