Keegan Bradley’s long-time buddy and high school teammate Jon Curran made it into the field for Thursday’s start to the Puerto Rico Open, a PGA Tour event played opposite the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
The Hopkinton, Mass., native has toiled in golf’s minor leagues while his former high school teammate has excelled on tour but is never far from Bradley’s thoughts. Indeed, the 2011 PGA champ told the world -- or at least his 150,000-plus Twitter followers -- on Monday about Curran’s good fortune.
While Bradley tees it up with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Donald Trump’s TPC Blue Monster at Doral in Miami, Curran will be testing his golf skills on another Trump track, Trump International in Ro Grande, some 15 miles outside San Juan.
And here’s the best part -- you may play the course Curran and the other pros in the field will play this week. With the venue offering 36 holes of pristine golf, you may choose to try the International, a 6,884-yard trek from the tips (just over 5,000 yards from the front) that many believe is more interesting than the Championship track the pros play.
Tom Kite designed both courses, with the Championship track playing anywhere from 5,300 yards to some 7,500 yards (the distance the pros will negotiate this week). Situated in the foothills of the El Yunque rain forest, the 1,200 acres ramble throughout a diverse landscape of lakes and groves, with the signature 12th hole playing toward the Atlantic. Disappointingly, the par-4 is the only ocean-front property, though water comes into play on several holes.
Golf Digest polled 81 tour golfers, who ranked the course 41st of 52 places they most enjoyed playing in 2011 (Augusta National was No. 1, TPC Boston No. 29, as points of reference). It was certainly not our favorite course ever, given its flatness and the tendency for many of the holes to look alike.
The gorgeous white silica sand in the bunkers (of which we saw quite a lot) and quirky holes like the par-3 16th (202 yards from the back, a mere 108 from the front), however, made for an enjoyable afternoon -- especially since we played in virtual solitude in 80 degrees and sunshine while the folks back in Boston were digging out from two feet of snow. To reach the putting narrow landing area on 16th, which is well-guarded by elements and the many iguanas that call the course home, you must play over water and a rock wall.
If you’re up for a different type of challenge, El Conquistador Golf Resort is down the road in Fajardo and it’s the opposite of the horizontal layout of Trump International.
Arthur Hills designed the course, which features elevation changes of more than 200 feet (a rarity in the vertically challenged Caribbean), mountainous topography, and spectacular views of the rainforest. With dense foliage, narrow landing areas, and stomach-flipping drops, the course will challenge you to use every club in your bag.
While the resort’s paltry practice area pales in comparison to Trump’s luxurious two putting greens, chipping area and driving range, it more than makes up for it in stunning scenery and a disparate assortment of holes that include several downhill and uphill challenges. The undulating greens vary from expansive to postage-stamp sized, with the ninth and 18th sharing a capacious surface that requires testing approach shots over water.