NCGA Member Moran Has ‘Epic Day’ Hitting First Shot at Poppy Hills
March 21, 2014
Patrick Moran thought it was a joke when he found out he had been selected to represent NCGA membership and hit the first shot at the new Poppy Hills.
“I thought one of my friends was messing with me,” said Moran, who was the winner of an NCGA social media contest that collected more than 20,000 entries. “I had just been talking with a buddy about how I had been liking all the Facebook updates on the course, and how cool it would be to hit the first shot.”
But once Moran found out, he took his ceremonial duties seriously. He guessed that there would be a countdown before the first shot, so he practiced hitting drives on cue. He even showed up to Poppy Hills for the Grand Opening on March 20 at 8:30 a.m., some 2 ½ hours before he would tee off a new era in Pebble Beach.
“I hit 15 or 20 drives – and every one was down the middle,” reflected Moran, an 11-handicap and a member of the East Bay eClub.
The setting was a little different a couple hours later, where he was joined for a simultaneous first shot with architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. (who also hit the first shot when Poppy Hills originally opened in 1986), NCGA President Brian Morse, and Poppy Holding President Derrell Biddy – as well as a gallery of 200.
“I was tense,” said Moran, a 53-yard-old from Moraga. “I’m pretty sure I need new grips I was squeezing it so hard.”
Moran’s drive drifted right and into the trees down the first hole.
“If you look about the 11th tree in on the right, it’s got to be down there by that poison oak,” Moran joked. “I was worried that I almost killed Brian, who was hitting next to me.”
Moran survived some good-natured ribbing from the emcee, and was glad he dished it out.
“He was right,” Moran said. “My spleen was in my esophagus when I hit that.”
Moran has no hard feelings about the first hole – in fact he cited it as one of his favorite improvements. When there aren’t 200 people watching, the tee shot is much more inviting than before, and there is enough room to hit driver without worrying about blasting it through the fairway.
“I wish the crowd could have seen some of the other shots I hit instead,” joked Moran.
But Moran left Poppy Hills an even bigger fan that he was already.
“If you sat around and had beers with friends after the round at the old Poppy Hills, you would say everything about the course is great except for these little things,” Moran said. “Every one of those little things was fixed.”
Moran particularly enjoyed the improvements to the brand new 11th hole – a par 3 that transformed from the longest to the shortest – and the spectacular 12th hole – a downhill par 4 with a vista of the Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz Mountains.
“Visually, the course looked more challenging, but it wasn’t as punitive,” Moran said. “I was on the back nine and there were holes that reminded me of Bandon Trails. But it was just Poppy. I missed it.”
After a glance at his scorecard, Moran picked the long par-5 fourth hole as his new favorite. (It didn’t hurt that he made a nice par there.)
But Moran’s round ranks up there with some of his favorite days on the golf course.
“I won the 2010 NCGA Four-Ball Team Championship and had my picture on the wall here for a year – that’s in the top 10,” Moran said. “This is up there. It was just an epic day.”
And now, Moran is counting the days down until he returns.
“I can’t wait to be back in eight weeks with 12 guys,” Moran said.