David J. Neal: Doral is becoming the Cadillac of golf tournaments

03/09/2014 12:01 AM

03/09/2014 12:23 AM

Cutting through a tee box as well as the eerie gray silence of Thursday’s post-delay golf, the four young women in dresses mini and flowing drew a shout from a course marshal.

“Hey, you’re early for the club!” he yelled.

Early for clubs on Washington or Collins avenues, or in Downtown Miami. The club they’re associated with, however, The Escalade Lounge, opens at the earliest tee times and closes after the last putt has dropped. It’s a symbol of the way the tournament and Trump National Doral adds levels of fan experience to attract the grander spenders.

There’s no question the redesigned Blue Monster cuddles with spectators better than before. Fewer obstructions such as the antiquated hand-operated scoreboard that once overlooked the 18th green and more spectator mounds means more places where you can plant yourself with views of action on multiple holes with just a turn of the head.

Yet there’s also a rising curve tracking the income levels to which the tournament appeals. No surprise considering it is golf and the resort just got purchased by that icon of success and 1980s excess Donald Trump.

Also, we’re in South Florida, where real money flows with vacation freedom and pretend money flows with garish pride. So, of course, the resort thumps Friday night with the sounds of an Ivanka Trump-hosted fashion show of clothes by Venezuelan-American designer Carolina Herrera. A ticket for Friday’s second round got you in to the show, but you need a much shinier credit card for the clothes.

And the average spectator just hustling around to see good golf gets a little bodycheck by The Escalade Lounge, to which the stylishly dressed young women invite passersby, both from near and far.

The Escalade Lounge Shuttle, a 2015 Cadillac Escalade (of course), makes sure the fortunate can get from their indoor seats overlooking the 16th green to the Cadillac V-Series Performance Center (where you can get your golf balls fitted and swing analyzed) without breaking a bead of South Florida sweat.

In previous years, you could go up on the slope behind the second green or the 16th green and see the other green as well as the tee boxes at Nos. 3 and 17. Now, No. 16 is blocked by the big temporary tent from which the chilled can watch the water follies of Nos. 15 and 16.

It’s said you never go broke appealing to the lowest common denominator. You don’t often go broke pampering people with money or making people with money feel special. Remember the old American Express slogan “Membership has its privileges”?

The smarter folks in professional sports figured this out long ago. It’s why owners in team sports jacked up the prices on the best seats, threw in a few luxuries and forced many a hardcore middle class fan upstairs or onto their couch. It’s why the Panthers opened Club Red, a place where you’d expect to see Henny Youngman, if Henny Youngman weren’t deader than BB&T Center during most Panthers games.

Each year, no matter the name of the tournament — Ford Championship at Doral, World Golf Championships-CA Championship, World Gold Championships-Cadillac Championship — more little clubs appear, sponsored by more brands that aim above the hoi polloi.

This year, there’s the Moet & Chandon Champagne Lounge, featuring overpriced versions of the titular liquid; Sushi Maki; and Joe’s Stone Crab to go (which is the way we South Beach residents have our Joe’s).

Much as I sound disparaging of it, I’m envious. I don’t think there has been a Friday or Saturday at Doral or The Honda Classic where I haven’t sighed at those watching shows, dancing to the beat, killing the bar, freely enjoying themselves and some pretty good golf.

Have a good time. Get home safely. And have one for a brotha who can’t be there.

About David J. Neal

David J. Neal

@DavidJNeal

David J. Neal joined The Herald in 1989 and South Beach in 1990. He covers FIU after covering the Panthers for over a decade then the Dolphins for half a decade. The only day he won't work is Indianapolis 500 Race Day.

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