A Perfect Day in El Dorado

What is more precious than a Saturday at home, with no honey-do list? They’re rare for Jeff and me, and we were looking forward to a day of relaxing. We spent the morning reading the paper on our back porch with coffee, lazily catching up on each other’s week. That week was a first for both of us, because our usually all-male home had been invaded by females. We were hosting three Symetra Tournament (LPGA feeder circuit) golfers.

I can express how disoriented I am toward golf by confessing that during the tournament, I kept getting close to mistakenly referring to the caddies as “jockeys.” I simply don’t have much of a mental platform for golf, or understanding it. But Jeff and I wanted to be supportive of our three houseguests and this opportunity for El Dorado, so we drove out to Mystic Creek Golf Course, El Dorado’s newest course off highway 335, Saturday afternoon around 2.

A bright day, the kind of sunny day that can’t help but raise your spirits. A final-days-of-summer warm, with a fickle breeze flitting around us from time to time. We looked up the golfers we were hosting to find out where they were on the course. One was just teeing off right near the entrance at hole 10, conveniently for us, and one came behind thirty minutes later. We were careful not make eye contact with our golfer, U of A 3-time All-American #EmilyTubert. When you know you don’t know anything, you’re careful. At one point I conveyed to Emily’s caddie that we were there to cheer her on, and a hole later Emily acknowledged us.

It’s cliché, but the ball really does go thwack. I strained so hard to watch that tiny sphere against the clear sky. Others murmured encouragingly. We also watched Emily’s two round-mates (if there’s a term for it I don’t know it) tee off. Then we strolled along the tidy concrete path, nodding to and visiting with other El Dorado citizens we knew. There were also other spectators: parents from Texas and Mississippi, avid golfers, and many (sponsor) Murphy Oil employees out to enjoy the day and see some good golf.

We learned the rhythm of each hole. These girls were athletes: long and lanky, with impressive muscle definition in places you don’t expect to see muscle definition. And strong! We marveled at some of the shots. It’s always a pleasure to watch someone good at what they’re doing just bear down and give it all they’ve got.

We could find shade in the woods’ edge, and even if we couldn’t appreciate what the multiple levels of grass, the tricky pond and sand traps encircling the Promised Land greens meant to the game, we knew they were pristine and lovely. It was soothing to just be out there, watch a tiger swallowtail flicker by, hear aaahs of approval and clapping from a hole over a dale or two, feel a lone strand of grass tickle the calf. Even with walking and the days’ warmth, we were being revived.

After a couple of holes, we decided to check another one of our guests, #BrandiRodriguez, a rookie who played for Southern Mississippi University. We consulted the map and conjectured where she’d be heading. The Symetra website “live scoring” feature gave updates on each competitor, which was very helpful. We began our stroll to hole thirteen, again enjoying running into other enthusiasts, watching out for volunteers’ golf carts importantly zipping to their appointed duties, hearing an insect buzz interplay with the breeze high in the trees.

What a great day!

We were ahead of Brandi, but visited with some of the visitors and volunteers. One gentleman explained that his daughter appears on a golf TV show and was raving about the course. We heard from many about how great the tournament was, although the word “brute” came up more than once when golfers were asked to describe the course. We watched another trio through, taking care to pay attention when the balls soared over the knoll, holding our breath as the golfer completed her last practice swing, leaning to urge that putt into the hole. We winced at the shots that landed behind trees, in the rough, rolled back down the hill, or even beyond the green to the other side. With practice runs, the pro-am, and the tournament rounds, golfers had at least five attempts at this course. After so many weeks of golf, they had to be challenged to their limits.

Soon Brandi arrived, and between holes we waved discreetly, conveying her “fan club” was there. Her father had flown in from Orlando, Florida to surprise her, and he also complimented the tournament and the course. We heard often that on the golf substratum of social media, Mystic Creek was a hot item.

Our third houseguest, #GiuliaMolinaro, had completed her game, but I had caught her Friday afternoon. In a little while we returned to the lavish VIP tent, handsomely outfitted in cool white, luscious green, and the best of all…snacks and libations. We visited with many friends, both working hard as volunteers or sponsors, or simply there to enjoy the golf.

But we had to move on, because I wanted to attend the South Arkansas’ Symphony Orchestra’s Gold Medal Concert Series at the El Dorado High School auditorium. We scurried home and I underwent an approximate 25-minute metamorphosis from plaid cotton shorts, sneakers and a ball cap to LBD, artisan glass earrings and black suede kitten-heel pumps.

I barely made it to the auditorium on time, but was pleased to see it near full. Eight grand pianos formed a circle on the stage. Eight concert grand pianos make quite a statement, before any master even caresses a key. I grew more and more ecstatic as I pored over the selections. It was a Piano Greatest Hits: “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” “Country Gardens,” Dvorak’s “Slavonic Dance” (pieces like this were familiar, even if concertgoers didn’t recognize their titles), and the William Tell Overture, for starters.

In spite of all that keyboard magnificence, instead of being a stuffy affair, the concert was deliberately light. The first pianist, who happened to be the most recent winner, and who looked about sixteen to my middle-aged view, hopped aboard and ventured into “Chopsticks,” to the audience’s delight. Each virtuoso made a distinctive entrance, though all still touched on the comic. As they all hit those keys, it was hard to contain full-out exhilaration. The instruments sounded distinct, deep, high, superb. We were watching professionals. They could handle it. Together they created sound and sensation beyond their individual talents and skills. As the French say, Formidable!

I felt sorry for anybody who chose not to attend. I do some of my best thinking listening to artistic performances, and I’m surprised people sitting near me couldn’t sense the ideas zinging around in my brain, so intense were the concepts coursing through the ole gray matter. I could distinguish between the bright tones of the Steinways in front with the more mellow sound of some of the pianos that rounded the back of the arrangement. I determined to see what brands of piano were being played up there, beyond the obvious Steinways (a post-concert perusal revealed Yamaha, Kawai, Nordiska, Young Chang, and Baldwin).

After intermission, more treats: von Suppe’s “Light Cavalry,” which could be recognized as the theme to the Dudley Do-Right Canadian Mountie cartoon of my childhood. Though I’m not listing every presentation, and all were infinitely pleasing and familiar, I had to take care not to swoon during Bach’s heartbreakingly tender and beautiful “Sheep May Safely Graze.” The finale, an entire parade of musical animals from Saint-Saens’ Le Carnaval des Animaux, featured Ogden Nash’s whimsical poetry introducing each animal. Each very brief piece was a treasure in itself. Once again I caught myself recognizing tunes and melodies from popular culture. A roaring ovation confirmed that others appreciated the music as much as I did.

Last week I didn’t make it to the county fair, always a sterling opportunity for provocative people watching, seeing the depth and breadth of humanity. Nor did I make it to a single high school Homecoming activity, which had culminated on Friday, complete with downtown parade and victorious ball game. I was able to attend a wonderful reception for Ndaba Mandela, grandson of South African president, who gave a lecture at SouthArk Community College to a record crowd.  I would have enjoyed all of these, but couldn’t make them all. I often joke, though, that while we can’t do it all, we give it heck trying.

But back to Saturday. From a week of having company in my house, and walking the rolling hills of Mystic Creek Golf Course, to a stunning performance of classical piano music, I couldn’t ask for a better day. All right here in El Dorado.


4 thoughts on “A Perfect Day in El Dorado

  1. Through the imagery, I felt like I joined you on the golf course & sat a row behind you at the concert. After reading, I felt like I had been given another day in October -one to join you with! Thanks!

  2. Our friend Emily Collins was at the Symetra tournament. A few years ago I, like you, knew almost nothing about the 550+ year old game. But we began following Emily when she was dating Forrest. We watched her finish her college career at OU on a windy hill overlooking downtown Tulsa. We rung our hands and updated the results on our phones as she progressed in “Q School” in Palm Springs, California trying to get her LPGA card. And even though she and Forrest broke up right before Christmas of 2014 (and Emily missed going with us to France and Holland) we continued to follow her, virtually, through each tournament on the Symetra tour, as she made most every cut but rarely scored high enough to improve her standings.

    I had thought about coming to El Dorado to watch Emily and to say hello to you, but our relationship is more fuzzy now (mine and Emily’s) and I don’t like to aggravate old wounds, especially with competition nerves flaring already.

    I visited Palm Springs recently, to watch professional tennis. Live professional tennis is new to me also. But I play some amateurish form of the game so I understand the general concepts and strategies. When we visited France it was not tennis season. We weren’t able to see Ricard Gasquet compete at home at the French Open, but that would have been fun. We did visit Epernay and the champagne region-the source of bubbles that pop in celebration of sports victories all over the world. I was able to ask Gasquet for an autograph last week in Palm Springs–on a plastic champagne glass. I told him our family visited Epernay the year before. I said, “Do you know Epernay?” He said, “Of course, I am French!”

    National identity is everything for sports heros. But the young women who grind it out on the Symetra Tour are just as heroic to me. Their grit and passion deserve a glass raised in their honor. Cheers and Santé!

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