22 Jul Dr. Alister MacKenzie-Alister’s Theme
I was fortunate to grow up a block away from one of the historically most significant golf courses in the world, Pasatiempo Golf Club, in Santa Cruz California, which was designed by the one and only Dr. Alister MacKenzie.
From a very early age, probably around the age of 4 in 1968, I was fascinated by golf. As a kid I loved games where you hit a ball with a stick, like whiffle baseball, which I used to play daily in our backyard with my dad. So it was natural that when my dad took up golf, I became interested and involved immediately with this great game. For a couple of years I remember hitting both plastic whiffle golf balls and real golf balls in the backyard at 1331 Orchard Drive, and eventually I graduated to the golf course since we lived so close to the back of the 14th tee. Somehow I met up with two other local kids, John Wolff and Jay Trolan, and the three of us started playing at Pasatiempo on a regular basis. We became good friends, and challenged each other. Our games grew, our intensity grew, and in a few years time we were playing junior golf tournaments. My first tournament was at Pasatiempo as an 8 year old in December of 1974. The Junior Golf Association of Northern California, run by a woman named Sally Pini, was the sponsoring organization. By the way, “Wolffie” became a PGA Class “A” Head Pro at one point, and Mr. Trolan is a long time Pebble Beach Golf Links caddie. To say the three of us lived and breathed golf in our youth is a huge understatement.
Pasatiempo is a world class golf course that has a rich history, much of which can be read about in two books, The Pasatiempo Story by Margaret Koch, and The Biography of Marion Hollins-Champion In A Man’s World, by David E. Outerbridge.
This Wikipedia link also has an accurate thumbnail sketch that is a quick read……https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pasatiempo,_California. The most interesting point to me of all this historical information is the fact that Marion Hollins, the one woman genius responsible for the 17 Mile Drive in Monterey, Cypress Point Golf Club and Pasatiempo, introduced legendary amateur golfer Bobby Jones to Alister MacKenzie, the master golf course architect, on Pasatiempo’s opening day in 1929, a meeting which led ultimately to the creation of Augusta National Golf Club, and the crown jewel of American golf, the Masters Tournament.
You might recall that the Master’s winner is awarded the coveted Green Jacket.
So this iconic golf tournament, with it’s own rich history and story, actually originated with the introduction of these two great men in Santa Cruz California at Pasatiempo.
Dr. MacKenzie was also a true genius, known for his dramatic, challenging and beautiful golf course design work. His book, The Spirit of St. Andrews, which was found in the house that he died in at Pasatiempo off the 6th fairway, details his golf course design theories and is a must read for all golf history fans:
His signature bunkering and detailed green complexes, with incredible undulations, and his eye for integrating the natural lay of the land make his work unique and visually intimidating. A great overview of his legacy is documented here at Wikipedia…..https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alister_MacKenzie.
While his work at Augusta National is well known from television for the beauty of it’s grounds, it was a former nursery by the way, the course is also known for it’s challenging and difficult layout. I have long admired MacKenzie golf courses for their beauty, and as I have grown older, I have come to the conclusion that his work has a certain mystical and undefinable serenity to it. The 16th at Cypress Point just about sums up all of the above characteristics……
So at this point you must be asking yourself, why is this blog entry on golf course architect Alister MacKenzie being posted to my music blog? Well, great question…….
It became a musical quest of mine to write a piece of music that reflected my love of golf and my love of Alister Mackenzie’s work, and to find a way to melodically and poetically do justice to his legacy with an original piece of music. In 2005 I went to the East Coast for my cousin Jaime’s wedding in Connecticut., and after the wedding I spent a week in New York City. I brought along a handful of my music compositions and hired a crack band of New York jazz musicians, did one rehearsal, and took them into a studio in Brooklyn to record. I was fortunate to hire Frank Kimbrough on piano, one of the top pianists in the City, and the Schuller Brothers Ed and George, on acoustic bass and drums respectively. Their father Gunther was a famous conductor and composer in the 50’s and 60’s, and he was also the dean of the New England Conservatory. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunther_Schuller……. It was during this time that I became friendly with the well known jazz clarinetist Perry Robinson, and I made sure he was also on hand in the studio to add his unique jazz clarinet style to my project.
I had written a tune called Alister’s Theme in which I tried to convey some of the beauty and history of Alister MacKenzie’s golf course architecture, and recorded it with just the rhythm section that day. Here is a link to the track on my Soundcloud page: https://soundcloud.com/user-84203206/alisters-theme.
And here is the pdf of the tune itself……Alister's Theme:Concert
The result of this New York trip resulted in my third self produced CD entitled Sinfonetta:
And finally here is the review of Sinfonetta from All About Jazz that was published in 2006:
Recently I fulfilled a life long dream and became a full time golfing member at Pasatiempo Golf Club.
I hope to someday write more music based on the inspiration I derive from her beauty and history. So much of my youth was spent there, playing golf and meeting so many wonderful characters. I feel like I’ve finally come home in a way, walking the fairways there with the kind of local knowledge and pride that a Club Champion carries—I won that great event at the age of 20 there in 1984. In many ways, marrying my love of music and my love of golf, using the visual beauty of my home course for inspiration, has been one of my most satisfying musical accomplishments. It is amazing to come back home there and find the sights, smells and sounds of my youth just as I remember them. Thanks Dr. MacKenzie for all you’ve done with your masterful work. The beauty and grace of your challenging golf courses speaks to me in a singularly indescribable way, and continues to inspire me both as a golfer and as a musician.