Scotland's Brian Barnes wouldn't mind retiring to a pristine course like Newport Beach Country Club someday. But while he's still relatively young (52), Barnes would just as soon stay off courses like this.
"It's always been frustrating for me here," said Barnes, a 6-foot-2, 240-pound hulk of a man. "It's too bloody short. I do better on longer courses."
Barnes does his best work playing links courses, preferably in miserable conditions. Sunny days, tight fairways and small greens are not Barnes' forte.
"I don't think I've broken 70 once here," said Barnes, who shot a 74 Friday in the first round of the Toshiba Senior Classic. "If you don't shoot 70 here, you need your backside kicked. When you stand on the tees, it looks like you should be able to shoot 67."
Barnes, who has won the Senior British Open twice, consistently is one of the longer and more accurate drivers on the Senior Tour, but he's never been known for his putting. The more Barnes plays this 6,573-yard, par-71 course, the more he thinks he should put his woods away and save them for a truer test.
"There is a case around here for hitting a lot of one-irons off the tee and coming in with seven-irons," Barnes said. "When the fairways get firm, it's tough to keep the ball in them. If I miss the greens, it takes me three shots to get down."
Don't get Barnes wrong, he likes the course.
"The conditions here are second to none," Barnes said. "It's a beautiful course."
Everything looks a little more beautiful to Barnes now that the fog he was living in has lifted. It's been five years since Barnes took his last drink, five years since he started his day with eight large brandy and coffees before heading out to the course with a liter jug filled with vodka and orange juice.
How was Barnes able to play competitive golf while he was inebriated?
"Nick Faldo said it's because I was such a natural player," said Barnes, who once beat Jack Nicklaus twice in one day in Ryder Cup competition. "If I was a mechanical player, there's no way."
Sometimes when he's staring down a 20-foot putt on Newport Beach's Poa annua greens, Barnes wishes he was still drinking.
"I'd putt a bloody lot better then," Barnes said. "Because it didn't matter."
Cy and Mary Bauer's cross-country tour stopped in Newport Beach this week.
Cy, 78, volunteered for his first tournament at the 1982 Los Angeles Open. Now, posting scores for the media has become a way of life for the Bauers, who live in Ventura and have been married 50 years.
"It's something to do," said Cy, who worked for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, climbing trees to fix electric cables. "It keeps us out of trouble. I would rather be doing this than watching TV."
Friday's threatening skies didn't appear to scare away many golf fans, who appeared to give the Toshiba Senior Classic a nice opening-day crowd. Toshiba officials have no way of accurately counting crowds, but they said they were pleased with the turnout.
Fans were not exactly flocking to The 19th Hole, a new party pavilion near the clubhouse. As play was winding down in the late afternoon, only three people were seen inside the tent.