Jim Jewell: Admiral Baker: A world apart

Sometimes reflecting on places I’ve visited, where I’m from, and where I am, I often chuckle.
Sep 2, 2014
Jim Jewell


Sometimes reflecting on places I’ve visited, where I’m from, and where I am, I often chuckle.

After I left Lebanon 47 years ago, I would often grouse about how hot and humid it was in the summers there. After spending 47 summers in a bunch of different places, I now can say with assurance, the summers in Lebanon may be the second nicest in the country, perhaps the world.

My perspective was underlined Friday when I played my usual Friday morning round of golf with Rod Stark and Marty Linville, my golfing partners for almost 30 years. We had changed our usual venue from the Sea ‘n Air course on the North Island Naval Air Station to Admiral Baker, the sprawling Navy recreation complex at the eastern end of Mission Valley.

With the course (actually there are two 18-hole courses, the championship north layout and the recreational south course, the one we played Friday) being inland, it is normally cooler in the early morning and much warmer midday compared to Sea ‘n Air. About halfway through the round, one of my friends began to complain about how hot and humid it was.

“Marty, it is downright balmy compared to what it would be like playing in Lebanon,” I corrected him. “Or Kansas,” I dryly added since both Marty and Rod are from that state.

Marty was correct in one respect. The Southwest corner has experienced about a two-week run of high humidity caused mostly by Hurricane Marie. The normal summer humidity out here runs significantly lower than 50 percent. For the past two weeks, humidity has been in the 60-70 percent range. The hurricane, over a thousand miles to the west, also has produced monstrous waves for the surfers and even caused coastal flooding as close as Seal Beach, 100 miles north of here.

But we were fine. After all, this is the place with the best year round weather in the world. And Lebanon, or Middle Tennessee, is a solid second…from my perspective. The summer rounds I remember back home were hot and humid, normally much more so than in the Southwest corner. However, the golf weather there is ideal compared to Texas. When I played the Texas A&M course in College Station, I would carry two shirts in my golf bag for changing into when the one I was wearing became too soaked with sweat.

There are other hot places to play golf. The Navy’s nine-hole course in Sasebo, Japan in 1970, actually about ten miles from the bustling city, would have been unbearable in the summer had it not been on Sasebo Bay with a constant breeze providing relief. Sasebo’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation also provided relief. A refreshment shack was behind the fourth green. If the beer didn’t cool us off enough, we could shoot around of skeet out into the bay before continuing our round.

The Sasebo course could provide some adventure as well. On one round, we were about to hit our tee shots off the eighth tee only to stop and stare down the fairway. There were about a hundred white clad men bearing rifles charging across the fairway towards an old two-story building. These ninja like warriors were yelling in Japanese and firing their weapons toward the building. After they cleared the fairway, we finished our round. In the clubhouse, we asked the pro what was going on. It was the Japanese Defense Force in a battle training exercise. The building was the force’s band building.

Probably the hottest round of golf I’ve played was Mombasa Golf Club in Kenya. It was a beautiful century old nine-hole course overlooking the Indian Ocean about 400 miles south of the equator. The managers also recognized golfers needed a break from the oppressive heat and humidity. They provided young men for caddies plus a couple of extras. The extras hoisted 15-gallon ice coolers on the top of their heads, carrying them for the nine holes except when they were lowered in order for the golfers to be served beer or cold drinks.

When Marty complained, I thought about all of those other hot rounds and chuckled again. About the only other course I would have wanted to play Friday was Sea ‘n Air. After all, it runs along the south facing beach of Coronado and there is always a breeze.

Jim Jewell, a retired Navy commander lives in San Diego but was raised in Lebanon. His book, A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems, is now available through Author House, Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. Jim’s email is jim@jimjewwell.com.


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