West Virginia University in Vendée, France

The "Vendée Golf Challenge"
June 20-21, 1998
Classes and excursions have kept me from playing a lot of golf during our stay in Vendée.  By far the highlight of my golfing here was the weekend of June 20 and 21 when I got a chance to play with some friends in the 1998 Vendée Golf Challenge.  This is a pro-am, with a two-score best ball format.  The amateurs get 3/4's of their handicap.  My team is lead by Frédéric Monmarché, the pro at the Bourgenay course just south of Les Sables.  The first day of play was at the Fontenelles golf course, in the inner wood and farmlands of Vendée.  On the second day we played at St-Jean de Monts, a course built into the dunes along the Atlantic coast just north of Les Sable d'Olonne.   Half the holes here are true "links" and run along the shore.  The others run through the trees and brush that grow in the inner dunes.  The picuture above is of hole number one, which runs along the woods to the left and the lagoon to the right.  Today I would hit a perfect tee shot and a good, safe iron left (taking most of the water out of play).  I would the three put from 35 feet.  That's pretty typical of my weekend play, and that of my team.  We would finish in the middle of the pack, but we enjoyed every minute of the walk which not even poor golf could spoil.

Below is hole two leading through the woods of the inner dunes.

The bunkers are small but deadly.  I'm pretty lucky below to have caught one from which, with my height, I can almost see the green when standing in the bottom.  Some of these pits are a twenty foot drop off the putting surface.


Here my team heads out of the woods on to the links that compose the back nine.  You may be able to make out the Atlantic just at the outer edge of the holes.

Here is hole eighteen leading back to the clubhouse.

Below on the left is Jocelyne Grandpierre, who played on another of the teams in the tournament.  She is the person who helped us find families for our students.  At her table are her husband, Christian, our pro Frédéric, and finally Eric in the striped shorts.

Frédéric Monmarché is a dedicated teacher of golf.  Among the main things I hope to have learned from is the use of the eyes.  He noticed that I often tended to focus more on the ball than on its trajectory as I was setting up.  "Always have a plan, whether it works or not", he told me. He also noticed how far my eyes are inside the ball when I putt.   This also keeps my view of the line from being as clear as it could be.  Another thing he taught us is the game of "pétanque" on the practice green.  "Pétanque" is one of France's favorite pass times and the Italians play a similar game called "bocce".  It involves teams of two, each player with two balls.  The object is to put your balls nearest a target called a "cochonnet".  Frédéric's idea was to choose a hole on the practice green and to chip to it, scoring the chips as balls in pétanque.   He and I teamed up against Christian and Eric.  It was a crushing defeat for our opponents, but one due much more to Frédéric's skill than mine.

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