Monday, November 2, 2015

My First Golf Tournament!

When I lived in Jacksonville, my room mate Joe was a huge golfer.  I mean HUGE.  He played a ton while we were in Jax and that was nothing compared to how much he would play when he was in college. Not only did he play a ton of golf, but he also watched a ton, as well.  Before living with Joe, I don't think I had ever watched an entire golf tournament straight through. My dad would watch the big tournaments on Sundays, but I never saw the attraction of watching a ball get into 18 different holes. After living with Joe for a year, though, I had a new found respect for golf.  I watched multiple tournaments on television and even got to know golfers other than Tiger and Phil Mickelson. Meanwhile, I also got to know a guy named Mike Hogan, who was also an avid golf fan.   By the time I moved out of my apartment in Jacksonville, I was somewhat knowledgeable of the basics of golf. 

All of that being said, I never really pictured myself going to a golf tournament.  I just never thought I would have to opportunity nor the money to go to a golf tournament.  I was wrong.  This past weekend, I found myself front row at the Turkish Airlines Open and, let me tell  you, it was a blast. 

Let's start from the beginning.  We originally booked our flights for Friday evening, thinking Mike would have Turkish class, but it ended up being the week between sessions, so we had the entire day off.  It was kind of nice because we could relax a little before leaving and get things, such as laundry and packing, done that morning. When we arrived at the airport, we found out our flight was delayed, so we took the opportunity to visit the airport lounge.  Totally worth it.  We get access with our credit card and every time we go, it's worth it. There is always free wi-fi, which Izmir Airport doesn't have, and there is always an abundance of appetizers, soup and free alcohol.  That hour delay didn't seem quite as bad. If you're a big traveler, it's definitely worth looking into getting a credit card with airport lounge access, even if you have to pay an annual fee. 

The view from the airport lounge.  Those mountains in the background aren't too shabby looking...
Merhaba airport lounge! 

The flight from Izmir to Antalya is only an hour, so by the time you get up in the air, grab a beverage, and open your book, it's basically time to land. We made it to the hotel via (very expensive) taxi and were amazed at the accommodations.  As I've said before, we use most of the time and usually go for the cheapest hotel that has a good review.  October is the first month of the offseason for Turkish tourism, so hotels are generally cheaper than normal.  Somehow, though, we stumbled upon the deals of all deals. The Crystal Hotel in Belek was listed as 70USD a night for the all-inclusive resort.  We booked it thinking that even if they charged a fee per person, it would see be relatively cheap and we could make it economical.  When we arrived, they checked us in, put on our wristbands and said nothing about a fee per person.  Instead, they encouraged us to go to the bar, enjoy the free minibar in our room and come to the buffet meals located in the dining halls.  Over the course of the weekend, we did exactly that and definitely ate and drank 140USD worth of food and drinks. Not only was the all-inclusive aspect of the hotel really nice, the amenities were great as well. The rooms were large, the bathrooms were big and clean, and the pool and extra amenities were wonderful.  It was a little too cold to go swimming, but the sun was warm and we definitely enjoyed sitting poolside  over the course of the weekend.

We've gotten used to having two single bed as our queen bed....
This bathroom was definitely an upgrade from some of our other hotels.

Saturday morning, we enjoyed a quick buffet breakfast and then grabbed a taxi to the golf tournament.  Just like in Chios, we regretted not renting a car because we ended up paying a TON in taxi fares.  Oh well. There was nothing we could do at the time, so we just paid the fee and went along to the tournament.

When we arrived, there weren't a ton of people there, but we just chalked it up it to being early and went and grabbed a spot at the first hole so we could watch people tee off.
The people in the blue are volunteers.  This is the lounge area where they sold food and drinks and you could watch the tournament on television.

We stayed at the first hole for a while and watched a bunch of golfers tee off.  The not-so-popular guys went first, so we didn't really recognize any of them.  After a few groups of golfers teed off, an American, David Lipsky came up, so we decided to follow him for a while.  He was golfing with Ian Poulter and Stephen Gallacher, who Mike recognized.

David Lipsky at the first hole

Even as the day progressed, there weren't a lot of people there, so we were able to get close to the golfers and had no problem watching them play on different parts of the course.

At one point, we could even here Poulter curse when he had a bad drive.  WE WERE THAT CLOSE!

All of the food was around hole 10, so once Lipsky and gang made it there, we left them and went and got lunch.  After lunch, we returned to the tenth hole because RORY MACKLEROY was about to tee off.  GUYS! It's Rory!  It was amazing.  He was less than 20 feet away and looked as good as he does on television.  Unfortunately, there was a ton of media and security people, so I couldn't get any pictures, but let me tell you, it was awesome. 

The tenth and the eighteenth hole were right next to each other, so after watching Rory, we headed over the to eighteenth to grab seats.  We were able to watch a lot of the lesser known guys finish up.  We also saw characters, like John Daly and his ridiculous pants, play their last hole, which was fun.

We didn't wait around for Rory because he would have been another couple of hours, but we did manage to grab Shane Lowry's autograph as we were heading out, which was pretty cool.  He ended up finishing in the top ten for the tournament.

After we left, we returned back to the hotel to rest and relax before dinner.  At the hotel, there are a couple of specialty restaurants that each guest can visit once for free. They have Mexican, Italian, Fish and Turkish restaurants that all have a special menu.  We made a reservation at the Mexican restaurant for eight o'clock.  While the food wasn't quite what we think of as Mexican, I thought it was pretty decent.  Plus, there was a ton of it! We got soup, salad, an appetizer, a main dish and a dessert.   I'll take it!  We spent the rest of the night FaceTiming with Karen at the hotel bar.  Not a bad way to end the night. :)

The next day, we didn't have any big plans.  Our flight didn't leave until 10pm so we had the whole day ahead of us.  We decided to save the arm and a leg we'd spend on a taxi into the city and hang around the hotel.  We had a delicious breakfast and then lounged poolside for a while.  The flies were out in full force, though, so we couldn't last more than a couple of hours out there.  Instead, we just headed inside to the lobby and lounged around until dinner.

When we arrived at the airport that night, the results were coming in from the Turkish elections.  People were crowded around televisions watching the news as the results came in.  The Washington Post summarizes it pretty well, but the results were definitely a surprise.  Overall, though, things were pretty calm in the aftermath.  We saw a few cars with AKP (the majority party) flags flying as they were driving when we were returning from the airport, but nothing too crazy, which was good.

As we were walking home from the metro after our plane landed, we noticed a dog following us.  There are tons of dogs in Izmir that are strays either from birth or because their owners put them on the street, so we are pretty used to seeing dogs out and about.  This dog, though, was different.  He would come right up to us and followed us.  When we stopped, he stopped.  When we walked, he walked.  It was so cute and we quickly realized that he was very friendly.  He was so thin that his ribs and hips were sticking out.  We're pretty sure that at one point, he probably belonged to someone because he was so comfortable around people.  By the time we made it to our apartment, both Mike and I had fallen in love with this guy.  It broke our hearts to close the door on him, but we can't have pets in our apartment and we are gone WAY too much.

It was a heartbreaking way to end a great weekend, so I went up to our apartment and looked at this picture.  It cracks me up every time.
This picture has me laughing every time.  Emma was enjoying some tummy time when I guess it got to be a little too much, so she just passed out.  Sometimes being two and half months old is hard. I feel ya, girl. 
Saturday Step Count:  18,536
Sunday Step Count:  8,969