The Endless Summer is Coming to an End.

Summer has always been a travel-heavy season for us. We don’t live near mine or my husband’s family, so we take the boys on a “tour de family” to Alabama and Tennessee every summer. This year looked a little different, but we still spent time with those we loved. It felt more special somehow. It wasn’t spent going from place to place trying to keep the kids entertained, it was quality time telling stories and swimming in my parents pool. It wasn’t eating out at restaurants, it was enjoying my father-in-laws boat on a beautiful lake in TN. It was enjoying the company of close friends and family in Nashville. It was full.

Summer fun Summer fun Summer fun

I will lovingly remember this spring and summer as the endless summer. For those of you with kids at home, you know what I mean. Everyday was like Groundhog Day. We had to reevaluate how we spent our time and put limits on certain things (technology!). But in the end, it was a good summer. We figured out how to make the best of it, and we managed to not kill each other.

So, what did we do?

Our summer started for us right after spring break. Like everyone else, Will and Will logged in to virtual school. It was for an hour each day and they had reading and other work to complete on a daily basis. Although we had an agenda each day, we also had LOTS of downtime. We painted, created obstacle courses with neighbors, and did science experiments. We even got their Nana involved! She and Anna (the boy’s cousin) did a virtual science experiment for us from Nashville. They tried all kinds of ways to clean a penny, and it was really neat to see all the things they used – ketchup, mustard, vinegar, and Coke were just a few they tried! We did the exploding Coke experiment at our house. Did you know that if you drop a few Mentos in Coke, the bubbles shoot out of the top? It’s really cool….and easy! Diet Coke had the best reaction.

Summer fun Summer fun Summer fun

At the official beginning of the summer, we sat down with the boys and made a few goals. At the top of their list was to beat the next level in a game they have. Shocker. With some prompting, we added other goals like learning a new skill, read for two hours every week, get outside every day, get better at tennis and Jiu Jitsu, etc. Some goals were accomplished, like learning to make their own sandwiches! We’re still working on other goals!

Summer fun

Summer fun

One of the ways I stayed sane was writing letters. I wrote to friends and family like I was sitting there talking to them. It’s so freeing just to let it all out. I intended to write a page and just kept going to three or four pages. I told them good news, asked questions, and gave encouragement. It was so fun to get a letter back. There’s something special about a piece of mail with your name written on it in a friend’s handwriting.

The boys did swim team (go Sawgrass Sharks!), but it proved too much for Wyatt. Maybe next year for him. Will liked it, and I saw so much improvement in his strokes. Great job to Melanie Peterson, Kathleen Toto, Randy Woodrum, Director of Aquatics, Fitness, Recreation & Spa, the coaches, and all the volunteer parents for making it a successful season of swimming.

Sawgrass made the summer so much better! How lucky we are to have a pool to swim in and a beach to sit on. My fair kids finally have tans! It’s so cute to see their little white booties, reminds me of the Coppertone baby.

Summer fun Summer fun Summer fun Summer fun

Did you go to see the July 4th fireworks this year? We did, and they were the best yet. July 4th at Sawgrass definitely wasn’t the same, but I’m so thankful for their dedication to make fireworks happen!

Summer fun

Will did tennis camp a couple of weeks, and boy did he improve! It was HOT, but he had a good time with the coaches and the other kids. The boys were also introduced to Shirley Temple’s and Virgin Daiquiri’s, and it’s safe to say we’ll see plenty of those on our bill from now on!

Summer fun

We ordered Sawgrass Eats often, and picked up the specials from the Sandbar occasionally too. They did such a good job, and I’m so happy to see that they will continue this service!

I’m so proud of our club and how it has handled the uncertainty. Every facet from tennis to dining to golf has communicated and adapted literally every week or every day. The Sawgrass Foundation was formed and has helped many employees make ends meet as well as offered grants for education. I’m excited to see where this goes!

This summer had its drawbacks for sure. But overall, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I got to know my boys better this summer. I will never get this time back, and I am so grateful for the extra hugs and kisses. As the endless summer draws to a close and we send our kids back to school, let’s look forward to the fall and what it might bring.

Stories of Serving One Another – Making Masks for Heroes

Times like this can bring the best out in humanity. While we are staying safe at home, we are investing in what matters most, each other.

This crisis has taught me so many lessons already, and I know there are more to come. Stillness is not easy to come by in our season of life. With two very active boys, our lives are busy with sports, family activities, school, and travel. This has taught me to be still and listen to them. We have had the best conversations about all kinds of things…from the ridiculous to the serious, I know them better because of this.

It’s also refreshed my sense of gratitude. I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude to all the essential employees like healthcare workers, truck drivers, city employees, postal workers, and those working hard to keep their restaurants open to deliver food.

We are seeing our own Sawgrass family rise to the challenge of caring for one another. Today’s story is about a group of women led by Teri Trotta and Cheryl Maduzia who are dedicated to keeping our healthcare workers safe by sewing masks and delivering them to various organizations in Jacksonville.

Born out of necessity

The fire was started after Teri had an alarming conversation with her niece, Karen, who is a neuro/OR nurse at North Shore Hospital in Manhasset, NY. She expressed concern over an impending mask shortage and fear of exposing her two and a half year old daughter. This got Teri thinking about family members working in local hospitals and possibly facing these same conditions in the near future. She knew she had to do something, and she began to research how other hard hit areas are handling mask shortages. She says, “By the grace of God I found a group of diligent, committed mask makers in Washington State. I joined their group and the founder directed me to homemade masks, materials and other creative suggestions during this time of supply shortages in Washington State. I felt certain I could make these masks and help the front line workers, like my niece, if the demand in Florida became anything like Washington.”

Sawgrass Making masks for heroes

The next morning, she created a Facebook page and called a few friends. And just like that, Ponte Vedra – Making Masks for Heroes was born.

It takes a team

Teri wears many hats within the group. Not only does she sew about 30-40 masks per day, but she’s also involved in community outreach, buying supplies, speaking with potential participants, making kits for stitchers, preparing kits for delivery, delivering finished product, exploring new prototypes of masks, and accepting donations.

A task like this takes a large team of committed individuals, and Cheryl Maduzia is one of those rock stars! According to Teri, “Cheryl stepped up the moment I sent out an invitation to join the group. She runs the day to day business of keeping everything moving. She does community outreach, empowers stitchers and cutters, schedules pickups and deliveries of masks, she’s our technology guru, and accepts donations. She’s powerful!” Teri and Cheryl Facetime every morning around 6:30am to talk about the plan for the day including sewing goals, deliveries, donation requests, etc.

Susan Dana is also an integral part of the team. She “sources materials for us, checking for best price and availability, does community outreach, delivers completed masks, creates forms to keep us organized, and does follow up on any matter needed. She is selfless and committed,” says Teri.

Others involved in stitching and cutting include:
Terri Allison, Lake Julia Drive South
Barbara Hill, Northgate
Margie Stewart, Sandpiper Cove
Maria Wilson, Northgate
Janice Sur, Lakeside TPC
Nichola McPherson, Fairfield
Beth DeLand, Jax Beach
Leigh Rollins, The Preserve
Cynthia Pirello Grubisa, Fairfield
Julia Sweet, Fairfield
Kathy Bucciaglia Tracy, Palencia
Marie Kline Massie
Dorothy Flannery, Willow Pond
Cinty Price, The Plantation
Katherine Ham

Who’s benefiting from the masks?

There are so many organizations benefiting from the masks that Teri and her team are producing.

Here are just a few:
Rainbow Pediatrics – 3 locations
Baptist Primary Care
Meals on Wheels
MD Anderson – Oncology Dept.
Jacksonville Orthopedics-South
Adam Acres & St. Augustine Groups – Essential Care for the Cognitively Disabled
UP Shands – Gainesville
Regis Park Nursing Home
Baptist Health
St. Vincent Ascension
UF Oncology – Fernandina Beach
Memorial Hospital
Nemours JAX
Ramco – our Sawgrass Security team through the efforts of the Sawgrass Association

Just as these organizations are benefiting, Teri and her team are seeing personal benefits as well. According to Teri, “The unexpected benefits this Mission has given to many involved are a sense of joy and purpose in the face of uncertainty and fear, a deeper connection and interpersonal relationships during a time of social distancing and isolation, and an ability to make a profound difference even though we have never dealt with anything like COVID-19 and its uncontrollable nature. Through our connection via texts, Facetime, emails, dropping off or picking up materials, we have formed a team of deeply committed, caring humanitarians who not only serve the community, but look after each other as well.”

How can you help?

If you would like to help Teri and her team, contact Teri Trotta at 631-742-1350 or Cheryl Maduzia at 972-213-7303.

Teri and her team are “here to serve and we will continue to work hard producing masks until COVID-19 has passed and life returns to its new normal. I am proud to share that in the two short weeks that we have been a team, we have produced and delivered over 750 masks. The team is a group of miracle workers!”

Thank you, Teri and Cheryl (and your entire team!) for making a difference in our community. You saw a need and did something about it. I want to encourage all of us to be on the lookout for needs in our Sawgrass community. Is there an elderly neighbor you can help? Do you have a gift or talent that you can put to use during this crisis to uplift others?

When we seek opportunities to do good, it’s amazing how many come our way.

Sawgrass Eats – An Innovative (and Delicious) Solution to Dinner

We’re all trying to do our part to take care of one another in this crisis. The leadership team at Sawgrass Country Club are constantly looking ahead and planning to meet the needs of the club in unconventional ways.

Sawgrass Eats is a program born out of a desire to serve members, especially those who are most vulnerable. C.W. said it like this, “A doctor at Mayo said that the Sawgrass Eats initiative made him so proud as a member not only because it’s a great initiative but in his opinion, it was also helping to save lives as it is allowing many members in an at risk demographic to easily get meals without having to venture out in the local community. For me as a club professional and servant leader at heart, it feels good to be making an impact in a tough time.”

On the “menu” for today is the creation of Sawgrass Eats. We’ll talk about how it came about, how it’s serving members, and what’s on the horizon.

Creation of Sawgrass Eats

It all started with a meeting of the minds. C.W. Cook, General Manager, Perry Kenney, Food and Beverage Director, and Michael Meuse, Executive Chef, got together the second week of March to talk about the growing concerns around restaurants and other clubs in the area. Mr. Cook suggested a To Go concept to get ahead of what they determined would be the new normal in food preparation and service. Michael and Perry were tasked with coming up with logistics like developing menus, outlining delivery and pick up options, and staffing the operation. Within just three days, the program was up and running!

Perry was set on a fun brand for Sawgrass Eats. From T-shirts and car magnets for delivery drivers to menu design, the idea was to have modern and friendly imagery.

When developing the menu and specials each week, Michael and his team take into consideration the diversity of the membership. They strive to create exciting pop ups and comfort food offerings from quarantine date nights to larger family shareables. And most are at a $30 price point making them affordable to order on a regular basis.

Sawgrass Eats

The whole food and beverage team came together to make Sawgrass Eats happen. Jared created a command center in Topsider where 5 servers are taking orders that are coming in daily. Perry worked with the beverage team to create Sawgrass Drinks – shareable-sized drinks like 96 ounce mixed cocktails and signature 16 ounce cocktails designed to be taken home and enjoyed. He also found an app called Circuit that provides the most efficient route to deliver meals within Sawgrass. To top it all off, you can now drive through and pick up Bloodys and Biscuits on Sunday mornings.

At the heart of the program is serving members. Michael says, “The food and beverage teams enjoy serving our membership and we are all grateful for their support of our operation which is keeping our teams together.”

Success of the program and what’s coming

The program has been incredibly successful so far. According to Michael, they are “currently serving anywhere from 200-300 To Go meals daily, depending on which promotions are offered. Some of the most popular family meal promotions are the pizza combo, sliders, and fajitas – all selling out in as little as 20 minutes. The dinner for two has been very successful focusing on value driven comfort foods like Jambalaya and pulled pork.”

Delivery is an option if members live within the Sawgrass Country Club community. If not, you can schedule pick up at the Beach Club.

Sawgrass Marketplace

Sawgrass leadership will continue to look at ways to help membership like the recently launched Sawgrass Marketplace.

Sawgrass Marketplace

This is a service to the members to purchase basic needs from the club so they can make less trips to the store. Sawgrass Marketplace is offering items like portion meats, dairy products, seafood, and household items that can be picked up or delivered within Sawgrass. See the menu here.

If you’re interested in utilizing Sawgrass Marketplace, here are the instructions to download the Sawgrass app and place the order within the app. See the schedule for placing orders and deliveries below.

Sawgrass Marketplace

Let’s continue to look for ways to serve one another and look for light and positivity through this crisis. Be sure to say thanks to all our committed Sawgrass staff for working hard for us.

Horse Soldier Bourbon Whiskey Comes to Sawgrass

The term Horse Soldier is used to describe a member of the small teams of Green Berets mounted on horseback who went into Northern Afghanistan just days after 9/11. These brave soldiers embarked on risky missions, and they didn’t know how long they would be there or if they would be coming home.

Horse Soldier Bourbon

These soldiers were the inspiration for the award-winning Horse Soldier® Bourbon Whiskey we were honored to try at the Whiskey and War Stories event at Sawgrass Country Club. Merrick Mirabella, a First Responder at Ground Zero, and Billy Howell Jr., a retired Green Beret and member of those early teams that infiltrated Northern Afghanistan, came to Sawgrass and gave us a glimpse of what they went through while on those missions. Their goal was to disrupt and to disband Taliban forces in Afghanistan….not easy or simple!

Horse Soldier Bourbon Horse Soldier Bourbon

Merrick and Billy talked openly about their experiences and fielded questions from the audience. It was fascinating and humbling. There is much to understand about war and the people on the other side. Some hate us simply for being American; they were raised to think we are evil and deserve to be wiped from the planet. Others fight for survival from those that teach such hatred.

We were enthralled by their stories, the exquisite bourbon, and the future of American Freedom Distillery.

How the dinner came together

Executive Chef, Michael Meuse, has a passion for bourbon, the hard-to-find kind of bourbon. During conversations with members, he discovered many have the same passion and desire to find and enjoy these rare high-end bourbons. Talking led to thoughts about hosting an experience centered around bourbon. Much like our wine dinners, Chef Michael wanted the bourbon to be the star of the event with the menu complimenting the bourbon. “Sawgrass is known for remarkable wine dinners that sell out quickly, and I wanted to create a different facet of the club’s food and beverage events by putting together a next level bourbon experience,” said Chef Michael.

Horse Soldier Bourbon

He saw Horse Soldier® doing a bottle signing event in Jacksonville and learned more about the story behind the brand and tried the bourbon. He was hooked. As a son of an Army Veteran, he appreciates what the brand stands for and knew members would feel the same way. With the idea in-hand, he approached a few members with the idea, and it didn’t take long for the experience to sell out simply word of mouth. 34 members attended, including a few military veterans of our own; Thomas Petersen, Butler Strain, and Garrett Luebker. We are all so thankful for your service.

About American Freedom Distillery

American Freedom Distillery was started by a group of veterans looking for the next chapter. I got to talk to Merrick and Billy before the event and the theme of our conversation was gratitude for the group of owners and employees. It simply, “feels like a family,” said Merrick. According to Billy, he was ready to go to the Caribbean to start a business teaching scuba diving, but plans changed when he got the call about the distillery! Their first product was Rekker Rum, then they branched into Bourbon. It was a HIT. With the movie 12 Strong kick starting their marketing efforts, it took them only four years to sell 20,000 cases, a feat that took competitors ten years to achieve. The Horse Soldier® glass bottle is molded by steel recovered from the World Trade Center to commemorate the lives lost and never forgotten.

Horse Soldier Bourbon Horse Soldier Bourbon

The soldier on horseback on the bourbon bottle represents these soldiers and their bravery. The image is taken from a real monument displayed at Ground Zero called America’s Response Monument created by artist Douwe Blumberg. This monument serves as a reminder to all of us in America that there are brave men and women fighting to keep us safe in the most awful places under the most dangerous circumstances that we will never know about.

American Freedom Distillery has big plans for the next few years, including a distillery on the bourbon trail as well as an event space and tasting room in St. Petersburg, FL.

Fun fact: Did you know women purchase more bourbon than men? It makes sense that some are definitely buying it for their partners, BUT, bourbon is getting very popular among women. I might have to buy a bottle just for me!

Bourbon and dinner experience

Michael Meuse, Executive Chef, and his team put together a stellar menu with rich flavors pairing various bourbon preparations with amazing courses. It was a night of bourbon, great food, cocktails with bourbon, and more bourbon.

First Course: Bourbon Glazed Ruby Red Shrimp – Fried green tomato, pimento cheese, baby frisee, crispy pancetta, and a thai basil oil.
Drink Pairing: Basil Bourbon Smash made with Horse Soldier® Straight Bourbon. (My favorite, and now you can order it from the drink menu!)

Horse Soldier Bourbon

Second Course: Berkshire Heritage Pork Tenderloin Luxardo Cherry BBQ – Sweet potato butter, white acre peas, smoked bacon lardons.
Drink Pairing: Bourbon Old Fashioned featuring Horse Soldier® Small Batch Bourbon

Horse Soldier Bourbon Horse Soldier Bourbon

Third Course: Kobe A5 NY Strip Foie Gras Butter – Melted heirloom tomatoes, goat cheese micro potatoes, pickled cipollinis, baby carrots, small batch peppercorn demi.
Drink Pairing: Danhattan featuring Horse Soldier® Signature Barrel Strength Bourbon

Horse Soldier Bourbon

Fourth Course: Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Torte – Madagascar vanilla custard, “Old Fashion” cherry jam.
Drink Pairing: Commander’s Select 12-year Old Bourbon Neat

Horse Soldier Bourbon

It was all so delicious. The shrimp was delicate, the pork tenderloin was tender, and the Kobe just melted in my mouth. With each course, it got harder and harder to leave room for the next! Each course paired nicely with the drink served, and it changed my thoughts on bourbon.

“I wanted to give the members an experience they’d always remember,” said Chef Michael. I think he achieved that and more.

Horse Soldier Bourbon Horse Soldier Bourbon Horse Soldier Bourbon Horse Soldier Bourbon

When asked if he thought the event was a success, Chef Michael said, “Yes! We’ve had members approach us and comment on the pairings as well as food and drink quality. We sold about six cases of Horse Soldier® bourbon that night, which is a testament to how much members enjoyed it. It was truly a collaboration of my team as well as Beverage Director, Bo Cure, and his team, and we are extremely excited to keep this momentum going!” He wanted to make sure he thanked Chef Ben Brett for his fantastic culinary skills and Robert Boaz for unbelievable mixology.

Chef Michael let me in on a few plans he’s working on to further ingrain a bourbon culture into Sawgrass, but those ideas will stay hidden in a secret vault for now (hint, hint).

Sawgrass Partners with Outlaw Oysters

There’s something special about seeing the source, doing the hard work, and discovering the people behind the products we enjoy.

Outlaw Oysters Outlaw Oysters

Outlaw Oysters is dedicated to “growing oysters so shuckin’ good,” and a team of chefs from Sawgrass made the trek over to taste the slurp-worthy oysters. They promise oysters that are tender, salty, and minerally, and according to Michael, they delivered.

About the trip

On January 13th, Michael Meuse (Executive Chef), Ben Brett (Chef de Cuisine at the Beach Club), Dean Bales (Chef de Cuisine at the Golf Club), and Elia Balas took a drive over to Panacea, FL to visit Outlaw Oysters oyster farm. The area used to be known as a crabbing town but natural disasters as well as oil spills have hurt the area significantly. But that didn’t stop owners Blake and Denita from opening their very own thriving oyster farm. As Dean put it, “It is a tight-knit family of people dedicated to reviving business, specifically oyster farming.”

Outlaw Oysters

The team from Sawgrass toured the facility, then went out on the boats to tend to the oysters. According to Michael, “We smelled like the ocean when we got done, but the work was very rewarding. There’s nothing like eating fresh oysters right on the boat!” The team got to know Blake and Denita as well as the cutting-edge farming techniques they follow. The result is a consistently killer product, which has positioned Outlaw as one of the nation’s premiere oyster companies.

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The philosophy behind Outlaw Oysters

Great oysters have a specific flavor profile. It can vary depending on what type of oyster it is and what waters it came from. The waters in Panacea, FL bring you a salty, tender oyster with a smooth minerally finish. The techniques are what make the Outlaw Oysters stand out. Just as a farmer painstakingly tends to his fields, so does Outlaw Oysters.

Outlaw Oysters Outlaw Oysters

The oysters start out between ¼ and ½ an inch long. That’s tiny! They are grouped in bags that can fit as many as 10,000 tiny oysters. The bags float on top of the water where the oysters can eat all the nutrients found on the surface. This floating farming technique ensures that the oysters aren’t at the bottom taking in grit and sand. Farmers are out every day turning baskets and sorting oysters.

Here’s why that’s important:

  1. The floating bags are rotated to allow for a small dose of Vitamin D – which kills algae, bacteria and barnacles on the shell. Farmers who don’t rotate and flip the bags end up with a mossy tasting oyster. Yuck. Instead, Outlaw Oysters taste minerally and clean, like a good oyster should.
  2. Sorting the oysters ensures that the larger faster growing oysters don’t overtake the slow growers. The oysters are dumped into a custom-built tumbler that has holes around the outside. The holes gradually get bigger as the oysters move down. This allows like-size oysters to fall through the holes into buckets. The biggest oysters get to the end and are deemed ready-to-eat! The smaller oysters are grouped together and put back into the ocean to keep growing.
  3. There’s a BONUS reason why tumbling and sorting are important. As the oysters are funneled through the tumbler and flipped in the water, little tiny pieces break away from the shell, which cause the oyster to grow deeper rather than longer. This is why Outlaw Oysters have a more meaty oyster!

Outlaw Oysters Outlaw Oysters Outlaw Oysters

After about 6-8 months, the oysters are market size. Having purified 50 gallons of water per day, they not only make for a tasty treat but are helping purify the ocean and bay during the process. The Sawgrass team got to “taste the difference between the different size oysters,” Ben said. He went on to say the oysters were the cleanest he’s ever eaten.

Outlaw Oysters Outlaw Oysters

Sawgrass and Outlaw Oysters

With a partner like Outlaw Oysters, Michael can present the best oyster experience to members. Several things were important to Michael as he evaluated the relationship:

  • It was important to stay local. FL oysters are special, and to have them come from a few hours away is amazing!
  • Michael looked for a sea to table relationship where we buy directly from the farmer, which ensures the best price for members.
  • The quality of the oyster is important. They must be briny, salty, tender, and minerally.
  • He looks for an item that presents well on the plate.

Sawgrass is the first restaurant or country club to offer Outlaw Oysters on the east coast of FL, which means we get to have a unique oyster eating experience that no other Ponte Vedra Beach restaurant can offer.

On January 30th, Michael and his team hosted an oyster event where the product debuted. Members could buy 6 oysters for $12 served with traditional accompaniments. They were telling the story of Outlaw Oysters and gauging the reactions.

Look for more pop-up events like this and for Outlaw Oysters on the menu! At first the preparation will be raw, but they will offer other preparations in the future.

If you’re wondering if you can buy these from the source, the answer is yes! Check out their website for details. Outlaw Oysters allows consumers to buy the oysters directly from them, but why would you want to when you can get them at Sawgrass!

Christmas Festivities at Sawgrass!

Christmas is here!

Santa Brunch at Sawgrass

This is a bustling season for so many. Kids are having programs and class parties while tests and papers due for the older ones. There are dinners, work parties, and various activities going on all over Ponte Vedra Beach. It can be easy to lose the joy in the midst of the craziness. But let’s not. Make sure you take time to do good. This can look different for each of us, whether it’s reaching out to a family member or friend that you’ve lost touch with, baking cookies or taking dinner to your neighbor who is struggling with an illness, or simply offering a smile or helping hand when the opportunity presents itself.

Sawgrass Santa Brunch

We are all so blessed to live where we live and to have the options that we do. Sawgrass is so good to us members and puts on so many great seasonal events. Our family got to do participate in a few this weekend. First, we went to the end of the year tennis gathering on Friday, then painted ornaments at the Youth Activity Center on Saturday, and attended Santa’s Brunch on Sunday! It was a weekend full of family fun!

Holly Jolly Exhibition and End of the Year Tennis Party

This event had such a great turnout! Kudos to Ken and his staff for organizing a fun event! The food was delicious, and the exhibition was so fun to watch! They make it look so easy, especially Magnus! I caught a picture of Kyle in the middle of his serve!

Sawgrass Tennis

The pairings were Ken and Josh vs Magnus and Kyle. By a narrow margin, Kyle and Josh pulled out the win! There were long points and great net play from all!

Sawgrass Tennis Sawgrass Tennis

The food was great! Mini sliders, chili, meats and cheeses, and sweets were all complementary and there was a member charge bar for drinks! Everyone was taking advantage of the pro shop sale, which started at 4pm and lasted through the entire event. I bought a few things I’ve been eyeing, and so did Cory! They had items up to 40% off, so it was a great time to buy.

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Overall, it was great to see fellow tennis players outside of the courts even though we did talk about tennis! Haha!

Ornament painting at the Youth Activity Center

Saturday morning, I took Will and Wyatt over to the YAC to paint their very own Christmas ornament. The Policastros were there with their four kiddos, too! Check out cute little Lena enjoying her hot chocolate!

Sawgrass Youth Activity Center

Will chose to make an ornament with two faces, a happy face on one side and a sad face on the other. He said it was so he could switch it around to reflect his mood! Where does he come up with these kind of ideas?!?! Wyatt’s was simple, he filled his with red tinsel and then wrote his name in blue. After making ornaments, all three of us indulged in hot chocolate and cookies and played in the YAC for a bit. It was a perfect morning. Thanks to Lacie for putting this together!

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If you’re interested in painting ornaments, you still can! She’ll have supplies out the 14th and 21st from 10-12, drop in anytime.

Also, did you know Lacie highlights the kiddos in Horizons? It’s called the “Yak” of the month, and you can find it toward the back of Horizons. Holtz Weaver (7) and Lillie Relihan (4) are featured this month! 

Santa’s Brunch

The boys were VERY excited to see Santa this year. They knew exactly what they were asking for, and couldn’t wait to see if his beard was real. We arrived about 11am, and Santa and Mrs. Claus had just taken a break to check on the reindeer, so we sat down and ate lunch.

Santa Brunch at Sawgrass Santa Brunch at Sawgrass Santa Brunch at Sawgrass

The pancake bar was the favorite with the boys! My personal favorite was the shrimp and grits, but everything was good! There were so many choices…omelette station, prime rib, salads, chilled shrimp and smoked salmon, and a pretty sweets table.

If you haven’t been to this event before, make plans to go next year! It’s a great event if you have kids or grandchildren. But even if you don’t, the food is well worth it.

Santa Brunch at Sawgrass Santa Brunch at Sawgrass

Santa was amazingly authentic. He was rosy cheeked and laughed just like you would expect! And Mrs. Claus was just as good! They both made the kids feel comfortable and engaged in conversation. It was just the sweetest to see the excitement and wonder on the children’s faces.

Santa Brunch at Sawgrass

Santa Brunch at Sawgrass

Beside Santa, Sawgrass set up activities as well as a fantastic face painter. One table had an ornament station with different ornaments to stick together. The other table had coloring sheets and crayons. The boys had a great time, and I got to see so many smiling faces of friends and their families.

Santa Brunch at Sawgrass

The boys are getting old enough that they will start remembering the “traditions” we do this time of year, and I love that coming to Sawgrass to see Santa will be one of them.

Now if I could only master Christmas cookies…

If you’re looking for something fun to do this weekend, sign up for the Nights of Lights Pub Crawl either Thursday or Friday night. The bus leaves the Golf Club at 6:00pm and returns at 10:00pm. Cost is $40pp and includes beer and wine for the bus ride!

Sawgrass Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are here! Are you ready? I must say that I am tackling my list left and right so far. It feels great to get things done early, doesn’t it? Getting things done means I can spend time with the boys when they are out of school instead of last minute shopping and getting stressed out! After all, this SHOULD be a season of rest and spending time with family. But if you do find yourself in a pinch or need some ideas, we’ve got you covered!

Sawgrass Gift Guide Sawgrass Gift Guide

Your team at Sawgrass has put together a few gift guides to help you start early this year! There’s a gift guide for the man in your life and one for the woman in your life. Whether you’re shopping for husbands, wives, brothers, boyfriends, children, or friends, there’s something for everyone! I’ve even included some pro shop favorites from our very own golf and tennis shops.

Gift Guide – Men

Let’s start with the men. I have trouble every year wondering what I will get for my husband, Cory. I like thinking outside the box and looking for unique items that fit his lifestyle. When all else fails, an experience usually saves the day. Don’t tell him, but I got him fly fishing lessons from Blackfly Outfitters this year. Ever since we moved here, he’s been wanting to learn to fly fish in saltwater, and now he’ll get the chance!

Mens gift guide

1. Toadfish can cooler ($24.99) | 2. Ons Terry ($149) | 3. Rak Magnetic Wrist band ($15.99) | 4. Nordstrom Trunk Club (price varies) | 5. Patagonia Men’s Classic Synchilla® Fleece Vest ($79) | 6. LL Bean Men’s Handsewn Slippers, Flannel-Lined ($49.50) | 7. Exceptionally Bad Dad Jokes ($8.99) | 8. FreshJax Organic Spices ($34.99) | 9. Personalized bottle opener ($34.95) |10. Starling’s Car Trunk Organizer ($39.97) 

Gift Guide – Women

Us women are easy to shop for, right? Maybe not. It really depends on how close you are to the person you’re buying for. I could find 20 things that my mom would love, but not so much for other family members. If you know their interests and habits, you’re set! If you need more help, I’m here to guide you to a few favorites for this year! I’ve included all kinds of price ranges and interests from skin care to fun in the sun!

Tip for husbands – If you really want to hit a homerun, you have to be a little sneaky. Go look in your partner’s makeup bag, and see what brands are in it. Take a picture if you need to. Take this picture to Ulta in JAX Beach, and let the consultant lead you to the brands in the bag. She can help you pick out a few skin care items.

Womens gift guide

1. Bamboo Cutting Board With Trays ($59.94) | 2. Draper James Pretty As a Peach Manicure Set ($28.00) | 3. Oventure Key Ring ($25.00) | 4. Sur la Table Nutcracker Mug ($12.00) | 5. Uncommon James Bullet in Gold ($46.00) | 6. Not a Day Over Fabulous Tumbler ($19.99) | 7. Barefoot Dreams Cozy Chic Throw ($147.00) 8. Tula Brightening Eye Balm ($28.00) | 9. Capri Blue Fir & Firewood Mini Jar Candle ($14.00)

Sawgrass can save the day!

We are members of a fantastic club with knowledgeable and professional staff that can help you pick out a gift! Here are some ideas below!

Tennis – The tennis pro shop always has new apparel! Have you seen the new logo’ed vizors? They are awesome! Tennis skirts, shorts, shirts, and even stocking stuffers like sunglasses all make great gifts for the Wimbledon contender in your family! Ken and the staff do a great job picking out styles that are flattering on everyone. Check out the new racquets like the HEAD Graphene 360 Speed MP and the HEAD Graphene 360+ Gravity MP (pictured below).

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Sawgrass Gift Guide

Sawgrass Gift Guide

Sawgrass Gift Guide

And if you’re looking for entertainment AND a deal, drop by this Friday for an exhibition match, food, and a pro shop discount!

Event: Holly Jolly Exhibition, Pro Shop Sale, and End of Year Party
Date: Friday, December 6th from 4:00-6:00pm

Golf – I confess that I am not a golfer, but I love the outfits! It’s great that you can look fabulous while you play these days in adorable patterns and comfortable fabrics. Our pro shop stocks the cutest trends in golf apparel, clubs, even underwear (check out this ultra comfortable brand of men’s briefs called 2 UNDR!).

Sawgrass Gift Guide

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The golf shop can also customize items like head covers for a unique gift!

Sawgrass Gift Guide

And if you’re looking for discounted items, check out the annual Golf Shop Christmas Sale!

Event: Golf Shop Christmas sale
Date: Tuesday December 10th from 3:00-7:30pm

Fitness – Give the gift of a personal trainer this year or treat yourself to new fitness gear or a massage! Studies show that folks work harder when working with a trainer. Plus, their knowledge about nutrition, training regimens, and stretching can help you develop a plan for wellness long term! Get 30% off at the Fitness Center apparel holiday sale now through December 24th!

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Wine – Bo Cure, Wine Director at Sawgrass, is amazing at picking out wine. It just so happens that many stockings are the exact dimensions of a bottle of wine! Let Bo help you pick out a bottle or a case for the person that’s hard to buy for. These also make great hostess gifts!

Experiences – There’s a reason why you see “Experience Sawgrass” on the website and throughout printed materials. If you get to live here and experience Sawgrass Country Club, you will be here for life. Why not give the gift of experiences around the club? Consider things like a tennis lesson, personal training session, private golf clinic, or maybe give your wife a girls night out at Ocean’s Edge!

It’s the holidays…don’t sweat the small stuff! Enjoy time spent with family whether it’s baking cookies, fishing, or playing an endless game of Monopoly!

From my family to yours, may you find peace and joy this holiday season!

VINTUS Tour of the World Wine Dinner Featuring Craig Collins

Wine is meant to be enjoyed by all the senses. We’re given wine in a glass and taught to look at it to decide the color, smell to decide the top notes and first impression, taste and swish to determine thickness and balance, and taste again to confirm or deny our first conclusions. It’s a wonderful process that opens the mind. It becomes even better when you can pair a wine with the story of how it came to be, much like a songwriter telling the origin of the song.

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Craig Collins, Master Sommelier and Italian Portfolio Sales Manager for VINTUS, was our guide for the VINTUS wine dinner, and he was able to tell us about the wines themselves, the makers, and the backstories of both to enrich our wine tasting experience.

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Craig is truly a master of his trade. He admitted that wine has “traditionally been associated with snobbery” but he made the wines approachable for us novices while also speaking to those in the room with more knowledge. Through the wine, he took us on a journey through France, Italy, Argentina, and Portugal. Craig shared bits and pieces about each wine that helped us taste the story behind the wine.

We even had a couple fun members milestones to celebrate! Lou and Shanel Pontigo celebrated their 26th Wedding Anniversary! They are such a fun couple…we wish you many more years of wine dinners (and wine vacation!), lazy days on the beach, and family fun!

Sawgrass Country Club VINTUS Wine Dinner

Deborah & David Heald are celebrating 40 years at Sawgrass! I did a little math…if they ate dinner at Sawgrass once per week for 40 years they have been members, that’s 2,080 dinners at Sawgrass!

Sawgrass Country Club VINTUS Wine Dinner

Dinner and wine pairings

Ben Brett, Chef de Cuisine, led his team in creating a magnificent eating experience that paired beautifully with the wine. The image below shows the dinner and wine pairings for the evening.

Sawgrass Country Club VINTUS Wine Dinner

All elements were present; crispy, creamy, rich, light, sweet, and salty…and the presentation was on point! I saw eyes wide and mouths gaping as we all enjoyed the courses. My personal favorite was the Seafood Paella. This was paired with an Italian wine, Sandrone, Barbara D’ Alba, Piemonte 2016.

Let me stop here for a bit and tell you the normal flow of things if you’ve never attended a wine dinner. The wine for the course is poured into your glass, Craig (or the featured speaker) speaks about the wine and what to look for, we taste the wine, and then the course is served. Once served, we enjoy the wine with the course.

When Craig spoke before the Italian wine, he asked us to taste it. Then he asked if it tasted aggressive or bitter. And a few said yes! I didn’t know where he was going with this until he said that Italian wine is meant to be more of a condiment for the food rather than the star of the show. In Italy, culture revolves around food, and the wine adds depth and flavor to the food. At the same time, the food is changing the wine as well making it smoother and more balanced. He said it this way, “specifically high tannin Italian wines need foods that are higher in fat, salt, and richness to neutralize the tannins.” The Italian wine was perfect for the bold, rich flavors of Paella!

Sawgrass Country Club VINTUS Wine Dinner

With each wine we tried and course we consumed, we were captivated by Craig’s knowledge. The Argentinian wine was made from grapes that grew on a higher elevation therefore the wine was not as sweet. The Port wine was very sweet and was served with dessert. Craig said, “Make sure the wine is sweeter than the dessert” when choosing a port wine to serve with dessert.

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Craig Collins, Master Sommelier

I had the pleasure of interviewing Craig before the wine dinner, and I got to ask him some questions about his background and what prompted his quest to become a Master Sommelier. I am clearly a novice, and he was kind to offer opinions and suggestions that both novices like me and seasoned wine tasters and travelers (like the Pontigo’s!) could use.

We started with his background. While at Texas A&M, he fondly recalled getting a call from his father on his 21st birthday to not only tell him Happy Birthday, but to inform Craig that he was now officially off the family payroll. So what does a college student do? Naturally, Craig, with zero wine experience, applied at a wine tasting room. Turns out he loved it! After three years at the tasting room, a study-abroad opportunity came up in Tuscany, and he took it. What was supposed to be three months, turned into seven, and this is where he had his ah-hah wine experience. He told me all Sommeliers have a moment when their paths are created. His was in 2001 with a 1998 Bran Caia Blu, a Sangiovese Merlot blend with a lot of oak. “It was the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth, and this is what I’m doing for the rest of my life,” Craig thought.

He reluctantly went back to Texas A&M to finish his degree in Public Relations and Communication, then went to work for a distributor in Houston. From there, he worked his way up and studied for the Master Sommelier exam, which he passed in 2011. Now he is the Italian Portfolio Sales Manager for VINTUS and lives in Austin, TX with his wife, April, and two children.

What can we learn from a Master Sommelier?

“No one can tell you you’re wrong if you say you don’t like a particular wine,” Craig said. This was a huge takeaway from our conversation. He went on to say, “I want to instill confidence in you when you taste wine. It’s your palette, and who am I to say what you like and what you don’t.”

This was really the theme of our chat. No matter where you are on the knowledge scale, you can enjoy wine because it’s about what tastes good to you. He shared a few tips and tricks about wine with me, and you can read the questions and answers below.

Sawgrass Country Club VINTUS Wine Dinner

Brittany: Do you have a favorite wine under $40?
Craig: That’s a hard question! It’s not about my favorite wine, it’s more about what I want to enjoy today. It depends on the weather outside, who I’m with, what they like, where I am, and what I am eating (if I’m eating). But I can tell you what criteria I use to rate wines.
Authenticity. I want it to be typical of the grape varietal it’s representing. If it says Pinot Noir, I want it to have all these Pinot Noir characteristics. I also want it to taste like the place it came from. Tuscany has a flavor to it, the Rhone Valley of France has a flavor.
Value. Whether I spend $20 or $2,000, I need to get value out of it. I want it to be delicious, now and also delicious later. For example, a great wine will taste phenomenal now, but will also taste good in 40 years.

But, to get back to your question, I’ll give you a wine that I really like right now. It’s a 2015 Guigal Cotes Du Rhone costing $15 at Publix that will last 20 years. I know that because I just had a 1978 bottle recently.

Brittany: What do I tell a Sommelier in a restaurant to help them pick a wine for me or my group?
Craig: First, give them a budget. Then, be honest and say what you’re looking for. If you’re in a steakhouse, and the group is craving something bold and dry, let the Sommelier know. If you prefer wine from a certain region because of the flavors present or if you prefer a lighter wine with more fruit or more oak, express this to him or her. These are valuable traits of wines that will help the Sommelier pick the best wine for your evening.

Brittany: Are there any tasting “hacks” to act like we know what we are doing?
Craig: Yes! When tasting white wine, think about this phrase: Lemon and lime all the time, apple and pear is there somewhere. When you’re tasting white wines with your friends, you can definitely pick out these flavors and the rest of the group will most likely agree! Secondly, I always encourage consumers to consider the glass as a tool that makes the wine taste better. Spend per glass what you pay for the average bottle of wine. If you’re an individual who buys on average a $30 bottle of wine, buy a glass that costs $30 per stem. Don’t worry about having “red wine” glasses or “white wine” glasses, just buy one type of glass at a higher quality. The glass will perform better and be a better tool to experience the wine. As for hosting hacks, we use a sharpie to write on the glass for parties instead of wine charms. It works great! And if you like to go for walks around your neighborhood with wine, here’s a tip. Mix 75% Rose with 25% water and make Rose cubes to keep wine cool without diluting it.

Sawgrass Country Club VINTUS Wine Dinner

It was a pleasure getting to speak to Craig Collins, Master Sommelier. It’s safe to say that I will be buying new wine glasses soon!

To close us out, I encourage you to contact Bo Cure ([email protected]), our very own Wine and Spirits Director, to help you choose wines for your next dinner or special occasion. He has a wealth of knowledge, and he can recommend wines that fit your specific event whether it’s for an easy pizza night or fancy Thanksgiving dinner.

Family Shark Tooth Hunt with the Youth Activity Center

Hunting for shark teeth is a great family activity for both being outside and learning something new! Our beaches have hundreds and hundreds that regularly wash up and are begging to be found. Lacie and her team at the Youth Activity Center planned a family shark tooth hunt recently, and my boys were so excited to participate!

Sawgrass Country Club Shark tooth hunt

There were at least 15 families that came out. Lacie started the night by giving us a time limit of 30 minutes to find as many sharks teeth as possible! Then, afterwards, they lit a bonfire and the kids ate S’mores! Give my kids sugar, and they are HAPPY.

Our family found maybe seven or eight, but there were families that found more than 30! Impressive! Both kids and adults had a great time!

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Fun facts about shark’s teeth

Ever wonder why so many can be found on our beaches? I did a little research. Enjoy a few fun facts about shark’s teeth!

  1. Why are shark teeth black? They are black because the teeth are actually fossilized. It takes a long time for the pearly white tooth to become black/brown. The color of the fossilized teeth is dependent upon the minerals that were present when the tooth was lost. Those minerals then deposit into the porous structure of the teeth, forming a fossil. Colors of teeth will vary based on the minerals deposited in the teeth and how they react with the small amounts of oxygen.
  2. Why are there so many? EACH individual shark can shed more than 30,000 teeth in its lifetime. Whoa! This is because they have multiple rows of teeth that fall out and regrow. Multiply that 30,000+ teeth by every shark of every species that has ever lived over the past tens of thousands of years, and you get a staggering amount of teeth that can be fossilized!
  3. What kind of sharks do they belong to? It was actually hard to find a FL specific guide book. But there are plenty of books on Amazon about finding fossils in general. But I found a picture that sums up most of the types of teeth found on our beaches.

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Tips for finding shark’s teeth

Many suggest to look for sharks teeth after a rainstorm (or hurricane!). The rain or storm will churn up the sediment and reveal shark teeth! When looking for shark teeth, it is easiest to start by training your eyes to find the color black or triangular objects in a sea of broken shells. Shark teeth do come in a range of color, but black is the most common and easiest to spot. Don’t be fooled by lookalikes! A good way to know if you have a tooth is that the crown of the tooth is smooth and shiny and often reflects the sunlight. You should also see the root of the tooth on the opposite end. On some teeth, you may see a serrated edge!

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The next time you take your family out to hunt for shark’s teeth, be sure to pick up any trash or debris that doesn’t belong. It’s important to instill a love for our beaches and to take care of them!

Want more family activities? Lacie and her crew have a few fun activities planned for December!

Ornament decorating (FREE) at the Youth Activity Center:
Saturday, December 7, 14, and 21 from 10:00am – 12:00pm

Kids’ New Years Eve Bash at the Youth Activity Center:
Tuesday, December 31st from 7:00pm – 12:30am
Cost is $7/$6/$5 – 1st, 2nd, and 3rd child respectively per hour. It’s open to children 18 months and up!

Mickler’s Landing Turtle Patrol Protects Sea Turtles

This is an exciting time of year on our beaches. It is sea turtle nesting season! During the overnight hours, female sea turtles make their way out of the ocean to lay and hide their eggs. Two months later, the baby sea turtles (hatchlings) emerge and crawl down to the water. Their little flippers are trying to get them to the water as quickly as possible to avoid the barrage of predators like birds, crabs, raccoons, and dogs that are waiting for a midnight snack. There are also obstacles like holes dug by beach goers or driftwood that the hatchlings must avoid. Experts say that at best only 1 in 1,000 will make it to adulthood. It’s our responsibility to take care of our beaches to give these turtles the best chance of surviving and thriving.

Micklers Landing Turtle Patrol

Mickler’s Landing Turtle Patrol has been around since the 1980’s and cares deeply about protecting the sea turtles that nest on our beaches. The group is lead by Nancy Condron, a veteran volunteer coordinator of eight years and now the permit holder for the group. Nancy, along with her team of about 47 volunteers, patrol four miles of beach starting at Sawgrass Beach Club and going south to Sea Hammock.

What do the volunteers do?

The primary responsibility of the volunteers is to provide data to FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation) on the nesting numbers and hatchling success of the sea turtle species that frequent our beaches.

Volunteers who are willing to give their time and knowledge are so important. They have been VERY busy this season! As of October 15th, there have been 143 nests total; 136 Loggerhead and 7 Green. Each nest can have more than 100 eggs!

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The volunteers patrol the beach each morning at sunrise during the months of turtle season (May 1 through October 31) looking for new turtle nests and checking on those that have been found and marked. When new nests are located, they determine the species by looking at the tracks, mark them with stakes and tape, and assign the nest a number. Through very gentle and careful digging, the clutch of eggs is located. A single egg is removed and sent to the lab for DNA testing. This allows the nesting patterns of individual sea turtles to be documented and tracked. A mature female turtle may nest up to seven times per season, and by testing the egg, it can be determined where she is nesting and how often. Volunteers also look for false crawls along the beach as well. This is when turtles crawl on the beach but abandon nesting maybe because of outside factors like lights, animals, or people.

Micklers Landing Turtle Patrol

While patrolling the beaches, volunteers also look for signs of emergence from nests that have been marked. They know when an emergence has occurred because there will be a small crater in the middle of the nest as well as hatchling crawl tracks going down to the beach. If they see an emergence, they schedule a nest evaluation for three days later. They want to give any remaining hatchlings enough time to get out of the nest unassisted. At the evaluations, which happen at sunset, they dig up and tally the contents of the nest and provide the data to FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation). Volunteers count the number of hatched and unhatched eggs, and sometimes they find a few live hatchlings that did not make it out of the nest with their siblings.

By following Micker’s Landing Turtle Patrol on Facebook, you can see when the volunteers are doing evaluations and observe the process! I took Will and Wyatt to view an evaluation, and it was so interesting!

Micklers Landing Turtle Patrol

What can we all do to help the sea turtles?

There are three species of sea turtles that nest on our beaches, Loggerheads, Greens, and Leatherbacks. Leatherbacks are listed as endangered. Loggerheads and Greens are both threatened, which means they are at risk of becoming endangered.

Here’s what you can do to protect sea turtles:

  1. Be aware of items that pollute the beach and ocean. For example, sea turtles eat jellyfish, and plastic shopping bags LOOK like jellyfish, so turtles eat the plastic bags and end up dying because they cannot digest them.
  2. Maintain the natural beaches. This means filling in holes, knocking down sand castles, and picking up any debris that could be an obstacle for a hatchling.
  3. Be aware of leash requirements during sea turtle nesting season. Your dog could unknowingly dig up a nest or hurt hatchlings if they are not on a leash.
  4. Respect the nests. Don’t camp out and wait for them to emerge. The nesting and emerging process needs to be as natural as possible because any disruption could adversely affect the emergence process.
  5. Teach the next generation the importance of conservation. Bring your family to observe an evaluation, tell your children and friends about the nests and why they are marked off, or volunteer to help out in some way.

It’s important for us all to know what’s happening on our beaches and do our best to leave them as natural as possible so the turtles can thrive.