Fans of the Nationwide Tour know it as the Official Proving Ground of the PGA TOUR. Last week "official proving ground" took on a new dimension at the Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open in Colombia under the guidance of Bogota Country Club president Jose Maria Rodriguez.
"I want you to feel Colombia is your country, Bogota is your city and Bogota Country Club is your home," Rodriquez has said on more than one occasion.
Striving to offer the best culinary experience on the PGA TOUR, Rodriguez turned to the Club's chef Ricardo Castaneda and a team of 20 culinary students in-training from throughout Colombia to prepare and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner to 144 tournament contestants, their guests, Tour staff and tournament officials.
No one who ate a meal at Bogota Country Club over their seven-day stay came away disappointed!
"If the goal was to be the best on Tour, I can't think of another tournament that topped their effort," said tournament winner Brenden Pappas. "The food was terrific, the service over the top and each and every one of the young people serving us had a smile on his or her face the entire week. It was fun going through the line every time.
"This was my first trip to Colombia. The experience was just great. I loved the spirit of the people of Colombia and it was certainly on display all week at Bogota Country Club."
Becoming a member of the team of 20 was no easy task. Chef Ricardo, who is recognized as one of Colombia's leading chefs, initially reviewed 200 applicants for the week-long opportunity, interviewing 95 of them. Among the young men and women in chef attire was the daughter of a member, Denisse Herger.
"Our goal is to develop talent for the Club and other restaurants throughout Colombia, Castañeda said. "During the Pacific Rubiales Bogotá Open we strive to provide for the health of the players so they will perform their best. This is very important to us. Part of the process is to serve organic food of the highest standards. We go from farm to farm to find it."
Chef Ricardo is a 25-year staff member of Bogota County Club. With responsibility for eight kitchens throughout the club, his workload is heavy. He also has a cooking show on TV, "A Cook With Golf", which airs on the Gourmet Channel and History Channel in South America and regularly features golf professionals from throughout the region.
Castaneda has made it a priority to travel the world to learn new cooking techniques, trends and means to enhance the culinary experience in his native Colombia. Despite his non-stop pace, he still finds time to maintain a 15 handicap.
"Mr. Rodriguez means everything to the program," Castaneda said. "He makes everything available to us and provides for our growth and success. He is the most important person to the program."
Rodriguez is the long-standing president of Bogota Country Club and was vital to bringing the Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open and the Nationwide Tour to Colombia and BCC last year for the first time.
"One of the things the players talked about all week in Bogota was the unparalled hospitality of everyone they came in contact at the Club," Nationwide Tour president Bill Calfee said. "The weather may have put a damper on things, but the lasting memories are of happy, fun people who couldn't do enough for us and, of course, good food! All of this was made possible through Jose Maria's leadership and Chef Ricardo's skills."
You can bet there are a lot of people who will look forward to visiting Bogota Country Club next year if that's where their schedule takes them.