Last week's Ford Championship signals that the PGA tour's Florida swing is under way. This week's leg is the Honda Classic, taking place at the Country Club at Mirasol (11600 Mirasol Way, Palm Beach Gardens) from March 11 to 14. 2003 champ Justin Leonard will return, defending his title against a field that includes tour luminaries Davis Love III, Freddie Couples, Jim Furyk, Brad Faxon, and John Daly.
Of all the Florida tournaments, the Honda has the most storied yet tumultuous history. Since 1972, winners of this classic have included Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, and Curtis Strange. First known as the Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic, the tournament spent its first 11 years at the Inverrary Country Club in Lauderdale Lakes. After brief sponsorships by National Airlines and American Motors, Honda offered support in 1982.
The car company has since put more miles on the tournament than your grandmother's Accord. It left Inverrary in 1983 for Eagle Trace in neighboring Coral Springs before relocating yet again to Weston Hills. The plan was for a transitory stopover in Weston until Coral Springs' newly constructed TPC Heron Bay was ready. Yet after a few tourneys at the TPC course, players were griping about the unchallenging "vanilla" layout, saying it offered little personality.
The tournament then headed to Palm Beach's Mirasol courses in 2003. Last year's Honda was played on the Arthur Hills-designed Sunset course, awaiting the completion of Tom Fazio's neighboring Sunrise design. So 2004 marks yet another move -- supposedly the last for a long while, Honda reps say. The 7,416-yard Sunrise layout is Fazio's first course to host a PGA event, and the moderate length, tight fairways, and tiered greens will challenge the distinguished field.
Daily tickets range from $20 to $30. Weekly passes are also available for $60. Call 866-846-6328. -- Russ Evans
Doggone it! Dog-find it!
WORK OUT WITH POOCH
Man's best friend needs some attention now and then. For the most part, your pooch is cool with eating generic dog food, waiting to go out once you get home from work, and sleeping on the floor. But the line must be drawn somewhere. Dogs need to get out and about periodically, to mingle with the hounds, terriers, and even highbrow poodles of the neighborhood. So where to go to find a proper mix of canine sophisticates? How about the "Dog's Day Out Exercise Club" at T.Y. Park (3300 N. Park Rd., Hollywood)? This weekly exercise, obedience, and socialization program helps dogs develop confidence, good behavior, manners, and social skills. Including a one-mile walk, it also helps both you and your buddy get some much-needed fitness and fresh air. You're not the only one cooped up in a box from 9 to 5! Classes are held every Tuesday at 5 p.m. and cost $5 per session. On Thursday mornings, trainer Cathy Fusco leads classes in flyball ("doggy baseball") and Frisbee, during which "you run as much as your dogs do." These classes, also at T.Y. Park, begin at 9:30 a.m. and cost $45 for a five-week session. Call 954-983-7408. -- Russ Evans
Back in the paddle again
What's your sport of choice? If you say ice skating or snowboarding, you're in the wrong state. If you say shuffleboard or bocce, you need a refresher on the term sport. Now, if you're down with paddleboard -- handball with paddles -- here's the event for you. An "Open Singles Paddleboard Tournament" will be held on Saturday, March 13, at the Garfield Street Paddleboard Courts in Hollywood. This tournament has been in existence since 1970 and always attracts the highest level of paddleboard competition from around the area. Last year's event drew upwards of 50 participants, and more than 300 spectators came out to watch. Play is scheduled to start at 10 a.m., with each match lasting to 15 points in a single-elimination format. Due to the tournament's open setup, every player is entered into the same pool, so no age or gender divisions separate players. Entry costs $10 per participant, with free admission to all fans looking on from the bleachers. Call 954-925-7121. -- Russ Evans
Whoooo! Tailgate party time! What? Football season's over? Well, chappies, at Palm Beach Polo & Country Club (13380 Polo Club Rd., Wellington), you can park alongside the polo fields, bust out your cooler, and picnic while watching the "Sport of Kings." The club's assistant manager, who goes by the singular name of Alfonso, describes polo as "riding a thoroughbred at 40 mph, trying to hit something the size of a tennis ball with a mallet when you're eight feet away. It's like watching Ferraris." Gallop on over before season ends in April. Call 561-793-1440. -- Deirdra Funcheon