FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Competition Takes Off in the Turkish Airlines Tournament at Inwood Country Club

by Francis X. Gallagher

Nov 5, 2023

PHOTO:
© FRANCIS X. GALLAGHER

November 2023

If you enjoy watching jumbo jets land at JFK while you eye up your birdie, Inwood Country Club is the place for you. True aviation junkie plane-watching can take place on this golf course with a storied past dating to 1900.

The course, on what was once a potato farm, took on many architectural changes, going from the original nine-hole course to an 18-hole design by Edward Eriksen five years later. Following some growing pains and the purchase of additional land, the course proved fit enough to host two major championships — the 1921 PGA Championship, won by Walter Hagen, and the 1923 U.S. Open Championship, the scene of Bobby Jones’ victory and famous “shot heard ’round the world.”

PHOTO:
© FRANCIS X. GALLAGHER

Many of the greatest golfers of all time have played Inwood, including Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Jimmy Demaret, Nancy Lopez, Ken Venturi and Curtis Strange, to name a few. These greats made way for the likes of us guests of Turkish Airlines during a beautiful and glorious farewell to summer this past September. Playing in the round was our foursome: myself, Christopher Ottaunick (GT photographer), Mark Lane (GT Advisory Board member) and Tim Ogden (New York executive).

Turkish Airlines World Golf Cup hosted the day’s event, one of many qualifying golf tournaments all over the world, including 88 destinations in 60 countries. As stated in the invitation, the global span of the qualifying tournaments mirrors the global span of Turkish Airlines.

The winners of each qualifier get to fly in business class to Antalya, Türkiye, for the final championship round. In 2018 GT Globility Board member Steve White won the Los Angeles championship while playing in my group and enjoyed this fantastic experience. Alas, your troubadours in New York will remain grounded.

A big thank you goes to our hosts Emre Ismailoglu, general manager, and Alp Ozaman, regional marketing manager, Turkish Airlines New York.

HOLE 5
480 yards, par 5
Even with the tee markers slightly forward, this hole has birdie potential, as big hitters can make the green in two. The rains over the two previous days came to my aid as my drive and my second shot landed in water-filled bunkers, allowing me a free drop. My third shot landed about 79 yards from the right side of the green, making for an easy lob shot to within striking distance of the cup for par. Chris found his wayward tee shot left in a dehydrated marshy area filled with extinct muddy balls from rounds of the past. From here he took his ball to the waste bunker on the left side of the fairway which leads to the green, then landed right of the green and chipped up for bogey. Mark lost a few balls, taking him out of play, and Tim faced issues connecting the clubhead to the ball.

HOLE 6
160 yards, par 3
Now that you are fully warmed up after playing the previous par 5, get ready for what the members call the “sneaky par 3.” It is sneaky easy or sneaky hard, depending on how your tee shot lands. Mark stepped up and hit a great shot to the back of the green, then sent his putt so far past, he nearly lost his par attempt. Chris landed a “sneaky textbook shot” 6 feet from the cup, but lost his birdie attempt for par. The hole sneaked up on Tim and me with our dual shots to the right front bunker, landing us bogeys — so sneaky!

PHOTO:
© FRANCIS X. GALLAGHER

HOLE 11
418 yards, par 4
This interesting hole lies very close to the 10th green, and you must shoot your drive right, only a few yards from that green. Course management protected golfers on the 10th green by installing a fence and hedges. The hole is also fondly called “Hagen’s Willow” due to Walter Hagen’s 1921 PGA Championship play. Hagen played the 11th hole by hitting his drive left down the 18th fairway, making for an easy shot to the green. Envious fellow pros paid to have this shortcut blocked by planting a willow tree in the spot where Hagen landed. Willow or not, I found the right path and turned left to the green, followed by the rest of the team. Unlike Hagen, we scored quadruple bogeys.

HOLE 13
325 yards, par 4
Swiftly making our way through the back nine, we discovered Hole 13 directly facing the landing field at JFK. The only real trouble is the right side, completely dense with marshy fescue, which Mark found rather easily from the tee box. Tim had a fine drive center right of the fairway and in good position to attack the pin. Chris and I hit power drives — mine slightly left but just off the fairway and Chris’ landing on the adjacent fairway. Tim chili-dipped his second shot, taking him to double bogey. Chris made a near-perfect shot to the green and two-putted for par. I, in turn, landed right but was able to chip within 6 inches of the cup for par, taking away Chris’ glory!

HOLE 14
140 yards, par 3
Could this be the start of something, back-to-back pars for FXG after hitting the ball like a pro from the designated Turkish Airlines tee marker? Yet another lovely hole along Head of Bay, which is fed by Jamaica Bay, with planes from Delta Air Lines to Turkish Airlines landing one after another on the JFK runway to the right. The links-style course really shows its true colors in the holes along the water (13,14 and 15). Unfortunately, the rest of the team did not follow my lead, with shots catching traps and zigzagging like they were avoiding U-boat torpedoes. I nearly birdied the hole but missed my short putt, probably focused on counting plane tails instead of putts.

HOLE 18 THE BOBBY JONES HOLE
398 yards, par 4
As this was the final hole, Chris declared “a fun ball in play” — meaning we could take two shots off the tee and choose which to keep, but if we chose the first, we could not hit a second. This is clearly a well- known rule on the PGA tour!

Chris just wanted to swing so hard he would fly out of his shoes, and he did just that and topped the ball. The second shot was a keeper. Next up, Mark followed by Tim, who both kept their first drives. I swung hard and smoothly — you know the feeling when you hit the ball cleanly and strong — and I chose my first drive even before completing the backswing. To the right of the fairway a plaque commemorates Bobby Jones’ first of four U.S. Open victories, in 1923. Jones hit a 2-iron from the spot where the plaque lies to within 6 feet of the cup, clinching the playoff with Bobby Cruikshank. We completed the hole, not like Jones but like troubadours heading into the clubhouse to enjoy the hospitality of our hosts from Turkish Airlines.

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