J.J. Spaun was probably 4 or 5 years old the first time he ever set foot inside the Magic Kingdom and rubbed elbows with the likes of Mickey Mouse and Pluto.
“My parents recorded it on VHS,” Spaun says. “… I remember my sisters and parents being there and the styles of the early '90s.”
Little did he know that he’d still be spending time – a lot of time, at that -- at Disneyland two decades later. In fact, Spaun owned a season pass for five years before his recent move to Scottsdale, Arizona.
“It's a fun place for us to go to,” Spaun says. “It's what we did as kids. Kind of helps us get away from the hustle and bustle of the TOUR, to go out and enjoy ourselves.”
Sure enough, Spaun squeezed in a three-day trip to Disneyland and its sister California Adventure theme park when the 27-year-old, who is ranked 91st in the FedExCup, took a few weeks off earlier this summer.
Before moving to the Arizona desert, Spaun only lived about 15 minutes from the happiest place on earth. The Californian acknowledges that he and his girlfriend, Melody Means, “get bored a lot, pretty easily,” so they made good use of their season passes.
“It was cool,” Spaun said. “On a Wednesday night, if we had nothing to do, we could shoot over to Disneyland and ride a couple of rides for the night.
“Good thing about having a pass is you don't feel like you have to be there all day and getting your money's worth.”
Not even a broken foot that required surgery kept the couple, who met through mutual friends four years ago, away from the Magic Kingdom.
“Oh, my gosh, we would go almost every day,” Means recalls. “… He would take me in the wheelchair and wheel me around. I wouldn't have anything else to do. I couldn't walk, I couldn't work.
“He would take me and help me get in the ride and helped me get out. We could cut the lines. He was very protective of me.”
As might be imagined, Spaun and Means are connoisseurs of the entire Disney experience. But when he was a kid, Spaun wasn’t as attracted to the rides as he was the overall experience.
He loved seeing the cartoon characters brought to “life,” as well as the performances and the bands and the shops. Spaun says “basically it was like being in a Disney movie “when he went there as a kid.
“I was actually afraid of rides for a long time,” Spaun says. “… It's just like the ambiance and the culture and stuff. The rides came hand in hand with it, but it was more the surroundings which made it fun.”
“I think he started going on the bigger rides to impress me a little bit,” Means adds.
Now, every trip to Disneyland starts with a jaunt on Pirates of the Caribbean, which is the last ride the late filmmaker Walt Disney had a hand in designing – and turned 50 this year.
Spaun has come to enjoy the iconic Space Mountain, an indoor celestial roller-coaster at Disneyland. Soarin, the popular flight motion simulator, at California Adventure is another favorite.
“Disneyland is really old school,” Spaun says. “They don't have many crazy rides where it's loops and stuff. Space Mountain is probably like I guess the most daring ride they have there, because it's in the dark and lot of turns and it's really fast.”
And Soarin’ is not to be confused with Screamin’, California Adventure’s steel roller-coaster that can reach speeds of 55 mph. That’s the one Means likes best.
“I like the fast roller-coaster loops, which was hard to get him on at first,” Means says. “… He's afraid it's going to break down or he's going to get stuck on it.”
Small wonder, then, that some of the rides at other theme parks – like the Twisted Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain, a roller-coaster that features a 128-foot drop – are a “little out of my comfort zone,” Spaun acknowledges.
Not to worry, though. Spaun can find plenty of things to entertain him at Disneyland.
In fact, he and Means are already planning their next trip to the Magic Kingdom after the FedExCup Playoffs. And don’t be surprised if there are more visits before the end of the year.
“When they decorate for Christmas, it's really cool,” Means says with a smile.