Who am I? How did I get here?
May 12, 2023 will mark my 63rd year on this planet. When I think about it, it’s hard to believe I’m 63, I don’t feel 63, I feel like I think like a 30-year-old. I play video games, watch TV shows that are aimed at teens and millennials and eat junk food like a kid. On the other hand, I forget things, I am easily annoyed, I creak when I walk, and most importantly, I realize those old guys I used to dismiss as a kid were really a lot smarter than I gave them credit for. There is something to say about experience.
In the beginning…
My love of golf started early around age 9 I started noticing a show called “CBS Golf Classic” on Saturdays. No one in my family played golf so I had no preconceived ideas about the game. My first fascination while watching on TV was the greens. The cross-hatch patterns on the green were just so appealing. Then watching the players hit putts that curved their way into the hole, I thought, I must try this! I asked my mother if I could get a golf club and some balls. Since she knew less than I did about golf she didn’t know the difference between a driver and a wedge, so my first golf club was…a putter, which I thought was good for all shots. My excitement was hard to contain as I took my hickory shafted Kroydon Pro putter out into the side yard. I teed up my unpronounceable Japanese brand golf ball and swung away, whiff! whiff! then suddenly contact! In my mind it stills seems to be a soaring fade going 150 yards, but after revisiting the side yard a few years ago, I see it was more like 25 yards of carry and about ten yards of roll. Next came setting up my course, digging holes with Moms Garden spade, flag made from an old bamboo pole dug up from the back of the garage. I’ve often wondered why the game captured me so completely then, after all I didn’t have parents pushing me and we certainly we’re part of the country club set. Whatever it was, I was not able to fulfill the desire to play “real” golf until I was 13, golf had taken a back seat to baseball, basketball, and football for several years. We had recently moved to Florida and the first kid I met while out exploring the new neighborhood, lived a few blocks away on the 6th hole of Sebring Municipal Golf Course. After school one day he came by the house and asked if I wanted to go play golf with him. Did I! He asked if I played golf and I said, '“oh yeah” “I used to play all the time”, a huge stretch, if not outright BS (another talent I honed over the years). He asked if I had my clubs and I said no, I don’t have my “club” anymore. “No problem” he said, “you can use my Mom’s ““She never plays” With that we were on our bikes and on our way to his house. Once there another great surprise, a golf cart! With that we cruised out his backyard, past the sixth tee and around to hole number 5, I’ll never forget number 5! my first effort at “real” golf. My excitement was off the charts, I’ll always remember the smell of the grass, the smooth texture of the teeing ground. Number 5 was a Par 3 174 yards to the middle, a flat, elevated green with a green outhouse directly behind the green. Immediately in front of the tee was a small, round, man-made pond which required a mammoth 45-yard carry. “You go first” my friend said. I gripped the Shirley Spork 4 wood tightly with a modified baseball-split hand grip. I could feel the blood rushing to my head as I teed up the ball. The rest of the shot is a blur, culminating with a double hop into the pond. 3 more similar efforts led my friend to suggest that I drop one on the other side. One hour and three holes later my friend said he had to go home for dinner and so soon I was on my bike racing home, excited to tell my parents about my great new adventure. I still remember the sheer exhilaration I felt that afternoon. I’m happy to say I still often feel that way on the course and through all the great rounds and wonderful people I’ve experienced over the years, they are all still compared to Hole number 5 Sebring Muni with my buddy Steve.
It’s the year 2000 and I survived the Millennial Calendar software bug!. I had evolved into a decent player with a good High School career and enough talent to be offered a chance at college golf. It all served me well as I moved into the family building and real estate brokerage and development business in 1980, golf opened many doors and cemented many wonderful relationships and ventures. By 2000 I had the opportunity to sell my development company and move on to phase 2 of my life. After traveling for a year, I realized I still had the desire to find new challenges, through a series of happy accidents I found myself the CEO of a new golf school that was starting up at the beginning of the internet age. By combining a unique instructional format with my nascent internet abilities in a few years we had 14 locations nationwide and thousands of students. During this time, I had the opportunity to employ some tremendous golf professionals and see great instruction first hand. One of the things I learned was there are many “right” ways to swing a golf club and all of them were different.
One of the wonderful benefits of the golf school was that we were helping people have fun, it was a much more relaxed and enjoyable work environment compared to the high pressure, high stakes nature of the real estate business. For the first time in my life I had time to do more things and enjoy life outside of business. After being married to my career for 20 years, I met and married my wonderful wife, Elena. As we settled into a happy life, traveling, expanding our businesses, and enjoying life, life through us a bit of a curveball. In December 2006 during a routine doctor visit for what I though was a sinus infection, I was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. After 6 months of chemotherapy the disease was slowed down but not stopped. Eventually it would come back as Stage 4 and I needed a game plan to deal with it. I was able to find the preeminent doctor treating CLL Leukemia.
Located at the famed M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Dr. Michael Keating had developed several of the “Gold Standard” treatments for Leukemia. I was fortunate to become a patient of Dr. Keating and in our first meeting he told me he had a new treatment regime, and he was going to put me in the trial. Six months later on June 9, 2009, I was declared cancer free. I celebrate June 9th as my “Cancer Birthday” each year.
LAC (Life after Cancer)
As I was recovering from my chemo in 2009, I was still trying to build up strength and get back full time into the golf school business, thankfully my wife had stepped in and managed the business during my recovery. One day out of the blue as I was just getting back into the office, a call came in. “Vance, line 2 is for you, someone from Golf Digest Magazine” I took the call and a representative for the editor of Golf Digest asked if I could take a meeting regarding Golf Digest Schools, then the largest, oldest and most famous golf school in the world. Long story short, Golf Digest had been following our golf schools closely and really liked what they saw and wanted to know if we were interested in taking over the famed Golf Digest Schools. Almost instantly the lingering fatigue I had been experiencing was gone! A wave of energy and excitement kicked in and hasn’t stopped since. We made a deal to take over the schools and it began a great 7-year experience running Golf Digest Schools. During that time, I got to meet some of golf’s greatest instructors, writers, architects, and players. It’s amazing how things in life evolve.
LAC (Phase Two)
Midway through our contract with Golf Digest I started thinking about slowing down and began a plan to finish our contract in a few years and retiring. During this time while thinking about how we wanted to move into the next phase of our life we made the decision to try and have children. On November 19, 2012, we welcomed our daughter Natalie to our family and the world. Becoming a father for the first time at age 53 is something I would have never imagined ten years before, but as I held her in my arms at the Winnie Palmer Hospital in Orlando, I realized nothing I had ever done previously could come anywhere close to this little bundle of joy. Now at age 7 she asked me today if she could go to two golf camps this summer instead of one like last year, another one of those happy things I never imagined happening!
Life in the not so fast lane
As I’ve slowed down in the business world my golf life has kicked into high gear. Over the last few years, I’ve played many of my bucket list golf courses, enjoyed being a member at great golf clubs and have many, many wonderful friends with whom I can enjoy playing this great game. Taking my daughter to the bus each morning, going to recitals, taking family vacations with Elena and Natalie has been a heartwarming phase of life that I hope continues for a long time. Now that I have time, I look forward to using this blog and website to share some of my golf and life experiences with all my friends and friends to be and hopefully learn more from them and you...
My goals with this website
At the end of 2019 at age 59 my USGA index was 2.9 the lowest it has been in 30 years. At my peak in my early 20’s I was as low as a +1.5. All things considered it was a great feeling to realize you can still improve at my age, I also think in many ways I’m a better overall striker of the ball and thinker than I was 30 years ago. I hope to get better in 2023, after drifting back up to a 5 handicap. One of my goals with this site is to let senior (and all other age) golfers realize you can always improve and find more ways to enjoy this game. Here’s a brief outline of what I hope we can do with this website, blog, podcast and more.
- Build a diverse community of people who want to enjoy life more, make new friends, make each other a little smarter and open their minds to other thoughts and ideas that they may not have had before. We don’t have to agree on everything, we just have to be open to having a great discussion.
- I want to share with fellow golfers some of my thoughts on playing golf, the golf swing, and how to get the most from your game.
- Talk about places to play golf, compare golf trip experiences, maybe even put together a few trips for members of our community.
- I’ll put some of my thoughts and opinions out there on things including golf equipment, golf vacations, golf destinations.
- Beyond Golf We’ll talk about current affairs, food, TV, Cinema, travel, trivia, and life it’s ownself.
The business side of VanceWood.com
- Here’s my full disclosure of the commerce aspect of vancewood.com, My company New Media Golf LLC is an online retail marketer of many golf and fashion related products. We’ll offer some of those products on this site.
- I’ll offer reviews and opinions of many products, places, and services on this site, many of those companies compensate us for inclusion and/or promotion here, I will only review and promote items, people, and places that I fully believe in 100%. I also don’t solicit companies to compensate us for exposure here. I only include information here editorially that I select personally.
- In the comments sections of the site we reserve the right to delete posts that we feel are false, and to ban or limit site visitors who we feel have a bias or are just a**holes.