Rocky Point Invitational!

I received the coveted invite to join the Mike Daniels golf outing again this year.  A new location made the event even more intriguing than previous years. Puerto Penasco, Mexico, aka Rocky Point, would host the scaled back tourney for the first time.  And even though I had played down there previously, after missing out on this event last year due to work commitments, I gladly accepted this year’s invite.

The invitation was even more cherished this year.  Only sixteen players were lucky enough to join the group.  The two previous years I attended had about 40 players. You can read about the 2015 outing here and the 2016 outing here.

Another change from previous years was the timing.  Instead of leaving Wednesday night, we rendezvoused at Wild Horse Pass at 6:30am on Thursday.  A five-vehicle caravan crossed the southern Arizona desert before entering Mexico in Sonoyta at the Lukeville border.

It doesn’t take long to realize that the invisible wall that divides these two countries, also is the difference between dramatically different lifestyles.

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After arriving in Rocky Point, we went directly to our host location.  With one of the guys, Tom, owning two condos at the Sonoran Spa Resort, it made the housing decision easy. Add another two rentals and all sixteen players are easily accommodated.

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Tom stayed true to the greeting on his condo

Hard to imagine that 3-1/2 dusty hours by car from Phoenix sits this incredible view from Tom’s patio!

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After some welcome burritos, it was off to The Club at Laguna Del Mar, a 9-hole, Jack Nicklaus course on the western edge of town. The lagoon setting offered water views on nearly every hole. That’s a good thing and a bad thing. We spun around twice, using two different tee boxes to make the 18-holes for our 4-man shamble waltz format.

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One thing we noticed is that Mexico definitely runs on “Mexican time”. There’s no sense of urgency, so take your time, relax and slow down your life. Otherwise, your stress level will go through the roof (are you listening Mike D?).

This couldn’t have been more true than on our first night out for dinner at Banditos.  Granted, 16 hungry, thirsty, type A guys can take “hangry” to a new level, but the servers just kept on smiling as the kitchen moved on Mexican time.

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Banditos is about a driver & wedge from the condo and co-owned by Valley-based musician Roger Clyne.  The cantina is named after one of his hit songs while he was with the Refreshments.

Roger Clyne, and his current band, the Peacemakers frequently play in Rocky Point and they host the annual Circus Meximus concert there every year.

The food was solid and the prices what you’d expect for a sleepy fishing village – as opposed to a resort town. Of course, their beer selection included the usual Mexican flavors, with one that I hadn’t seen in the US yet, Indio – a Vienna Lager.  It’s along the lines of Negro Modelo, Sam Adams and many other malty lagers that I prefer.

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The restaurant also has a decent sized patio with a couple of “big Jenga” setups which provided some entertainment.

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You would think that a trip to Mexico would allow for sleeping in, but not with this crew.  Wheels up at 7am to head out to our next round at Vidanta at the Grand Mayan. Checking in, they welcomed us to our private resort for the day – saying that they only had another one or two groups behind us.

The Grand Mayan sits about 40 minutes east of town and it’s a world away from the somewhat crowded Sandy Beach area of Rocky Point. The timeshare property restricts beach hawkers and water sports to only those that are owned by the tenants.

The course rates as one of the very best I’ve ever played, and at $60 is a bargain at twice the price. While course conditions could have been slightly better due to recently punched greens, Vidanta didn’t disappoint. The stunning views from every hole on the course easily take your mind off a bad hole.  The same format as yesterday helped to keep everyone in the game.

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After another bout with Mexican time during lunch in the clubhouse after the first round, the teams got rearranged and it was back out for the second 18 of the day. This time, for a 4-man scramble format to keep things a little easier.

Friday night had us back at Bandito’s, but this time, we were smart.  Instead of sixteen guys at one table, we decided to break it up and go as four tables of four.  Brilliant! Or so we thought. Different approach, but the same result.  No worries! This time, they had a band set up in the main area directly in front of us.  Another Valley musician, Trey Odum, performed a mix of country and pop. If you get the chance, check him out.

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But the real entertainment came a little later in the evening when a bachelorette party showed up to challenge some of the guys in Jenga. A couple of the gals were world-class hecklers. There was an instant bond and we adopted them for the rest of the trip – acting as their best friends and big brothers.

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Saturday morning brought another early wake-up call. The day’s course, The Links at Las Palomas, is a quick five-minute ride from the condos to the clubhouse. The format for this round was a two-man scramble.

The Links was in incredible shape, but the 25mph winds made for some interesting shots and club selections. Oh, and that smell… You can see in the photos below, something didn’t look right in that pond. On the bright side, that stench definitely helped to keep the pace of play moving on the early holes.

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An early finish allowed us time to get back for lunch and relax before the recently adopted “bags” tournament. We decided on Chango’s for lunch.  Another restaurant/bar just up the hill from our condos that had outstanding Shrimp Tacos – and more Indio.

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After a quick bite, we met up with our new friends who were hangin’ by the pool. Everything was fine until some random guy decided to…  well… let’s just say thank goodness for chlorine.

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Sonoran Spa in the background

After lunch, it was back to the condos to take in the views from the patio. The Gulf was roaring like I haven’t witnessed in my two previous trips and the water was warming up for jellyfish season.

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Before long, we reconvened at Chango’s for the Bags tournament and our new friends joined us for the night. Errick and Brady claimed the title with relative ease.

Some of us closed up shop early and said our goodbyes to our new friends.  They couldn’t say enough good things about how much they enjoyed hanging with us – and more importantly, that we made them feel safe.

Others stayed out later and enjoyed some of the late-night crowds.

Another early morning allowed us to beat the Zonies coming back over the border for work on Monday.  So early in fact, that we beat all of the vendors who traditionally set up shop along the busy route of backed up cars.  Not today.

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There was one sobering moment as we made our way through the desert north of the border. In the middle of nowhere, a man popped out of the bush waving his hands for assistance. It’s unbelievable what people will do to come to this country – and it weighs on my conscience that we passed him by. You have to wonder what happened to him – and probably the two dozen others still hiding in the brush behind him.

We stopped to fuel up in the oddly named town of Why, because, well, why not?

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With no real breakfast food in Why, we had to stop one more time.  With limited options on the route, a gas station green chili burrito in Ajo did the trick.

By 11:00am, we were back in the Valley wondering where the weekend went.

Another outstanding outing with a great group of guys. Adios amigos!

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