Written by Ed Vyeda
August 16, 2013
It took about four hours for Christopher Rants to play the Great Waters Course at Reynolds Lake Oconee on Wednesday morning, Aug. 14 … well, make that nine years and four hours.
That is because Great Waters was the final stop on the Iowa golfer’s quest to play all the courses on the GOLF Magazine list of Top 100 Courses in America – a journey that officially began in 2004. He still has the magazine issue from that year, sticking to that list as his “roadmap” of sorts.
“People don’t know whether to say ‘Congratulations’ or ask ‘What’s wrong with you?’” jokes Rants, 45, a former member of the Iowa House of Representatives who didn’t start playing golf until age 30. “It felt good to get it done. I would schedule vacations and golf trips around the list, and was fortunate that my work took me to a lot of places near courses on the list.”
Although Rants’ friends and regular golfing buddies were aware of the Top 100 endeavor, his wife Trudy and their two teenage daughters – all non-golfers – really had no clue. “Trudy knew I played a lot of golf but she never really grasped why we would go to a particular resort.”
When Rants, the longtime Speaker of the House, left the Iowa legislature in 2010, he brought home his Top 100 golf ball rack that had been displayed on a wall in his office. That’s when the family knew about his special mission. And Trudy was happy to hear that of the seven courses left to play, most of them were in Hawaii, where she was more than happy for a family vacation last December.
The trip to the islands left only one empty spot in the rack: Great Waters. So, when Rants had a conference to attend in Atlanta, he booked the tee time and made the relatively simple trip to Reynolds Lake Oconee – short compared to Rants driving 375 miles across western Montana to get to a golf course in Idaho, to check off another Top 100.
“I am a golf fanatic,” says Rants, who did not grow up around the game. “Golf is about testing yourself. It is a non-partisan game,” he adds with a laugh. “I have friends from both sides of the aisle who play golf.”
As was usually the case during his Top 100 rounds, Rants was on the Great Waters tee sheet as a single. “I always just walked on and met somebody to play with,” he noted. “That was a great part of the experience. With two exceptions of all the golfers I played with – one guy who could not get off his cell phone and a couple headed to divorce court – I would play with them all again.”
At Great Waters, Rants played the first three holes alone (making a couple of pars) and then caught up with a twosome – joining Reynolds Lake Oconee member Greg Hadgis and his guest, Bennett Ghormley, for the remaining 15 holes. “A couple of really nice guys,” Rants said. “It was fantastic.”
It was Rants’ second visit to Reynolds Lake Oconee – the first a few years ago to check The Oconee Course off his list of Top 100s to play – and he said Great Waters lived up to its pedigree as a Jack Nicklaus Signature course. (GOLF Magazine has adjusted its ranking lists through the years, with Great Waters now No. 43 and Oconee No. 62 on the list of “America’s Top 100 Courses You Can Play.”)
“The golf course is gorgeous and they obviously put an emphasis on maintenance,” he said. “I started on the back and finished on No. 9, which I think is a great finishing hole itself. The greens were fast, but the golf course is so fair; everything is right there in front of you. The lake can be distracting – a good distraction. It’s a constant presence and just so beautiful.
“Everybody has to have goals in life – some more worthy than others,” Rants said. “It was a task to get back to Reynolds. But what a great place to finish.
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