RSG-Hershey 2004

Dave Tutelman  --  6/15/2004

(Note that pictures are thumbnail-links; click on them for the full-size picture.)

RSG-Hershey was a tribute to flexible planning. Actually, the whole event was a last-minute thing, the ultimate flexible plan. Coops and many of the usual RSG-Hershey-goers had just gotten back from the Scotland trip, and one and all had assumed that Hershey just would not happen this year. But Coops reacted to that in horror, and told us exactly when and where it would be -- and that we'd better be there.

Some of us were. The census was up to nine for the tournament round Saturday morning. But we expected the Friday round at Armitage to be just a single foursome.

That turned out to be the first exercise of flexible planning. The Friday round was neither a foursome nor at Armitage. It was raining fairly hard through much of the morning and still raining substantially at our two o'clock tee time. We waited for a bit longer, until they told us that the course was closed and would remain closed all day. In the meantime, Mark Georg had shown up early. So we were were five: Coops, Jon Green, Roger Georg, Mark, and me. We decided to go to Groff's Farm, a "funky little course" (Coops' description) in Coops' home town of Mount Joy.

The "funky little course" was open, and in pretty good shape. And since by now it was four o'clock, we played twilight rates and pretty much had the course to ourselves. Coops got called away on business as we were about to tee off, and he said he'd find us on the course and join us when he was done. So the four of us set out in a rain that was a little heavier than what I'd call "refreshing". But no worry mate -- for me at least. My new Sun Mountain cart has an umbrella stand (thanks for the recommendation, Terry), so it kept the clubs dry with no effort. (Those of you who were at RSG-Pittsburgh witnessed the wreck that mandated my getting a new push-cart.)

The course was playing longer than the scorecard would have you believe (6000 from the whites, which I think is what we played; the back tees are 6400 yards). First of all, it was wet; you got very little roll in the fairways, and absolutely none in the wiry, dense rough. Also the course is fairly hilly, and demands precision shots in many cases. A challenging and fun course. I'd certainly like to play it again, maybe in some future RSG-Hershey (hint! hint!).

Early in our round, Jon and Mark took a lot of heat about their handicaps. Mark was making every putt he looked at. Jon -- Mr10 -- who was claiming that he couldn't even play to a 15, started bogey-par-birdie. BTW, we averaged par for our foursome over the third hole. This is a 200-yard par-3, with water front and left. Jon and I hit the green, Mark got up-and-down, and Roger (who probably doesn't have a club with a reliable 200-yard carry) played it perfectly as a par-4. So we got 2-3-3-4.

Unfortunately, Jon and Mark couldn't stay consistent the whole round, and their handicap stories remained intact.

The funkiest holes were the three on the clubhouse side of the road. Funky perhaps, but with genuine beauty and character.
The walk from the ninth green to the tenth tee is a real hike. First, a healthy climb up the hill; did you notice that 7, 8, and 9 were all downhill holes? What goes down must come up. Then, around a duck pond. We were warned the pond was guarded by a very territorial duck with a mohawk. We were not misled. He came after us, but we skirted the pond quickly enough that there was no close encounter. And yes, he did have a mohawk. Then, across the road. We got there, but no Jon. His lone head start got him lost, and we waited for him for about ten minutes before we saw him near the clubhouse -- walking the wrong way. Yelling didn't help, so Mark took off to retrieve him. By the time he joined us, twenty minutes had passed since we arrived on the tee.

As we were about to embark on the back nine, we noticed Coops taking off in the same wrong direction as Jon had. Coops' business finished, he was going to walk the whole course -- starting with the front nine -- to find us. I don't remember what short-circuited this process, but he did catch us on the eleventh tee. We played as a fivesome from there. It took us a long time; we weren't off the eighteenth until almost 9:00pm.

Memorable moments from the back nine:
We ate at Bube's Brewery in Mount Joy, then repaired to Coops' house where Mark, Roger, and I would be staying. Jon had left the restaurant for his home, about an hour and a half away, after a few weird phone calls. Coops' living room became a dormitory, with sofa-bed and sofa occupied, as well as an air mattress on the floor. I had roomed with Mark on previous trips, so I know he snores. He sets a steady rhythm, so it's easy to get used to and sleep through -- sorta' like white noise. What I didn't know was that Mark and Roger snore in sync and in harmony. Must be in the genes.

Saturday was the big day at Dauphin Highlands. Tournament round in the morning, and Match Play Madness® in the afternoon. That in itself was a tribute to flexible plans. Originally on the schedule was a practice round in the AM and the tournament in the PM. But that was changed a couple of days before in an email discussion.

Brother Bill (the golfer formerly known as BillPA) was not aware of the change, and spent the early part of the morning round goofing as much as golfing. When informed that this was in fact the tournament, he protested to the committee. At the lunch break he asked "the committee" whether his protest had been accepted or rejected. The reply was, "Not rejected, ignored!"

I played the tournament round with Coops and David Hayes. The three of us were in the zone for several holes on the front nine; for a stretch of four holes, we were collectively one under par. That's gross, not net. Allowing for a few missed birdie opportunities, it could have been even better. For instance, David reached the par-5 fifth hole in two shots, his 3-wood skittering across the green and coming to rest in the back fringe maybe 20 feet from the hole. Alas, that birdie was not to be.

On the twelfth hole, I had a television experience. My second shot on the par-5 came to rest in a planting that camouflaged an electrical box. I found only one position that I could even get a swinging club on the ball, and that was standing on one side of the box and reaching over it to the ball on the other side. Fortunately, a USGA rules official came over and reminded me that I was entitled to relief from the electrical box, since it was an immovable obstruction. Really! It actually happened! Well, I guess most of you know by now that David changed jobs last year, and he now works for the USGA interpreting rules mostly for local tournaments.

I wish I could say that saved the hole for me. It did take me from a nearly unplayable shot to a makeable 7-iron over tall trees to the green. I got over the trees all right, but wound up in the greenside bunker. Took me four more to get down from there for a double bogey (including two very good shots -- plus one absolute disaster).

Bottom line: Thor was the RSG-Hershey champion for 2004, with a net 68. He played very well, apparently motivated by a side bet. He had a beer match with Brother Bill, and you only make Thor play better when you bet him a beer. Second place was everybody in my threesome; we all shot net 70.

After lunch we proceeded with MPM®. Coops and Thor chose up sides. Thor immediately picked the team name "The Brotherhood", in honor of Brother Bill. Coops' team eventually came up with "Hop Devils". They insist it is a pale ale, but a Google search turned up a mythical creature which was a much more relevant reference for a golf team. The reference includes the sentence, "Dull-witted and mischievous, these little bundles of joy are known to destroy entire fields..." I would say that did indeed characterize their play. (Disclaimer: I was a member of The Brotherhood.)

The afternoon round was the fun round! I stopped at the car at lunch time and put my camera in the golf bag. Sorry, but that round was the only one I had the camera, so not many pix this time.

I had noticed that the high rough -- the "friendly gorse", as the recent Scottish travelers called it -- had been planted with a scattering of very colorful flowers. (I thought at first they were wildflowers, but later became convinced they were seeded.) Here are a few pictures of the strips of flowers that alternated with the tall grass.

I was playing MrJFB. But that only lasted the first nine holes. He was pained by his ankle, and by the feeling that a 22 handicap had no chance against a 14. He is inexperienced in match play, and especially MPM®, so he has never experienced the "anything can happen" aspect of the game. In fact, he was one up on me for a while early in the round. Anyway, he left after nine to get an early start on his drive to New York. Since I was into the spirit of MPM® by now, I decided to finish the match somehow. Instead of playing MrJFB, I played against MrMBG -- Mythical Bogey Golfer. If I got a bogey, the hole was halved. If I did par or better, I won the hole, and double bogey or worse gave the hole to MrMBG. Since my course handicap at Dauphin was 16, playing against bogey made quite a bit of sense.

Interesting irony. I went back and looked at how I would have done on the front nine against bogey. For all MrJFB's complaining about "no chance", he did better against me than MrMBG would have. The front nine, I was three up against MrJFB, but would have been four up against MrMBG. I was just playing well Saturday. My 86 in the morning and 84 in the afternoon were my best scores yet at Dauphin. A couple of notes on that:
A few incidents that would not have even happened if we were playing golf instead of MPM®:
  • Jon Green had a lie that would normally grant relief from the cartpath. He was lucky the ball wasn't a few inches further right. And not shown in the picture is a bench, water cooler, and tree trunk, all narrowing the margin of error for the shot..

  • I hit a perfect drive to the middle of the fairway. It not only landed in a divot, but the material from the divot had been left there, hanging by dead grass roots. I had to play it.

My own fondest memories of the day were my two birdies at long, hard par-3 holes that I have seldom even parred in the past:
At Gilligan's, over dinner and beer, last year's winner (Mark Georg) presented the trophy to Thor.

We knew Mark was reluctant to part with the trophy, but his better nature eventually prevailed.

And, of course, we had to get our Gilligan's waitress Shannon into the ceremony.

Sunday was Sunset! As somebody in the group (probably Thor) remarked, "They have everything going on here." It's an interesting course, to say the least:
I played with Mark and Thor. It's always a great day out on the golf course with those guys. None of us was playing very well, but we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves anyway. The game of the day was skins, across both our threesomes. We were all playing so badly that almost every par won a skin. (Believe it or not, that's only a slight exaggeration. For the first six holes, there were only four pars among the six of us and two of them were skins.)

Unfortunately, I twisted my ankle (making a very good 6-iron shot, I might add) on the twelfth hole. I took one more full swing, the drive on thirteen, and knew I had to quit. I was lucky -- or perhaps smart -- to quit before the damage became more severe; I still had that walk up the hill, from the lowest point on the course. It was fifteen or twenty minutes of pure aerobic exercise, but I made it. Iced the ankle while I had lunch, then took off for home. Once again, flexible planning in action.

After I left, the remaining five RSGers bowed to the obvious slowness of the course (the round took over five hours). They combined into a fivesome. Even with five, they had to wait on every tee.

Coops, thanks again for everything: arranging the event, putting me up, and putting up with me.

See y'all in Ohio!