Brenda Calcavecchia wants to convert other professional golfers to the RV lifestyle during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She and husband Mark can relax in recliners in front of a big-screen TV with a stocked Sub-Zero wine cooler and their three dogs close by. They explore new places as they travel in between tournaments. They park in Walmart lots, with Columbia, South Carolina, their stop on Sunday night as they drove from Jupiter, Florida, to Akron, Ohio, for this week’s Bridgestone Senior Players Championship.
Mark’s longtime caddie, Brenda believes the mode of transportation is perfect for the virtually inseparable couple.
Except of course, for that harrowing stretch of Interstate 77 through West Virginia, which Mark negotiated Monday in the new Tiffin Zephyr motorhome they picked up five days before.
“It’s awful. The crazy thing is you have to pay to drive that road and it’s no better; I don’t know what they’re doing with the money,” Brenda said Thursday. The native of Bexley, Ohio, is familiar with the highway because her parents often took her to Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, as a kid.
“Here we are in this new RV and all I can think about is everything in the entire place falling apart. It shakes … every bump.
“I think we got out OK. A few screws. …”
Calcavecchia is one of four Bridgestone competitors who arrived in RVs. So, too, did John Daly, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. Mark and Brenda have been crossing the country on the Champions Tour this way for 10 years.
“I can’t believe we didn’t do it sooner,” she said after Mark opened with a 6-over 76 Thursday at Firestone Country Club, eight shots off the lead. “I’ve been a germaphobe before it was in style. I didn’t like hotels, I don’t like flying, I don’t like being away from my dogs.
“You close the shades, we don’t know where we are. Once you shut ’em, you’re in this fantastic, comfortable space that’s all yours.”
With golfers wary of hotels and flying commercial, Brenda is baffled why more haven’t gone this route. At the moment the Calcavecchias have two buses, with their Prevost motorhome up for sale after their renter decided to buy his own.
“I think some guys are maybe nervous to even drive,” Brenda said. “I think they think you have to have a . You can just drive off the parking lot with one.
“I can’t believe more people don’t do this, especially on the regular tour. Those guys can afford to have somebody drive it for ’em, set it up, half of ’em fly private. Why would you want to sit in a hotel because we’re not allowed out? I can’t imagine not being in this; I don’t know what we would have done.”
During the lockdown, Brenda said she saw Mark less than usual, as he played golf while she renovated a house to flip. She obtained her real estate license last year.
They also participated in Caddies for a Cause, which Brenda said reached its goal of raising $100,000 for the 75 Champions Tour caddies unemployed with tournaments canceled by the pandemic. Pros donated foursomes, others sent memorabilia for auction, which included a Masters pin flag from two-time champion Bernhard Langer.
Now back on the road, Brenda didn’t go to Grand Blanc, Michigan, two weeks ago for the Ally Challenge, the first since the Champions Tour restart. So her COVID-19 test in Akron was her first.
“I was kind of nervous, but I’ve had a flu swab before so I thought ‘It can’t be too bad,’” she said. “It’s not like it’s a 20-minute process, but it still hurts. I think he opened up my deviated septum — I’m not trying to be funny — because I can breathe better now. But I understand and I think the tour has done an amazing job trying to help us be safe.”
The Calcavecchias had hoped to eat dinner at the Diamond Grille, but tour protocols do not allow indoor dining. Nor can they get carryout from Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, with the Akron location now permanently closed. That’s where they went on their first date during the 2001 NEC Invitational after meeting at the Memorial Tournament. Brenda attended Ohio State and graduated from Franklin University.
Brenda may not be able to convince Mark’s peers to convert to RV travel, but she thinks it’s perfect for them, even before the pandemic. But she admits their adventure has its stressful moments.
“There’s always something new that happens. We’ve become quite the mechanics,” she said. “You think you’ve fixed everything that can happen and something new always comes up.”
Like a familiar, yet frightening stretch of Interstate 77.