July 9, 2019
By Bruce Neyers
Golf isn’t a part of my life today, but there was a time – from around 1985 through 2000 — when both Barbara and I played often. It began when a neighbor of ours moved to Maui to take the job as tennis pro at the Kapalua Resort. We visited him often, and eventually he persuaded us to take golf lessons. After a few days of instruction, we went out for a round. We enjoyed the exercise, being outdoors in beautiful weather, and, of course, the cold beer at the end. Through him, we also met the resort’s golf pro, who soon suggested our winery be a sponsor of their Golf Tournament. We agreed. In exchange, he waived the golf fees for the rest of our trip.
At the time, there were two 18 hole courses at Kapalua. The older Village Course was a bit more rustic, but it was slower paced, and far less crowded. We made a daily reservation there, and played early so there was little or no audience watching us fumble along our way. One morning as we began to head out for our round, the starter – with whom we had also become friendly — asked if we would like some company. He had another twosome without a reservation and he suggested they team with us. He introduced us, and jokingly mentioned that we could probably answer their wine questions. One of the players was retired football great Fran Tarkenton. He was joined by a former teammate, a lineman named Ron Yary. I knew we were going to be way over our heads, but the two of them were certain that it would be fine. Ron even mentioned that he did have some wine questions for us. I suggested that after playing together for a few holes they could play ahead of us. They declined, insisting that they always enjoyed the game better as a foursome.
No one would ever doubt the athleticism of Fran Tarkenton, but he was effusive in his praise for Ron Yary, who he referred to as one of the most gifted players he knew. We went to the tee box for the first hole — a short, slightly uphill par 4 — and I hit a three iron that, while straight, didn’t cover much distance. But that was my game. Fran hit next and he creamed the ball, driving it almost to the green, but it sliced to the right, into the trees separating the 18th fairway. Ron hit his tee shot with even more power, but he hooked into a pineapple patch to the left of the green. From the ladies’ tee, Barbara – playing with her trusty five iron — hit her shot right down the middle of the fairway. We were out-muscled, but we played straight. I shot a par for that hole, Barbara hit a double bogey 6, and both Fran and Ron shot bogey 5.
When we got to the second hole – all tied after one — Ron said to Fran loud enough for us to hear that he hoped they weren’t being sandbagged by Barbara and me. Their reputations were safe, but they still suggested we have a small wager on the game. I asked what “a small wager” was, and they proposed a dollar on the front nine, another dollar on the back nine, and a third dollar for low team score. We agreed. Well, it didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off as we caved in from the financial pressure. The sixth hole – a long downhill par 5 — was especially treacherous, and Barbara shot a twelve. I barely fared better, with a nine. Both Fran and Ron shot pars.
The snack bar was at the 9th hole, and the starter met us there to see how the round was going. I apologized for our lack of competition and repeated my offer that they play ahead of us. They declined again, and said that playing with a foursome was an important part of the game. They both insisted on finishing with us.
As we began the back nine, they began to ask us questions about the wine business. We told them about our vineyards and winery, briefly describing our wines. I also mentioned that my favorite restaurant in the area – the popular Bay Club – was one of the best customers for our Chardonnay. Soon enough we were teeing up for our shots down the 18th fairway – recognized as the narrowest par four on Maui. We spent very little time in that fairway, but fortunately, I had bought another dozen golf balls at the snack bar, so we had enough to finish the round.
Fran and Ron were as affable on the 18th hole as they had been on the first, and both Barbara and I were delighted that these two talented athletes had been patient enough to play 18 holes of golf with us. We finished the hole, got into our carts and drove back to the starter’s shed to turn in our equipment. We walked to the nearby clubhouse, found an empty table, and ordered a beer. When the server arrived, I reached for my wallet to pay, but Ron was faster, and said, “Please, we’ve got this one.” He paid the server, took our scorecard and compared it to his. After a few strokes of the pencil and a slight furrowing of his brow, he said, “Looks like you owe us three dollars.” I paid him. We enjoyed another round of beer, and by this time our table was deluged by autograph seekers. Most of the people recognized Fran of course, but one young boy, pointing to Ron, asked who the other guy was, Fran didn’t hesitate. “Young man,” he said, “That person is Ron Yary, probably the best athlete I’ve ever known in my life. You should get his autograph.” Only a great athlete with enormous self-confidence could so ably redirect attention away from himself, towards a less famous athlete. How impressive. I’ve often thought about that moment, and reflected on what a great lesson it was.
Later that night, Barbara and I went out to dinner at the Kapalua Bay Club, and as the hostess seated us she pointed in the direction of a table on the next level. “I think you have some friends dining with us tonight,” she said. I looked in that direction and saw Fran and Ron, just as both of them lifted an empty bottle of Neyers Chardonnay. There were six people at their table, and they raised their glasses in a toast us. Fran and Ron were a class act.
The Carneros Chardonnay at Neyers Vineyards is produced using the most traditional Burgundian wine-making techniques. We work exclusively with hand-harvested fruit from three Carneros District vineyards, all of them planted to ‘Shot-Wente’ selection (see photo above). We ferment in 25% new French oak barrels from François Frères Cooperage in St. Romain, using native wild yeast. Secondary fermentation occurs naturally as well, with no added M/L starter.