July 2, 2012
Indiana University senior Pamela Burneski is currently traveling through Japan as a member of the NCAA All-Star Golf Team. Here she recaps her three-week journey.
Currently I am 8 days into my Asian adventure and I am seriously having an experience of a lifetime!
I arrived in LA on June 20 and was promptly picked up by Larry Wheat's chauffeur, Carlos and taken to his mansion on Amalfi Drive. At Larry's home, I was introduced to the other 8 girls that I would be traveling through Asia with and we were given some time to relax and to get acquainted.
The next day we played in our first tournament at Palos Verdes. Each girl, who is representing a different university, was paired with 4 of Larry's friends and played a shamble style golf game. After the round we mingled at the event banquet, where I met a lot of Hoosier fans, and then headed home to prepare for our Japanese departure.
On Day 3 we departed for Japan. The flight was a little over 10 hours but we finally arrived at Tokyo-Narita airport the next day.
With barely any time to adjust to the 16 hour time change, we began our first Asian golf event the next morning at 7am sharp. Since we were staying at Camp Zama, which is a US Army base, we played with active and retired US military. It was such an amazing experience to hear about each of their stories and how they have adjusted to being stationed in Japan. After our round we quickly got dressed and headed out to explore Tokyo! We traveled using the subway system and naturally I fit right in with the locals. After dealing with hundreds of stares and being asked to be in A LOT of pictures we arrived and explored some Tokyo street vendors, temples and department stores. After walking around we stopped to order dinner, which proved to be a whole new challenge for us to navigate.
Day 5 was another golf tournament with Japanese sponsors. Most of our playing partners only spoke Japanese, so it was challenging for everybody to consistently communicate. Nevertheless, it was a fun opportunity for all of us to improve our Japanese skills. After the round we returned to our Army lodging and organized a bowling competition within our team (which Tara (Louisville), Eyglo (U of San Francisco) and I dominated...not). After bowling we ventured out into Sodoubai for dinner. Again, getting dinner was entertaining and hilarious but we managed to eat something.
On Day 6 we departed Camp Zama and took a bullet train from Tokyo station to Larry's friend, Yoshi's, vacation house in the hills of Nagano. Once at Yoshi's house we experienced a traditional Japanese spa and were treated to an amazing dinner of Kobe steak, vegetables and other seafood options. After dinner we did some group karaoke...which Tara and I rocked with a bang-on version of Bohemian Rhapsody.
The next morning we were woken at 5am for our early round of golf. After a lot of coffee and a traditional Egg McMuffin from McDonald's we headed out. Bev (UC Davis), Michelle (UC Irvine) and I were grouped together for the best ball competition, which we won with a score of 9 under par! Our transportation around the course was top notch, as our golf cart was made to fit 4 players and their golf clubs. Once our game was finished, we washed up and took a 4 hour charter bus ride back to our base where we ate dinner and did laundry together.
Today is our sightseeing day off, so I am excited to explore more of Japan and try to figure out how to properly blend in with the locals. Talk soon and GO HOOSIERS!
Japan Update 2
The past few days in Japan have been insanely busy.
On our sightseeing day off we visited two historical sites. Our first stop was known to our group as the Kamakura Big Buddha. The Buddha structure was built in the early 1200s and is a popular tourist location. The next attraction we visited was a Buddhist shrine overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Within the shrine and temple, there was a gorgeous flower garden and a spectacular looking golden Buddha statue for people to pray to.
The next day we departed very early for Nagano to prepare for a weekend long golf tournament. Nagano is a 5 hour bus ride through Tokyo and is located in the mountains. Nagano was also the host of the 1998 Olympics.
Once we arrived at Nagano, we unloaded the luggage into our rooms and went out to play the Sugadaria Green golf course. Sugadaria Green is known to be Japan's highest altitude golf course and is closed part of the year for skiing. After our round, we quickly got cleaned up for a "welcome party".
The welcome party was a fun challenge. We were introduced to the mayor of Nagano, the president of Sugadaria Golf and a variety of other interesting and influential individuals. The most difficult part of mingling was trying to find a common ground for communication since we do not speak Japanese and they do not speak English. Regardless, everyone gave each language their best shot and relied mostly on charade skills in order to communicate. The dinner portion of the night was a nice surprise. The catering had set up traditional Japanese food consisting of rice, eel, noodles and other fun things in addition to American favorites like corn dogs, fried chicken and pasta.
My first day of playing at Sugadaria was a lot of fun. In Japan it is customary to take a break to eat and rest after playing 9 holes, so that is the tournament format that we followed. The group I played with was very interesting since they were friends of the famous pro golfer, Ryo Ishikawa and raced Porsches and Ferraris.
After our round we quickly got ready for a dinner in the city. This party was held at a beautiful French restaurant in a Nagano hotel. The president of Sugadaria Golf and the mayor of Nagano had the restaurant closed for our private gathering, where we enjoyed an 8 course meal which included everything from escargot to braised beef cheeks. We concluded our night by visiting a nearby traditional Buddhist temple and receiving good luck charms.
The next morning we were up early again to play golf in the same format. Unlike the previous day, it was windy, cold and pouring rain. After my rounds I quickly warmed up and hopped on the bus to travel 5 hours back to Camp Zama. In the morning we depart for Seoul, South Korea. GO HOOSIERS!
Korea Update 1
Our travel day to Seoul was insanely long. We arrived at the airport around 12pm for our 5pm flight! Although we had a lot of time to kill, Narita was an interesting airport to explore with many shops and dining options. After spending all of our remaining yen, we boarded our plane to Seoul!
Our first day in Korea was absolutely amazing! We were treated to a Mexican lunch at "On the Border" so all of us were super excited to try some diverse cuisine. After lunch, we headed to one of the nicest golf courses in all of Korea, Namboo Country Club. NCC has about 190 members, membership costs of $1,000,000, professional caddies for each group, remote control golf carts, rest stops stocked with anything you could ever want after every 4 holes and a variety of other unreal amenities. I played my round with the CEO of Korea's On the Border restaurants and another fellow Vancouverite!
So far I am absolutely in love with Korean golf and cannot wait for the next part of my NCAA-All Star adventure! GO HOOSIERS!
Korea Update 2
After our Namboo event, we played at Korea Country Cub for the U-Light sponsored tournament. KCC was a lot of fun to play since we got to use caddies and had to navigate long yardages and many hills. After our round, we mingled with tournament sponsors before returning back to our hotel for a small 4th of July celebration.
Our third day in Korea was our day off. One of the U-Light event sponsors wanted to treat our team to a traditional Korean BBQ. I had never eaten at a Korean BBQ so I made a rookie mistake and did not pace myself properly for the multiple courses that we were served. After stuffing ourselves full of new and interesting foods, we all headed to the Itewon market for some exploring and shopping!
We spent our last day in Korea playing an event at Lakeside Country Club in the pouring rain. Despite the terrible conditions, the golf course was great and my group was a lot of fun. The most memorable part of the day was one of my old friends who played golf for USC stopped by the tournament to visit! We hadn't seen each other in over 4 years, so it was an amazing surprise to catch up.
After socializing and eating dinner, we headed back to our hotel to prepare for another Karaoke experience. Unfortunately, Tara and I could not bring down the house again with Bohemian Rhapsody but our version of YMCA was pretty epic.
At 5am the next morning we depart for the last leg of our trip in Hong Kong! GO HOOSIERS!
Hong Kong Update 1
If I could describe Hong Kong in 3 letters or less it would be WOW.
Since we arrived in Hong Kong so early, we spent the rest of our first day exploring the city. We walked through the central financial district, did a peak mountain tour and visited many other tourist hotspots. The most fascinating part of Hong Kong was observing how it is built. Since the terrain in Hong Kong is undulated due to the mountains and the Pacific Ocean, most of the city is condensed into pockets of massive high rises. According to the locals, the population is around 7,000,000 people and the area is more crowded than Manhattan Island.
Our second day was our day off, so we continued exploring. We took a trolley past Repulse Bay to the famous Stanley Market, where we looked around and ate lunch. My adventures with food continued as I ordered what seemed to be a normal "vegetables with chicken", only to receive a full boiled chicken with the head still attached resting on a grave of bok-choy. After sort of eating, we traveled to the water front to see more of the city and experience the nightly central district light show.
The third day was our first golf event. We played at the Hong Kong Country Club, which has 3 different 18-hole courses called the Eden, New and Old. Additionally, HCC is the host to the Hong Kong Open pro tournament where the defending champion is Rory McIlroy.
We played the Eden course, which was fun and challenging for a few reasons. Besides the lush narrow fairways and many doglegs, we competed in 40 degrees Celsius and 100% humidity, so by the end of our rounds we were pretty tired. After golf we returned to our hotel to prepare for an amazing dining experience at the historical China Club. The China Club is located in the Old Bank of China building in Hong Kong's central financial district and was once offices to the British elite during colonial rule. It was a real treat to be able to explore a building with such rich history and significance to Hong Kong.
We spent our last day in Hong Kong golfing with the Lady Captains at the New course at HCC. The course and company was once again lovely but challenging since we walked with our clubs in the same hot and sticky conditions. Luckily for our group of NCAA-All Stars, strength and stamina do not seem to be an issue. Once we concluded our rounds we headed back to the hotel to pack and go to one last farewell party hosted by one of our gracious sponsors.
On a personal note, I can't believe how fast the past three weeks have flown by. This has by far been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life and I am so lucky to have met such amazing people and have seen such incredible things while doing something that I love. Thank you so much to Larry Wheat for selecting me for his tour, my All-Star teammates for literally being All-Stars and to Coach Wallman and Coach Harling for recommending me for this opportunity. GO HOOSIERS!
Golf Update 1
After golfing in three completely new countries I noticed some differences in how the sport is approached.
For instance, in Japan there are over 4000 courses and golf is played mostly casually and socially, as exemplified through the breaks to eat between 9 holes. In Korea, there are only around 300 courses so golf is treated as a true special event with caddies, multiple rest stops and self-propelled golf carts. Hong Kong golf is probably most similar to golf in the USA, but it is still very much considered a luxury due to the small number of golf courses available to play.
If I had to choose a favorite golf location, it would have to be Korea since everything about the sport is so lavish and over the top!
This trip really made me appreciate American golf and how many opportunities we have to develop our games, whether it is a college athlete playing and competing every day or a casual golfer getting out on a Saturday. We really are lucky in America to have so many options available to us for playing and practicing golf. THANK YOU HOOSIERS and see you on campus or a nearby golf course soon!