My two new golfing pals were escorted to the edge of the vista.
One remained gawking. The other person chuckled aloud.
Bro,” he murmured. I had no idea golf courses could look this way.
The Chambers Bay Golf Course’s untamed dunes suddenly appeared in front of us. In the foreground was the par-3 ninth, which has a steep 100-foot drop from tee to green. The remainder was spread out beyond. Looking from right to left, the hillside eighth, the duneside tenth, and the seashore seventeenth were visible. You could see at least a bit of every hole from where we were standing next to the clubhouse.
Giving newcomers the big reveal at Chambers has become one of my favourite traditions since moving to Seattle two years ago. You’re on the right track if you can envision a links course constructed on a deserted planet from Star Wars. Massive dunes separate one course from the next, while massive waste bunkers line massive fairways. The gigantic stone constructions that stand as the course’s northern border and serve as dramatic reminders of the area’s former use as a gravel dump are unlike anything else on any other course. If you continue to look past them, you will see non-golfers making their way down to the shore and the Puget Sound beyond. On clear summer days, you can see whales in the Sound that occasionally travel this far south from the 16th fairway.
Because of their constrained fairways and massive pines, the majority of courses in the Seattle-Tacoma region are what the locals refer to as “bowling alleys.” Sometimes the trees act as bumpers, easily pushing your ball back into play, but more frequently they act as gutters, grabbing your ball and ruining your score. But not at Chambers, where the only tree on the property is the only one. It’s also not even in the game.
They were not bowlers, my two new acquaintances. They only recently started to think of themselves as golfers. Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan, both 27 years old, were two of the best soccer players in Seattle and the United States. Both players for the Sounders and the U.S. men’s national team frequent local muni courses like Jefferson Park, where Fred Couples grew up. However, they have become acclimated to the tree-lined fairways of these courses.
Despite having a little playing field, the game had caught their interest and imagination, similar to Couples. But now, as they prepared for a round with precisely zero stakes, two men who were used to competing in front of tens of thousands appeared wide-eyed as they stared over the host course of the 2015 U.S. Open.
I’m a little intimidated, I won’t lie, Roldan admitted.
I leaped at the chance to play with Jordan and Cristian after we were introduced by a buddy we had in common. They both started playing seriously at the outset of the pandemic in search of an escape and a secure, outdoor competition because they were eager to broaden their golfing horizons. And I, a recent transplant to the Pacific Northwest, was excited to meet some of Seattle’s sports elite so I could quiz them on similarities and differences between soccer and golf and ask them my favourite question of all: Why golf?
THE ADOPTED SON OF SEATTLE
Cristian Roldan arrived in Chambers Bay wearing a trendy Los Angeles Dodgers hat and a terrycloth shirt with Bogey Boys written across the breast.
His past was hinted at by the headwear. Cristian was reared in Pico Rivera, a medium-sized community with a population that is more than 90% Hispanic or Latino, and was born in southeast Los Angeles County. Both H’s mother Ana and father Cesar fled their home countries of Guatemala and El Salvador in search of better lives, respectively. Cesar, who held a variety of odd jobs, assisted Ana’s aunt relocate into an apartment in Los Angeles, where they first met. They got hitched in 1989. They relocated to a home with a backyard that included a lengthy, thin strip of grass. Cesar constructed PVC pipe backyard goals for his three sons so they could play and dream when their sons were born.
In retrospect, Cristian was always going to be a famous soccer player. His juggling prowess earned him a role in an Adidas commercial when he was nine years old. Cristian garnered Player of the Year honours in southern California during his sophomore year at El Rancho, where he, his older brother Cesar, Jr., and younger brother Alex all excelled. The Roldan guys, in particular Cristian, just continued growing stronger, turning into legends in Pico. His senior year saw him score an absurd 54 goals and 31 assists while leading El Rancho to a 29-2-1 record, earning him the title of Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year. These incredible feats served as evidence for his decision to stay at El Rancho rather than transfer to one of the sport’s more renowned academies or junior programmes. But he also missed out on major recruiting because of that choice.
As Roldan and I were making our way down the 11th fairway, he said, “I truly didn’t believe I was going to play college soccer. “Until Signing Day, I didn’t have a single offer; after that, there were only two: Cal State Bakersfield and the University of Washington.” He moved to Seattle, signed up as a Husky, and got right to work on the field. Morris lost out to Roldan for the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year award. The 5-foot-8 sparkplug who craved the ball in crucial situations was no longer a secret.
After two outstanding years, Roldan made the decision to go pro. He had proven all of his critics quite wrong, and it was now anticipated that he might go as high as No. 2 overall in the MLS Superdraft. But on draught day, he repeatedly collapsed. Once more, Roldan had been forgotten. Seattle intervened once more to bring him home. The Sounders moved up to take him at No. 16 after learning about his work at UW.
He recalled, “I just kept slipping into the draught.” Seattle acquired me in a trade during the draught.
What follows is history. Roldan was adopted by Seattle, and he returned the favour. His shirt is a tribute to his current in that regard. Macklemore, a musician and Sounders minority owner, launched the Seattle-based company Bogey Boys. Cristian is immediately apparent to be highly obedient.
He said, “I don’t think I would have had an opportunity like this anywhere else than Seattle.”
THE LIFELONG SON OF SEATTLE
Jordan Morris was hailed enthusiastically by the starter as we got closer to the first tee.
He exclaimed, “Your dad fixed my knee.”
He later acknowledged that it happens frequently. Since the Sounders’ time in the USL, which was before Seattle joined the MLS in 2008, his father Michael, an orthopaedic specialist, has been the team doctor. Morris played for the Sounders youth academy and was raised near the team. Well, there was no choice but to play soccer in Seattle. His DNA included it.
Morris recalled thinking to himself, “I truly wanted to be on that field playing someday,” as he attended the Sounders’ inaugural MLS game.
He did spend a few years out of the state attending Stanford University, where he helped the Cardinal win a championship and was named National Player of the Year. He achieved his childhood dream in 2016 when he joined the Sounders and made his debut shortly after. (Side note: Morris, like Roldan, loves his community and is a passionately devoted person. James and Logan, two of his boyhood best mates, are still two of his closest associates now. They met us at the course to take the eye-catching pictures and films for the article you’re reading right now. They are the owners of Montane Productions, a video production company.)
It was absolutely a dream come true to have it occur in front of my family and friends. Morris answered, “And it still is. “My dad is still watching from the sidelines, too. And to be with my family, especially my parents who made such a great deal of sacrifices, drove me to Spokane and back, and who made it all possible? It’s quite cool, that.
Morris had a decision to make, in fact. Opportunities arose far beyond the boundaries of the Emerald City, and following Stanford, some anticipated that he would sign with Werder Bremen of Germany, where he had previously trained. He signed a “Homegrown” deal and went back to Seattle after following his heart. Since then, Morris has excelled for Seattle, the United States Men’s National Team, and Swansea City while on loan. His game is mobile.
Not that it has always been simple, though. Morris was given the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes when he was nine years old; this illness necessitates ongoing and meticulous control. It has increased the impressiveness of his ascent to the top. His career has also been disrupted by injuries: His ACL was torn in 2018. He tore it once more in 2021. His on-field success has been earned, repeated, and further earned.
WHERE GOLF AND SOCCER MET
Roldan and Morris have solidified their friendship via golf, but don’t look for them to team up for the Ryder Cup anytime soon. Morris is a few shots higher than Roldan, who frequently breaks 90. However, they have already played long enough to get familiar with some of the game’s secrets, challenges, and temptations.
I pushed them to draw parallels between golf and soccer. Working the ball both directions, I reasoned. utilising the earth. playing with various directions. establishing firm contact. But their own choices hinted at something more profound.
Soccer is such an imperfect sport. You’ll constantly drop the ball, Morris warned. “I can still hear the words ‘next play, next play’ from my college coach. We’re proceeding. In golf, I believe that is even more crucial; after a poor shot, you must go on to the next. And that’s hard for me. He grinned as he delivered the final sentence.
Game management entered Roldan’s thoughts.
“Coaches often tell you to play the easy pass when you make a mistake,” he remarked. And you always want to be the hero in golf. The truth is that we should all take the low-hanging fruit when we’re in a pickle.
A round with Morris and Roldan might, for the most part, look, feel, and sound exactly like your foursome. All throughout the afternoon, the two engaged in lighthearted banter, pulling one other down when one got too high and boosting one another when Chambers was acting particularly difficult.
Jordan gets lost early in the back nine on occasion, Cristian added.
Morris replied, “That’s accurate. Christian enjoys keeping me involved.
Depending on your Saturday foursome, their round might take on a few additional forms. For starters, there are neither Rainiers nor Coors Lights.
Morris said, “There’s no booze while we play. “How bad we are already makes us crippled.”
Additionally, they always travel on golf carts so they may save their legs for a little bit more significant activities. Our afternoon’s up-and-down stroll was quite an experience because Chambers doesn’t offer golf carts; in fact, neither of us had ever walked 18 holes before our game. Morris, who was aware of his blood sugar levels, ate his way through several bags of popcorn, his go-to treat for controlling them. Roldan, who has always been physically fit, was astounded by how exhausting it was. By the end of the day, we had travelled around seven miles, which is about how far he would run during a soccer match.
They do it four days in a row, right? I am aware that kids develop such endurance, but particularly in the heat? That is approximately 30 kilometres of walking over the course of the competition. That is absurd, he said.
Even while their athleticism didn’t immediately result in poor ratings, it was nonetheless evident. Roldan played the third hole’s par-3 with a 7-iron that he turned extremely hard, sending it hurtling over the flag, the green, and the dune behind it. It travelled around 200 yards and bounded 30 further.
He shook his head and added, “But occasionally it goes 150.”
Morris ended up spending longer than he intended in Chambers’ seemingly unending supply of sand, which is simple to locate but difficult to leave. Although he has great hopes for himself given his degree of athletic performance, the realities of golf continued surprising him.
He declared, “This is without a doubt the hardest course I’ve ever played.”
But then we got to the 15th hole, a famously straightforward par 3. As the sun dipped lower in the sky, the Puget Sound reflected a pleasing image behind the green. Morris pulled a 9-iron, striping it right at the pin. Three feet away is where it landed. He tried to contain his joy as he turned to face me.
He answered, “That’s how I’ve been hitting all day.” He then started to laugh. “I genuinely believed that might succeed.”
How many shots had he made better than that in his entire life?
“I don’t believe any,” I believe that is the greatest option. That viewpoint, too? That one, I believe, would qualify as the best ever.
Golf naturally brought him back to reality after that. His birdie attempt began and continued on the right, clipping the edge of the cup and cruelly spinning out to the side. He missed the ensuing par putt as he watched, shell-shocked and devastated.
He said, “I guess I’ll take a bogey,” as Cristian laughed in the background.
Morris claimed that these days, the night before a round, he practically gets euphoric.
Golf, he continued, “allows us to still be competitive, whether it’s in between games or in the offseason. We’re such competitive individuals.” “Video games were once popular. Now? All of it is golf.
He began to include more. He began to say, “I feel really at peace on the course,” but Roldan looked away and silenced him. Morris laughed aloud. “Well, not usually, okay. Definitely not when I’m having a hard time.
Roldan continued where his golfing companion left off. He claimed that golf offers a distraction and an opportunity to decompress from the daily demands of professional soccer.
“Soccer can consume your life. After a poor game, you can find yourself dwelling on your errors nonstop. But we’re still playing golf to compete. My mind is not blank. The point is not that. It has been switched on entirely differently.
These two played golf as a team-building activity; they exchanged advice on proper ball placement and chipping technique. It was simple to forget how effective a team they make together on the pitch because they could have been a member-guest team or just two golf mates. They had contributed significantly to the Sounders’ historic CONCACAF victory over Pumas FC a few days prior to our match, and they have continued to pile up the stats in the weeks thereafter. One standout performance was a 3-0 victory over Sporting KC in which both players scored and assisted. They are all fighting for slots on the Team USA squad for the World Cup; the deadline is November 14.
That is when golf’s significance becomes clear. It’s a getaway from expectations other than their own. They can observe as the experts work, and they frequently do so. Both of them are now obsessed with the PGA Tour since their obsession has extended to their TV watching.
You can genuinely appreciate the shots they’re hitting after playing and then going to watch them, according to Roldan. Understanding golf better helps you recognise how amazing what they’re doing is.
They all diligently holed each putt, establishing the benchmark for scoring. No shaved edges are present. Morris was barely over 100, while Roldan managed to go through with 97. That was important, but it didn’t matter as they enjoyed the protracted July night in Seattle.
That’s one aspect of it here that people don’t comprehend, Roldan said. “The vibrations in Seattle in the summer are real. The anticipation after the winter and the rain is there.”
He had a regional accent. Morris gave a nod of agreement. Golf, a game played outside with friends, was the sport that took you to that moment. It matters where you play. With whom do you play? more so even. And playing golf anyplace might seem like home on a good day with the right group.