This past Monday, smack in the middle of a five day trip to California, I walked in to Tijuana, Mexico. Yes, you read that correctly. I walked in to Mexico. Through a turnstile, like I was entering a minor league baseball game in the 1990s. I spent thirty seconds with the customs guy, told him why I was there, and off I went. A guest for the day.
Why was I there? Why am I anywhere really? Well, on this day, it was to golf. No shenanigans. Not to eat what I heard was quite delicious food. Not to be a tourist. Golf.
Only one problem. I am not a member at Club Campestre de Tijuana (Tijuana Country Club). Shocking, I know. I also had no tee time. No clubs. No balls. Just blind ambition.
But I did have passion, a kind smile, and I knew just enough Spanish to convince them to let me play.
Everywhere I go, I want to play. The more off the beaten path, the better. The more challenging, the better.
I played 36 holes at world renowned Torrey Pines on Tuesday (which was awesome), but CC de Tijuana is a much better story.
I bargained for everything along the way. The first cab driver wanted $12. We settled on $10 (converted to pesos of course). He wanted to, how shall I say, interest me in other services. We settled on golf.
The security guard at the club looked at me skeptically as I entered the premises, but my dark skin and dark beard seemed to appease him. After getting the okay to proceed, the golf shop first wanted $100, then $130, so we settled right in the middle.
They had a set of left handed clubs to offer me, but I am not left handed. The right handed clubs were too nice, so they needed some collateral until I returned them. My drivers license seemed to please them.
Once we were all settled, I basically had this lush, green paradise in the heart of urban Tijuana to myself. I didn’t catch another golfer until hole 16, at which time I was parched. I wanted a Mexican Coca Cola (real sugar cane), but opted instead for a Tecate Roja from the cart guy. I carefully wiped off all water droplets from the bottle and insisted on a fresh solo cup to avoid a repeat of the great Mexico City Blowout of 2018.
I finished a pleasant round, thanked my gracious hosts, got my drivers license back, and then headed for the exit gate.
I guess random Americans don’t walk into their club every day, as even the exit guard asked me what the hell I was doing.
“Golf” I said smiling. I mimicked a swing. “Golf. Y muchas gracias por tu hospitalidad.”
That seemed to please him, and before I knew it, I was back on the streets of Tijuana looking for a cab.
I found one close by at a Tijuana hotel which I managed to secure even though I was not a guest there. The driver was a friendly 70 year old man, as much a tour guide as simply a taxi driver. He wanted $8. I insisted on $10.
We spoke of the enchanting land that is Tijuana. Part Mexican border city. Part haven for nutty American tourists. At every random wall that we passed along the drive, he would point and say “wall”, and we would giggle together.
He finally asked me why I was here, and I told him “to golf and to just explore.” He looked at me quizzically and said “Why here?” I shrugged my shoulders and simply said, “Because this is what I love to do.”
Have a great week.-Benj
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