RSG-Ohio 2004

Dave Tutelman  -  9/14/2004

Well, it's September again, and that means RSG-Ohio. This had to be one of the best ever. No, I didn't play very well -- horribly, in fact -- but it was a great weekend anyway. Why? Well, Thor did his homework at least as well as usual, meaning:
The "great weather" that Thor found for us included sunshine all days with warm but not oppressively hot temperatures -- and almost no mosquitos this time!

(The pictures below are "thumbnails". Click on them and you open the full-size picture.)

Friday Morning - Split Rock

The day started in fog. Thick, pea-soup fog. Fog that made it dangerous to drive, and nearly impossible to find the golf course. Split Rock, if it had a sign at all at the entrance, had too small and inconspicuous a sign to see. We (Coops and I) passed it without knowing, and had to find it on the way back. Apparently a couple of other RSGers were following us. We were surprised to see other cars making U-turns when we decided to.

The practice green Friday morning is always a madhouse of old friends greeting each other. In the fog, you had to get up close to see who it was, though. Just kidding; the fog was thick, but not that thick. But it was thick enough that it was hard to see where to hit the ball on the first tee, much less watch the ball flight itself. The 150-yard "barber pole" only 200 yards from the tee was barely visible if you looked hard. So after finding the course by driving in the fog, we continued by driving in the fog.

I played with Coops, Brent Hutto, and Jon Green. We were all trying to find our game at the beginning. Some found it sooner and better than others.

Friday Afternoon - Foxfire

This was our first taste of the Foxfire course, but it wouldn't be our last. We were scheduled to play Match Play Madness here Saturday afternoon. I played in one of the later groups, with Mark Georg, Terry Easton, and Joe Conte. Again, there was lots of greeting going on in the first tee area; the clan was still gathering. Those "pesky Canadians", Patrick Inglis and David Sneddon, arrived -- and Patrick immediately set up shop as the event's videographer. He was wandering around with what looked like an ordinary digital camera, but that red light on the front was constantly on. See his video of the event at; it's great! He also did get to play golf, as the picture on the left attests.

The Foxfire course is a pretty challenging course, unless you compare it to its sister course in the Foxfire complex. There is some water, lots of trees and OB, and an unreal challenge for your second or third shot on #16. More about that later.

This was my best round of the weekend. I'm used to breaking 90 routinely at home, but my 87 here was the only sub-90 round of my Ohio 2004. I managed this even finishing double-double-double. It helps to have only 30 putts for the round.

Our group did really well on #8 and #9. On eight, Joe led off with a drive in the right rough near the fairway bunker. He would never have guessed that the rest of us would be well right of him, almost 200 yards from the green, and some of us with tree trouble. Even so, I think we all managed pars from there. And we were three for four pars on the par-3 over water ninth.

The back nine is a lot tougher than the front. The par-4s are longer, and a couple have water to avoid. In fact, those two are water right and OB left. And #12, though not wet nor OB, is over 450 yards from the whites.

Then there is #16. It is a par-5 with a fairly conventional drive, but a huge tree immediately between the landing area and the green. You can lay up left of the tree and hit 130-150 yards on the third shot. But the layup is no piece of cake; the fairway is narrow at that point and hazards abound if you miss (OB, ball-losing tall rough, and lots of water. Or you can hit out to the right of the tree. If you keep it on the hillside there, you can have a short shot in (100 yards or so). But you have to clear some water to get there; it's not an easy shot either. I think one of us (don't remember who) got a par there, but we had some big numbers. My own double-bogey started innocently enough. Drive just missed the fairway (actually a good drive through the fairway), causing me to lay up near the 150 pole. As I said, it gets narrow there, and I just leaked a foot into the wiry rough on the left -- but exactly at 150. The ball was sitting up nicely, and I had a good look at the green. I hit a nice full 7-iron, which will normally fly 150 for me. But this was a real flyer lie, and I airmailed the green altogether. Now I had a pitch from rough, over a mound, to a green running away. I hit four pretty good shots from there, but "pretty good" wasn't enough to get it into the hole.

The eighteenth is an adventure. An iron or fairway wood avoids running out of fairway, which gets narrower and narrower between the woods on the left and an elevated pond on the right. If you put it towards the end of the fairway, you have a short iron straight uphill (over the end of the pond) to an elevated, sloping, bunkered green. Mark might have had the biggest adventure of all. He hit a perfect tee shot, leaving him about 115 uphill yards to the green. The pond claimed it. He dropped again, and almost piped his second shot; the ball mark was right next to the cup. Hell of a shot!

The group convened for dinner at Casa Fiesta, where we were joined by some non-playing family. Steve Stemmer's and John Pflum's wife and daughter were around all weekend, but only joined us for dinners. Actually, Amy and Jeanie Pflum have been regulars at RSG-Ohio for years, but they have company now.

Saturday - Foxfire Players Course and Foxfire Course

Saturday, of course, is the tournament round -- The Main Event(TM)! This was at The Players Club at the Foxfire complex. The Players Club is an extremely hard course; it eats my lunch every time I play there (well, all three times). I remember every corner of that course -- probably because I've had to play a ball from every corner of that course.

I played in a fun group: Hudson McVay, Bill Hogsett, and MrJFB. Once is was clear to us that none of us had a prayer in the tournament, we relaxed and enjoyed it. Not that we played any better that way, but it was a beautiful day on a beautiful golf course; what could be bad? (Or, as Peter Strauss reminds us, "Hey, I'm still on the same side of the grass as the ball.") Gotta keep perspective here.

If I was struggling to find my swing Friday at Split Rock, that was just a struggle. But trying to find your swing on a course like Players is a major disaster. It is hard to do justice to the manner in which the golf course abused us. Just a few examples:
The Foxfire complex has a good lunch counter in the clubhouse -- great barbeque sandwiches and a variety of beer -- so we had lunch there while the long list of awards were announced. Of course there was the RSG-Ohio Champion, winner of the Coffeemaker Trophy and the Maroon Jacket; that honor went to Neal Bell for the second time. The Premier Golfer (low gross score) was Brad Swanson, who made it by a single stroke after pitching in from 40 yards on the 18th hole. The Women's Champion was Enid Redman.

In addition, there were loads of individual-hole prizes. We had the usual long drive on the par-5s, closest to the pin on par-3s, and a few longest putt made on large greens. But we also had some unique awards, like:
After lunch, we went out to the tenth tee at the Foxfire course. Thor had convinced them to let us play the back nine for Match Play Madness; that was great; it is more challenging than the front nine, with more opportunity for "MPM moments".

The tee at MPM has been described as "beautiful chaos", as matches are arranged, foursomes are put together, all with players teeing off. Here are a few pictures to give the flavor of the MPM tee.

Here's the "beautiful chaos" that we mentioned.

Patrick arrived at the tee decked out in early-1900s golfing attire. Very elegant! Oh yes, he played dressed that way, too.

Scott Newell tees off at the tenth hole. You think that looks narrow in the picture? Try it from the tee with a club in your hand.

Tex tees off, momentarily suspending the beautiful chaos.

Gayle Stultz awaits her turn on the tee.

Pflagstick (John Pflum) tees off.

My own MPM group was a bit unusual, mostly because it was a fivesome. We went last, on the assumption that a fivesome would be slow. That decision was wise beyond words. We took more than two and a half hours for the nine holes. Why a fivesome? Well, we had an odd number of players in the afternoon. (Before anybody else says it, yes we had a number of odd players, too.) Jon Green agreed to play MPM against the better ball of Alan Charbonneau and Chris Dossman, a couple of novice golfers. Chris had the additional disadvantage that the terrible sixth hole in the morning had started him on the beer, and he had never stopped. (Or maybe that was an advantage. Don't know.)

I played my traditional MPM match with Pete Hope. I had won the first one back in antiquity, but Pete has beaten me every time since. Pete finished me off pretty quickly this time. We halved the holes where I was able to keep my tee shot out of trouble. But Pete won two holes where my tee shot was dead, and another two where I had to punch out sideways and played the rest of the hole a stroke behind him the whole way. Probably just as well our match was uninteresting; it allowed us to enjoy watching the other match -- which was, frankly, hilarious. A few of the high points:
The highlight of the Saturday night dinner is usually the storytelling contest. This year, almost everybody offered a story. A few of the things I remember about it:

Sunday - Phoenix Links

The farewell round was played on what the locals call "Stinky Links". Phoenix Links is built on a trash landfill on the southern edge of Columbus. The nickname comes from the pervasive smell of garbage and methane when the course first opened. The actual name seems a stroke of genius: rising from the ashes and all that. (Note that "stinky" is no longer a problem, but the catchy nickname seems to have stuck.)

The course itself is a large mound between I-71 on one side and a quarry on the other. The whole ambience was -- well -- different!

Steve Stemmer drives the ball towards Columbus, as Thor and David Hayes watch.. The quarry on the right is a fairly busy working quarry.

Thor putting. You can see how the Columbus skyline dominates the horizon.

Once you get past the obvious differences, the course itself is very playable. It makes the most of the elevation changes, and is a challenging but very fair design. The fairways are generous and in good condition, but you have to know where to hit it in the fairways to get the most out of the hole. The greens would have been better if they hadn't been recently aerated, but they were still eminently puttable. (Some may disagree, but others were making a lot of putts. I think Tex one-putted the last seven greens; anyway, that's what the legend is up to now.)

I really enjoyed Phoenix Links. Of course, I grew up in the South Bronx, so the urban hustle and bustle is like home to me. Steve Stemmer, another New York City boy, said he preferred the west side of the course with the road noise. I certainly wouldn't mind seeing Phoenix on the venue again.

I played with Steve, David Hayes, and Thor. That was a really fun group; we have to do it again next year. Steve had a career round, shooting a one-over 73. He had matches going against David Hayes and Thor, and won them easily. He also had his first-ever eagle, a pitch-in from behind the greenside bunker on #8. Having gotten a taste, he wanted more. Later in the round, he just missed a chip-in eagle and lipped out an eagle putt. He had three birdies in addition to the eagle, helping him go so low.

I had a decent round myself. My ball striking was the best of the weekend. I had a 42 on the front nine (not as good on the back), aided by a birdie on the short par-4 seventh. I hit a 3-wood off the tee, and was so close to the 100-yard marker that I had to take relief from it. I trust my 100-yard club a lot, and put the shot 8 feet from the hole -- then made the putt. I think my best shot of the weekend was a 6-iron from 155 straight uphill (from another fairway) on the thirteenth hole. Perfect line, perfect trajectory, hit the small green and finished on the fringe.

The last two holes are sort of out of character with the rest of the course. For one thing, they have trees. For another, there are water hazards. #17 is a medium-length par-3 to a very narrow green with lots of elevation change and water front and left. #18 is a short par-4 with a tee shot that must carry a pond and stop short of a stream. The fairway is very generous, but all the trouble is visually intimidating and a lot of us missed the fairway.

As usual, the early groups waited behind the 18th green for the rest to finish. Being in the second group, I got to watch a lot of exciting finishes. Maybe the best was Tex, who got up and down from the long weeds right of the green. You've seen rough where you couldn't see the golfer's shoes; well, we couldn't see Mark's legs below his shorts. But he ripped it out and onto the green, then made the 25-foot putt -- to complete a round of two-under-par 70.

Early finishers wait behind the 18th green for the rest. L to R: David Hayes, Thor, Steve Stemmer, Mark Phillips, and Coops

What does Coops have in the range-ball bucket? Doesn't look like golf balls. He must've taken Tex's range bucket.

While we waited, David showed us how to use a golf cart as a beer opener. A bit violent perhaps, but when you forgot your bottle-opener and none of the bottles are twist-top...

It's a long walk to the parking lot, with a big climb up and down. We said our goodbyes on the walk and more in the parking lot. Can't wait for next year. Great job, Thor!