RSG-Ohio 2005

Dave Tutelman  -  9/20/2005

Wow, has it been ten years already?

The time has just flown! I'm ten years older than the first drive I took to Columbus with Fred in 1996. The drive is less daunting, more familiar. Did it with Coops this year; Fred couldn't make it. And I know I'm ten years older, because I'm losing yardage on most of my clubs.

Can you imagine? Thor has kept this going every single year for ten straight. The Main Event this year had almost 30 participants, from such diverse places as Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin, Tennessee and of course the neighboring states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Indiana. The Ohio contingent was so heavily outnumbered by out-of-staters that Thor had to draft quite a few "honorary Ohioans" for Match Play Madness.

As usual, a wonderful time was had by all. See below for details...

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

Friday Morning - Mill Creek

Coops took the morning off to rest his back, but Tex (Mark Koenig) and Plow (Mike Plowinski) were staying at the same hotel and had lots of room in their SUV. I had to share the back seat with Pflagstick (John Pflum), but everybody knows that leaves plenty of room.

When we arrived at the course, the parking lot was filling up rapidly. The usual rounds of greetings were going on among friends who only see one another once a year. Suddenly everybody looked up at a truck that came into the lot, and the crowd buzzed with murmurs of, "I thought Jon Green wasn't coming." Well, he didn't. But Steve Hall -- whom few of us had ever met -- bears an uncanny resemblance.

Mill Creek is Ben Curtis' home course. Thor actually knows him from a league at Mill Creek some years ago. It's a really enjoyable old-style layout, and we had a lot of fun at the pre-warmup round. I played with Thor, Bill-O, and Joe Conte. The company must have inspired me, because I turned in my best score ever for an RSG-event eighteen: an 84. But we're getting ahead of the story.

The start was shotgun style, and we started on the sixth hole. Bill-O and I started on some strange "trains".
My putting was solid but unspectacular. I didn't make much (anything?) outside of five feet, but I didn't put much pressure on my second putt either. Wound up taking 32 putts, not bad for me. (I'd have done a lot better in the tournament round if I were putting like that.) Another key to my success that round was being on or close to half the fairways off the tee. My driver was much wilder than that for the rest of the weekend.

Unfortunately, my playing companions did not have spectacular rounds Friday morning. Probably saving it for the rounds that count. In particular, Joe and Bill both had periods where they were becoming more intimate than they wanted with the trees.

Note for future visits: the snack bar at Mill Creek makes a good chicken salad sandwich.

Friday Afternoon - Buck Ridge

For the official warmup round ("official warmup round"? Okay, I guess), we played at Buck Ridge. I played with Coops, Mark Georg, and Joe Darmogray (an RSG first-timer from Michigan). We were the last group off. It wasn't planned that way, but Coops -- true to form -- appeared at exactly two minutes to 2pm, for a scheduled 2 o'clock tee time for our first group. However, the rest of us had arrived early, the course was pretty empty, so they started sending us off at 1:20. By the time Coops arrived, our last group had the tee anyway.

Buck Ridge is a newer links-style course, with mounding and tall grasses rather than woods. There are some trees, and they are placed strategically rather than scenically, but it is basically more links than parkland. It is challenging and fun. Also, unlike traditional links courses, there is quite a bit of water on the course to get you in trouble.

Soon there would be even more water on the course. It had rained heavily the day before and even overnight, and the course was very soft (playing long, of course) and squishy in spots. But the day was reasonably clear, the morning forecast said the rains were gone,  and we had Thor with us. However, a rain-free day was not to be realized. We were on the fifth hole when we noticed the sky darkening to the west. On the sixth hole we first heard the thunder, and even saw some distant lightning flashes. After we hit our tee shots on seven, it was clear that lightning was on the way. I was wrestling with whether to be the first to pick up my ball and head for the clubhouse -- and I suspect the others in my foursome were thinking likewise -- when the ranger came carting lickety-split down the middle of the course honking an air horn and yelling at everybody to get off the course. None of us would have to make a decision; we just hightailed it outa' there.

I got a ride back from a nice young fellow named Chris (not an RSGer). In the end, nobody had to walk. And we all did make it back before the storm hit. And hit it did!

You don't see this very often: Thor sitting in the clubhouse watching the rain sheet on the window.
(Steve Hall photo)

... And here is what he would have seen in the parking lot: rain everywhere.
(Bret Douglas photo)

Fortunately, it was just a small thunderstorm cell. In less than half an hour, we went back out to the course. I have to thank Chuck Bernard for a lift back out to the seventh hole, a long way from the clubhouse. We were ready for the course, but I'm not sure it was ready for us. The fairways were absolutely soaked. The first shot I hit landed in a stream flowing across the middle of the fairway, and stopped almost dead. No, not just a puddle -- a swiftly-flowing stream across the short grass. The nearest relief from casual water was halfway to Cleveland. (Note that the rule says you can't just take relief so things are better. If you move the ball at all, the relief must be to where there is no casual water. That means that if your shoes squish, you haven't moved far enough.) While the course continued to play wet and soft the whole round, most of the puddles dissipated over the afternoon.

Buck Ridge is a good mix of challenging and enjoyable. The sixth hole is a particularly memorable design, curving in a big arc around a lake. You can bite off as much as you think you can carry off the tee. If you hit too long for the line you chose, a ring of bunkers on the outside of the arc will probably protect you from OB. If you fall short, you'll have to re-tee; your ball will be wet. I tried a novel approach to the tee shot; the lake is not round, but is itself an arc inside the arc of the fairway. It curves around a grassy area containing the fifth tee -- which was on a straight line to the green. There was nobody on that tee, so I tried putting my tee shot there. Two things were wrong with that strategy:
  1. There was more water behind the grassy area. My drive went through the "fairway" into that water. But at least I now had a drop much closer to the green. I dropped it there and put a wedge on the front of the green, giving me a putt for par even after the stroke penalty. (I didn't make it, but it was a good bogey.)
  2. The course architect either didn't foresee this strategy or intended to discourage it. I had a very long walk around the lake to get to the green from my drop. My approach shot had been about 100 yards, but I probably walked 400 to get to it.
Joe was suffering from first-time RSG jitters, and not playing very well at all. He kept apologizing for holding us up. He was a most enjoyable golf companion and not a burden at all, but we were having trouble convincing him of that. So Mark and I started telling him about our virgin RSG experience, in 1996 at Bryan Park (Greensboro, NC). I shot 114 that day, and Mark's score was considerably higher than that. Then Mark diluted the message by pointing out that a lot of that had to do with "the elements". (It was literally freezing that day, and very windy as well.) Realizing that wasn't helping Joe, Mark recounted his hitting his first approach shot dead right into a pond. I asked him, "Which element was that? Titanium?" He replied, "No, cranium." (BTW, Mark also observed that, on that day in 1996 when he first met RSGers, the pairing included him, Coops, and me. History repeats, almost.)

I don't think any of us scored really well at Buck Ridge. My score wasn't terrible, but certainly wasn't very good: a 94. But I'd like to play there again sometime, when the course is in good shape (not soaked) my drives are reasonably straight, and I have some idea of where to miss.

We went to dinner at Bennie's. The food was good and the service was properly attentive, but the band was entirely too loud. Unlike Thor and a few others, I thought they were a pretty good cover band, but I couldn't enjoy them at half that volume. And they never took a break, or at least not until we were ready to leave anyway. If they were playing in NY, the musicians union would have had their heads.

Saturday - Indian Springs

The day of the main event, the most schmajor schmajor!

Here's a partial collection of the nearly 30 golfers that participated in the morning's tournament.
(Bret Douglas photo.)

Mark Georg was sporting a new three-wheeler.
(Dave Collard photo)

Patrick Inglis, Pesky Canadian #2.
(Dave Collard photo)

The first tee was the usual chaotic scene, with a bit of order brought by Super Dave's starting announcements. He managed to make it sound like a PGA event. I was in the "dark side foursome" -- so named by Thor  -- consisting of four of the clubmakers that attended: Pat Inglis (Parabolic Golf), Mike Dalecki, Ron Blanchard, and myself. It became clear early that none of us would win the Coffeemaker Trophy, so we settled down to enjoy one another's company and a wonderful golf course in Indian Springs. The course was playing really hard; of all the fine golfers in the tournament, only three broke ninety.

I screwed up the first hole, but the golf gods smiled on me for observing the true spirit of the gemme. My short wedge up to the green was a little long, bounced off the green and into the high weeds above it. When I got there, I found my ball nestled in rocks and hard dirt. It really looked like ground under repair, but I didn't see a white line or stakes. My playing companions urged me to take a drop from it, as the recent rains had probably washed away the white line. But, not seeing an indicator of official GUR, I decided to wedge the ball out. the best I could do was get it to the rough above the green. Those of you who have played Indian Springs know just how fast that downhill chip is. I hit it well, trying to kill it in the fringe, but it rolled toward the hole, picking up speed all the way. That's when the golf gods rewarded me for playing the ball as it lay; it hit the flag dead center, and stayed in the hole.

Mike misclubbed a few times on the first few holes, having seen the scorecard note that white flags were middle, red front, and blue back. Seems all the flags were white, regardless of placement. That's because John "Pflagstick" Pflum had some special flags made up for the occasion, and convinced Indian Springs to put them on all the flagsticks on Saturday.

Here's what was on the special flags.
(Mark Georg photo)

And here is Thor's reaction when he first saw it.
Mark had to lure him to tend the flag for a picture.
(Mark Georg video clip)

Other, smaller, "flagsticks" were of interest. As usual, Thor had arranged for a prize on every hole. Some of them were conventional, like longest drive on par-fives and closest to the pin on par-threes. But there was a "closest to the fairway bunker without being in it" on #12, most strokes to get to the green, and a couple of "shortest putt missed" holes -- things like that. And, by the time the last group got to them, most of the cards had "F.U. Stemmer" written on them. But Steve took it in stride, as the picture shows (Bret Douglas photo).

Playing with Patrick and Ron was interesting. They are big hitters! Most of the guys with a chance to win long drive holes were in groups ahead of us. But, on each of those holes, both Ron and Patrick were out beyond the long drive marker. Unfortunately, they were usually off the fairway. But on the ninth hole, the both cleared the former best easily (by at least 20 yards, maybe more) and dead center of the fairway.

Ah, yes, the elusive fairway. I certainlyh wasn't going to win any prizes for fairways hit. But Patrick must have set a new record for provisionals. And most of them went the same direction as the first ball. To be sure, we found most of the first balls -- but often didn't find the provisional. Among the incidents to add to the legend of "Provo Pat" are:
The eighteenth green sits halfway up the hill from the fairway to the clubhouse, giving it a perfect natural amphitheatre and making it a great finishing hole. All the golfers who had already finished sat on the hillside above the green and cheered in the remaining groups. Applause for hitting the green or making your putt. Groans for putts that missed. The occasional loud, "Get in the hole!" right after the putt was struck. And, of course, major consumption of Heinekens and similar brews.

After that was the awards lunch. Since they say a picture is worth a thousand words, let's do it with pictures and captions:

"Sir Plow" tallies up the skins.
(Dave Collard photo)

The loot! There were lots of very generous donations of prizes for the tenth anniversary events. There were even RSG-Ohio hats for those who had attended seven or more of the ten. And Toucan Golf donated enough RSG-Ohio travel cups to go around to everyone. (Remember that name, folks; they support us every year.)
(Dave Collard photo)

Annika received The Quaich and title "Premier Golfer of the Year" for the low gross score.
(Bret Douglas photo)

Mark Georg suffers a case of "premature jacket elation" (thanks, Annika; that's got to be the funniest line in ten years of RSG events). After he was named champion -- in a really classy move -- he asked for a check of the scores, since he didn't see how he could have won with three bad holes.
(Bret Douglas photo)

Turned out there was a "simple subtraction error", and Dave Osborne won the Coffeemaker trophy.
(Bret Douglas photo)

Dave accepts the maroon jacket from last year's champion Neal Bell. It fit like a huge bathrobe; when Super Dave walked back to his seat, you couldn't tell he was wearing golf shorts.
(Bret Douglas photo)

After lunch we headed for the "Lake nine"; Indian Springs' third nine is marvelous for Match Play Madness, because three of the later holes are excellent ball-losing opportunities:
All three figured in the drama I witnessed or participated in. But I'm getting ahead of the story...

Turned out we had an odd number of people for MPM. (We also had a number of odd people, but we always do.) That was handled by matching Neal Bell (a 10 index) against the better ball of Mark Georg (15) and me (14). Sounds fair; Neal should win unless Mark and I do a good job of "ham 'n' egging" Neal -- in which case we should win.

The first hole was decided by the tee shots; Neal and I both lost our drives right -- and lost the balls. Hole to Mark, and the World team.

The advantage swung back and forth all match, with nobody getting more than one up and most of the time all square. Neal made a couple of great putts: a 10-footer to halve the third and one of 25 feet to get an unlikely win on the sixth. He also got up-and-down on the fourth, to cover my par and halve the hole. I had my big moments on two of the great MPM holes:
The match ended with a quintessential MPM moment. It was all-square to the ninth hole, which we all played well. Mark and I were on the green in two, with Neal on the fringe. Mark got our par, and Neal chipped to 3 feet. If he makes the putt, he halves the match. But... The ninth green is among the trees and covered with leaves. True to MPM, we hit our putts over the leaves. But a leaf was resting against Neal's ball, right where the putter face had to strike it. It threw the putt off just enough to miss the hole and decide the match.

Speaking of MPM moments, here are a few classics:

Mike Dalecki has to play from the puddle in the fairway bunker.
(Dave Collard Photo)

The other Mike, Sir Plow, also had to deal with a bunker pond. Note the clever mud apron.
(Bret Douglas photo)

Ron Blanchard found there are worse things than bunker ponds.
(Dave Collard Photo)

And the best of all was on the island-green eighth. The Gary Hayenga-John Griffin match arrived with John one up; win the hole and the match is over. Gary put his tee shot in the lake, and John's was in the muck on the edge of the lake.

John got to the island, and hunted for his ball. Here he is, peering into the muck.
(Dave Collard Photo)

And here is what he saw.
(Dave Collard Photo)

Bravely, he took off his his right shoe and sock, and thwacked at the ball. On the third thwack, it popped out onto the greenside rough, and Gary conceded the hole and the match.
(Ron Blanchard video)

John "Swamp Thing" Griffin, with his mud epaulettes.
(Pat Inglis photo)

In the end, the World team prevailed by a point or two -- but there is no cup!

Dinner was at Philly's, just a short walk from the hotels. The band was The Bughounds, who recorded Thor's song "Match Play Madness." They were more to my liking than last night's band; they weren't particularly loud (we could converse even though they were playing). John Griffin won the story contest, with his story of the eighth hole. I don't have to recite it back to you; you've already seen the illustrated edition.

Sunday - Darby Creek

Sunday's farewell round was at Darby Creek. Our crowd was even more rowdy than usual on the first tee; we kept the starter in stitches for the three-quarters of an hour it took for all of us to tee off.

"Another one bites the dust." Tex has breakfast.
(Bret Douglas photo)

Pesky Canadians #1 (David Sneddon) and #2 (Patrick Inglis) prevailed in their annual international grudge match.
(Dave Collard photo)

Another pesky Canadian.
(Bret Douglas photo)

Annika played well all weekend, culminating in this near-ace on the eleventh hole on Sunday
(Bret Douglas photo)

I played with Mark Georg, Terry Easton, and Brent Hutto. We figured that the high and low handicap golfers against the two middles would be fair, so it was Terry and Brent against Mark and me. It didn't work out all that evenly. Terry went on a tear on the front nine, going just one over for a five-hole stretch and working his team to a four-hole advantage. The tear ended on the ninth, where Mark and I both had pars to win the hole, but the damage was done. We played the back nine pretty evenly but lost 4-and-3. Some other highlights:
By the time we finished, many of the others had already departed for home. Coops and I stopped for lunch, then hit the road at about 3pm. I pulled into my driveway at about 1:30 in the morning, tired but happy.

Thor, you did a great job! Thanks.