The Great Pumpkin Contest

by Casey Griffith

 Nov 01, 2018 at 3:37 PM

Things get spooky when club departments go head-to-head for pumpkin-gut-glory

Still glowing from last night's Halloween festivities? Well good - because we need your help to select our 2018 'Champion of Champions' jack-o-lantern!

For nearly a decade staff members at McConnell Golf properties have summoned their creative juices to carve and decorate a pumpkin for Halloween. Initially started as a fun and interactive way to decorate the clubhouse, the competition has become a team-building tradition that staff looks forward to every year. (Who, us? A little competitive?) 

Members vote either online or in person for their favorite jack-o-lantern during Halloween-themed club events. Then, the winning pumpkin advances to the company-wide competition. As our network of private clubs grows, so does the competition which now encompasses over 50 departments at 12 clubs. 

This year at your club, whether you found yourself browsing decorated cars at trick-or-trunk, bouncing along a hayride, braving a haunted house or twirling through fog on the dance floor, we hope your family enjoyed a fun and safe holiday. From all of us at McConnell Golf, Happy Halloween!  

>> Please view club winners below and cast your vote for our overall McConnell Golf Champion! <<

    

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Ranch to the Table

by Martha-Page Althaus

 Jun 27, 2018 at 1:45 AM

McConnell Golf’s latest step in sourcing high-quality ingredients is sizzling.

Farm-to-table has long been a culinary buzz phrase, and it’s no secret that using fresh, locally grown ingredients produces a superior dish. But securing the best ingredients for McConnell Golf’s chefs goes beyond stocking the kitchen with local produce. Thanks to a recent partnership between McConnell Golf and Meyer Natural Foods, high quality steaks and beef are now appearing o n all club menus.

What makes Meyer Natural Angus products among the best? It’s all traced back to Meyer Ranch, a 40,000-acre expanse in Montana where cattle are humanely raised, fed vegetarian diets of natural grains and grasses, and never given antibiotics or hormones.

“The only thing we concentrate on is natural, organic protein,” says Reid Swanson, vice president, Meyer Natural Foods. “We’re raising cattle without technology, while utilizing the best genetics to grow a superior animal without pushing it. By allowing cattle to grow naturally, customers taste the difference. Our products are juicier, more flavorful, and more tender.”

James Patterson, one of McConnell Golf’s corporate executive chefs, has been serving Meyer Natural Angus at Sedgefield for several years. When McConnell Golf started looking for ways to further improve its culinary offerings across all clubs, Patterson knew where to go.

“We wanted to find a natural product that would embrace the true essence of what we felt a steak should eat like,” he says. “The quality, consistency, flavor, and overall natural story behind Meyer separates it from traditional commodity beef.”

Now, all McConnell chefs have the flexibility to order any cut of product from Meyer they choose — from strip loin to short rib. The meat arrives in club kitchens with traceability back to the ranch.

When Patterson introduced his peers to the new product, he did a side-by-side butchery comparison of Meyer New York strip and commodity New York Strip.

“The chefs saw a huge difference when we did the comparison,” he says. “We placed the two cuts side-by-side to show the difference in moisture, marbling, color, and texture. The Meyer cut is absolutely a step above and beyond any other traditional steak you’d see on a menu.”

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Behind the Vine

by Martha-Page Althaus

 Jun 21, 2018 at 2:10 AM

A closer look at McConnell Golf’s exclusive wines

This past Spring, McConnell Golf began pouring two new wines — a red blend and sauvignon blanc — the fruits of a partnership with Juslyn Vineyards, located in the heart of Napa Valley. We spoke with Stephanie DeMasi, Juslyn Vineyards’ partner/general manager, to get more information on the varietals and where they came from Santé!


MARTHA-PAGE ALTHAUS: Juslyn Vineyards is located in Napa Valley’s Spring Mountain District. What makes this region distinct?


STEPHANIE DEMASI: We’re located in St. Helena, California. Our vineyard was planted in 1998 and harvested in 2000 with just 80 cases that first year. Juslyn’s Spring Mountain Vineyard sits right on and above the fog line, which allows us to avoid much frost, fungus growth, and rapid air and wind movement through the “hourglass” effect of the Napa mountain ranges. We have steep, southwest-facing vineyards, which provide optimal sun exposure, even in cooler vintages.


MPA: Tell us about the winemakers behind these new wines.


SD: Craig MacLean has worked with us for more than 20 years now. Our owners, Perry and Carolyn Butler, moved to California from England in 1982 to work in the tech industry. They would come to Napa on the weekends to relax. In 1997, they quit their jobs in the Bay area and opened Juslyn, which is derived from the names of Carolyn and their daughter, Justine.


MPA: How did the partnership between Juslyn and McConnell Golf form?


SD: I was introduced to McConnell Golf’s Chief Operating Officer, Christian Anastasiadis, through mutual friends Martin and Denise Cody of Cellar Angels. Christian and I talked, and the idea grew from there.


MPA: How did the flavors develop for each wine?


SD: We wanted to offer versatile expressions of wine that would be easy to match and enhance McConnell chefs’ dinner menus. We also wanted the wine to be enjoyed on its own.


MPA: What are the flavor profiles of the 2014 McConnell Red Blend?


SD: It’s a Bordeaux-style blend. On the nose, you’ll detect warm plums, blueberry preserves, and spice cake. It’s fi rm and muscular on the strong, full-bodied palate, with black cherry, cedar, and lavender fl avors, framed by light notes of French oak. It’s a ripe, fruit-forward wine with a nice spice to the finish.


MPA: And the 2017 sauvignon blanc?


SD: This tropical fruit-driven, aromatic wine exhibits flavors of ripe citrus, subtle mineral notes, and has a lively dry finish.

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Thank You for Your Service

by Martha-Page Althaus

 Jun 20, 2018 at 2:28 AM

Wakefield Plantation’s We Care Golf Classic supports military families.

Now in its sixth year, the we care golf classic brings together members of the military not only for a day of golf, but also to raise money for North Carolina military charities. The 2017 event distributed $80,000 to USO of NC, the Soldiers & Airmen Assistance Fund, and the Wakefield Senior Men’s Golf Association (SMGA) Scholarship Fund, which provides college funds for kids from military families. Since the first tournament in 2013, the event has raised more than $350,000.

We Care began as a grassroots effort by Wakefield’s SMGA, a group of some 90 men who are very involved with local military outreach. When one of the SMGA member’s grandsons was deployed, the group sent care packages to his unit. They began sending packages to another unit, too; during this time, they decided to launch a new golf tournament with a focus on military outreach, and thus, We Care was born.

For the 2018 We Care tournament, the focus of the golf outing is the men and women in the NC National Guard. Each foursome will include civilians and a member of the military.

“For our military guests, this is a great day of golf, food, and fellowship,” says Michael Thomas, Wakefield’s club manager. “The joy they get out of this day is incredible. But it’s nothing compared to the sacrifices they make for us.”

In addition to spearheading the We Care event, SMGA members stay busy year-round. They volunteer as a group at a Raleigh soup kitchen. Each Thanksgiving, they donate turkeys and cook them for the community. And they work with the Special Olympics every year as well.

“They do an extraordinary amount of good stuff both on and off the course,” says Thomas. “It’s the most amazing thing. They’re an unbelievable group of gentlemen with hearts and priorities to help others. They play golf three days a week, and in their spare time, they’re volunteering. They could easily write a check, but instead they donate their own time, energy, and efforts to make things happen. Of all the things that have taken place during my 15 years at Wakefield, the creation of SMGA and all they do for our community is what I’m most proud of. It’s very rare to have such a large number of members who share the same vision and passion to give back without ever being asked. They just jump right in.”

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Championship Recap

by Chad Flowers

 Jun 13, 2018 at 8:35 PM

In 2018, McConnell Golf hosted four notable events that gave others from around the region, and even around the world, the chance to compete on some of our best tracks.

Atlantic Coast Conference

Old North State Club on Badin Lake in New London, NC once again hosted the Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Golf Championship in late April. Warm breezes from across the lake graced the fairways as some of the best amateur golfers in the country attacked the Tom Fazio layout.

While the finish was down to the wire with Clemson, Wake Forest, and Virginia shooting low final round scores, Georgia Tech continued its domination of the ACC Championship with a 29-under 835 over three days to claim its ninth title in the last 13 years. This year’s title was also the 17th in program history for the Yellow Jackets.

“It’s a great conference with all these teams that are ranked, so any time you win here it means a lot, and this year is no different,” said Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler. “We knew that Clemson would come charging up the leaderboard, they always do. It got close and exciting, and this place brings that out. We’re just happy to walk away on top this time.”

U.S. Open Championship Qualifier
Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, Tennessee was proud to again host the local qualifying of the U.S. Open Championship in May. A total of 78 players from all across the U.S. and other countries played for fi ve open spots into the sectional qualifier. Perfect weather, pristine course conditions, and a strong field led to low scoring on the famed Donald Ross design. Sebastian Vazquez of Mexico took medalist honors with a round of 63 while four other players had 66 or better to fi ll out the fi ve available qualifying spots.

“Holston Hills has played host to this local qualifier for many years,” said Director of Golf Chris Dibble. “Our course is always a player favorite, and we enjoy having all of the different players here each year.” 

Web.com Tour's Rex Hospital Open

Moving from the amateur ranks to the professionals, the annual Rex Hospital Open returned to Raleigh’s TPC Wakefield Plantation at the end of May. The Hale Irwin designed, 18-hole championship golf course proved once again to be a great test for some of the up-and-coming professionals on the Web.com Tour. Joey Garber of Petoskey, Michigan, and a Georgia alumni, persevered with a one stroke, 18-under victory. Coming in at a tie for second at 17-under were Hank Lebioda and Scott Langley. Of local interest, Albin Choi, a former player at NC State, and Cameron Percy, a resident of Wakefield Plantation and McConnell Golf member, each finished tied for sixth at 15 under par.

“The Rex Hospital Open has become a mainstay at Wakefield, and our members and staff alike look forward to it each year,” according to Wakefield Club Manager Michael Thomas. “This event has raised some $9 million for patients, programs, and services at UNC Rex Healthcare over the past 31 years.”

American Junior Golf Association

In June, the AJGA Tournament in Greensboro was played at the Sedgefield Pete Dye Course and has been newly rebranded as the Wyndham Invitational presented by BB&T. If that sounds familiar, it is because the same title and presenting sponsors are also on-board for the annual PGA Tour stop, Wyndham Championship, in Greensboro at McConnell Golf’s Sedgefield Ross course in August.

A week of great golf culminated as Karl Vilips, the No. 1 junior golfer in the Rolex AJGA rankings, blistered the Dye course for a 10-under 270 over the four days. During his third round, Vilips birdied the 18th hole to tie the competitive course record of 8-under 62. Vilips now has five AJGA victories and his is a name we should all remember There’s no doubt he will be playing professional golf soon.

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In Good Taste

by Martha-Page Althaus

 Jun 12, 2018 at 1:13 AM

There’s never been a better time to have dinner at the club. Here, one of McConnell Golf's Executive Chefs dish on everything from locally sourced ingredients to the best entrée and wine pairings.

Mike Marques, Executive Chef, Grande Dunes Member Club

Keeping things fresh and exciting for the close-knit Grande Dunes membership is one of the most rewarding, and also challenging, parts of the job for Executive Chef Mike Marques.

“We officially change the dinner menu quarterly, but we’re frequently making changes throughout the year,” he says. “We try to keep things as new and creative as possible for our core group of members who come in often.”

For his latest menu, Marques, who has been at Grande Dunes for six years, offers a light take on classic summer dishes. To start, there’s a refreshing cantaloupe-pecan salad. Entrees include a cold-smoked, grass-fed NY-strip that gives a light, smoky flavor.

“It’s the opposite of a heavier, hot-smoked piece of brisket that would weigh you down,” he says.

Grande Dunes hosts bi-monthly special event dinners, which allow Marques and his culinary team to target a smaller audience of diners who are interested in more high-end cuisine.

“That’s our time to shine,” he says. “We can serve really creative, thought-out dishes.”

At a recent six-course dinner, members were treated to lamb chops, duck-liver pâté, and seared scallops, among other delicacies. For dessert, Marques wowed the dining room with his version of a “liquid s’more” — graham cracker crumbs, chocolate ganache, smoked whipped cream, and white-chocolate pastry cream.

“One member told me it was the best food they’ve ever had in their entire life,” he says. “That’s the best compliment I could ever hear.” 

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Mastering the Mental Game

by Lauren Thedieck

 Jun 10, 2018 at 3:43 AM

How? Through wellness.

Understanding who you are and what you want to achieve is the key to success. But what keeps that key in the ignition and the car in “drive” might be something you’ve never considered. The answer is wellness. While wellness is an all-encompassing term, let’s hone in on mental toughness.

In sports, some might notice their anger flares when they play, a visible sign of loss of mental control. Others have negative thoughts or expectations that can bring their level of play down. Here are four tips to stay focused on the golf course, tennis court, and even in the workplace.

Meditation

Mindful meditation can be done anywhere: laying down, sitting in a chair, or walking around the block. It’s a process that teaches us to respond more effectively to negative situations that we face in a sport or in daily life. Through meditation, we don’t seek to change or correct negative mental experiences; instead, we learn to accept whatever is going on in our minds and refocus our attention on the task in hand. Taking this practice into the sports arena results in an athlete’s increased ability to function “in the zone” by sharpening concentration, accuracy, and precision.

Goals on Paper

When you were young, you were probably told to write your goals down and keep them where you could see them every day. The same is true for you today. Keep goals visible to stay motivated and to push yourself.

“Setting goals helps us grow and expand, pushing ourselves to transform in ways that we never imagined,” said Tony Robbins, a prominent figure in leadership psychology. Understanding your heartfelt desires, and affirming you can attain them, is a beneficial tool to staying positive and determined.

Diet and Exercise for the Mind

It’s also helpful to write down your unhealthy mental habits. As Amy Morin, best selling author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do states, “Mental strength is a lot like physical strength. If you want to be physically strong, you need to go to the gym and lift weights. Mental strength is the same. If you want to be mentally strong, you need good habits like practicing gratitude. But you also have to give up bad habits,like destructive beliefs about yourself and others.”

Letting go of these inhibitors gives you control over your outlook and athletic potential.

Establishing Potential 

Focusing on your mental game will help drown out mental noise. You have control over every shot placement, which club to use, and what strategy to follow. Once you break your concentration and become consumed with things that you can’t control, you reduce your chances of playing your best.

So, how can you start the round off on the right foot? Create a simple routine. Stretch, meditate, practice on the range, eat a healthy meal — whatever it is, find your routine and stick to it.

As psychologist Jim Taylor wrote for Psychology Today, “Routines enable athletes to be completely physically, technically, tactically, and mentally ready to perform their best. I don’t know a world-class athlete in any sport who does not use routines in part of his or her competitive preparations.”

One of my tennis coaches at NC State would always say, “Practice each day like it is a match. On game day, you focus a little bit more and you prepare a little bit better.”

Make this part of your mental routine each day you are on the course and court.

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