RSG-Ohio  2006

Dave Tutelman -- September 19, 2006

"You really know how to be a good host!"

Normally, this sort of compliment would warm the cockles of Thor's heart at RSG-Ohio, his annual golf-fest and RSG's most schmajor schmajor. However, coming from Steve Stemmer at the moment it did...  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

It started with traveling to Columbus. I'm used to Coops being late to our meeting place. But this was different. I was picking him up at his girlfriend's house. He didn't have his car. He will be there when I arrive!

Wrong! I stood at the door in the rain, listening to Nina's dogs bark at me, but nobody came to the door. Finally, about 40 minutes after I pulled up, Coops arrived -- in Nina's car. We got on the road late, as usual. But get on the road we did, and we had an easy and trouble-free trip to Columbus -- really Grove City south of Columbus.

While it was late when we got there, several of our guys were in the lobby -- most having just been thrown out of the Rooster at last call. We turned in for the night, while Mark Georg, Rob Pyle (now AKA Rockpile), and Steve Stemmer went looking for more drinks -- or at least more White Castle burgers.

(Click on the thumbnails to view the full-size pictures.)

Friday morning - Blacklick Woods

I've played Blacklick Woods a couple of times at previous RSG-Ohios. I like the course. I never score well on it, but it's a really nice muni and I can appreciate that. I played in the first group with Thor, Stemmer, and Bill-O. The three are big hitters, and were regularly making pars to my bogeys. It didn't take long for me to get used to it, and not let it bother me. At least I hit a really good drive on the first tee, with the gallery and the pressure.

Somewhere about the turn, Stemmer and the others started getting on my case about the fact that all my stories started with, "I was playing in a foursome at Hominy Hill..." Steve said that they sounded like the start of a bar joke. ("A priest, a rabbi, and two monkeys were in a foursome at Hominy Hill.") I told him that he could place his jokes where he liked to hang out, and I'd place mine...

BTW, what's the difference between golf and sky diving? In golf, you hear, "Thwack! Oh, shit!" And in sky diving...

Thor and Stemmer were playing a $2 (pre-inflation) Nassau for the round. Thor closed out the front nine pretty quickly. But Steve got hot on the back nine; he had that nine won by the time we got to the last tee, and was down just one for the round. Which brings us to the quote that started the article. Steve hit a hard, low hook into one of the pine trees way left of the fairway. It was dead, pure and simple. At which point, Thor hit a huge boomer way left -- over Steve's pine tree and behind a bunch of others. And just as dead. That was when Steve actually said, "You really know how to be a good host!" Steve won the hole, so no money changed hands for the Nassau.

Watching the rest of the groups come in, I learned two things:

Friday afternoon - Groveport Links

At Groveport, Jon Green finally showed up to play some golf. He had a long, sad story to tell. He had decided to fly because it took too long to drive. As it turned out, it took almost as long door-to-door by airplane. In fact, it took even longer once you include extra time waiting for his suitcase and golf clubs to show up. The suitcase finally arrived Friday morning, which was why he missed the morning round. The golf clubs (and his golf shoes) were MIA for the whole weekend. He played with rented and borrowed clubs all weekend. Friday afternoon he played barefoot (well, flip-flops to walk, but he hit his shots barefoot). Then he bought golf shoes (with airline money, I hope) for the rest of the events. But they didn't fit perfectly, and he finished the weekend playing as barefoot as he started.

I played with Rockpile, Chuck Bernard, and Neal Bell. We were a motley crew, with Neal and Rob being big hitters while Chuck and I were well short of them -- and struggling to keep the ball in the fairway. I managed to scrape around the front nine with no pars but two birdies. In fact, one might imagine I was striking the ball well based on the fact that I was even par on the par-fives (bogey, birdie, par, par). But I was struggling with the driver for most of the round.

Late in the front nine, you have to cross a bridge that is held up by cable, which sways and bounces with every step you take. Crossing it is mildly exciting. Crossing it at the same time as other people on foot is exciting -- more than mildly. Now bear in mind that we were all walking, and Chuck and Rob are big guys. The experience was a real adventure.

(Steve Hall photo)
 The eighteenth is a great finishing hole. It's a long, curving par-5, with the third shot over a pond and between the trees. The hole turns so sharply right at the end that you must put it well toward the end of the fairway to have a look at the green. At the left is a picture of the approach shot from behind the green.

But it's a great finisher for an RSG event for another reason. Behind the green is a hill and then the clubhouse. The groups that have finished can perch on the hill and be the gallery for those still on the course. Lots of clapping for good shots, "ooooh"ing for shots that find the bunkers or the creek, and an un-golflike amount of trash talking.

I managed to put it over the pond in regulation, hit a nice pitch to five feet below the hole (applause) and made the par putt (more applause). Fun stuff!

We had dinner at the Red Robin, where a good time was had by all. Afterwards, Chuck served samples of his homebrew beer at the Microtel, where some of us were staying. (He is a serious hobby brewer, and has his judge's credentials for beer competitions.)

Saturday morning - The Main Event

The Main Event was at the Players Club at Foxfire. This is a very tough course where we have played at least two previous RSG-Ohio tournament rounds. When we arrived, there was a threesome teeing off immediately before our over-an-hour's worth of foursomes. If they weren't aware of the huge gallery watching them start, they certainly were after the first hit his drive. There was a lot of applause for the drive. They smiled and enjoyed it. The next two expected the audience reaction -- and got it.

Then it was our turn. Super Dave announced every golfer as he took the tee, just as they do at PGA tournaments. Two introductions particularly stick in my memory:
I played the tournament round in the next-to-last group, a threesome with Terry Easton and Keith Torrance. By the end of nine, it was clear that none of us had a chance, so we just enjoyed the challenge of the course. My own goal was to play a clean round, which included not drowning any balls in obvious places, and keeping the ball between the trees on the forested holes. I would have considered breaking 100 a minor victory, given my history at Players.

For the first seven holes, I did a decent job of it. No lost balls, and most of my mistakes were short game errors. A prime example is the sixth, a par-4 dogleg around a pond. Two years ago, I lost 4 balls and took a twelve on the hole. This time, I put a 5-wood on the fairway from the tee. I was 160 wet yards from the green. Instead of risking a perfectly-struck 6-iron over the pond, I hit a half pitching wedge into the fairway less than 100 yards from the green, then a sand wedge to the green. Unfortunately, I three-putted. That's what my friend Alan Gopin calls "A Perfect Inning: three up and three down."

It started to fall apart on the eighth tee, where I made a bad swing and drowned the ball. I wound up with a bogey 6 on the second ball, but the stroke-and-distance penalty made it a triple-bogey 8. The ninth hole was even worse; I played to a conservative plan and executed it well -- but the plan was flawed. I laid up my second shot; hitting to the left where the pond didn't encroach as much on the fairway, I aimed at being about 120 yards from the green. I was wrong about the shape of the hole; the pond wrapped around the left side of fairway, which ended at 140 yards, just as it did on the right. So my nice, conservative layup was very wet. I played the rest of the hole well, but got another triple.

After that, I sort of lost interest in playing solid, focused golf. My scores the back nine weren't any worse than the front (actually a stroke better), but I wasn't really concentrating on scoring.

Keith was making a lot of pars, but having enough bad holes that, as a low handicapper, he knew he was also out of the running.

Terry was also struggling more than I'm used to seeing him. It came to a head on the eleventh hole, a hellish par-3 with 30 yards of pond in front and a very shallow green. Terry's tee shot splashed in the pond. He dropped a bit back from the pond, about 50 yards from the pin. No problem; Terry has the best precision wedge shot that I've ever seen from this distance. I figure he'll have a pretty easy putt for his fourth shot. Much to my surprise, the ball splashed in the pond well short of the green. This was repeated twice more, for a total of four drowned balls on this hole. On his fifth swing (his ninth shot, counting penalty strokes), he finally got the distance right; with a resounding bang, the ball slam-dunked into the hole, never touching the green -- nothin' but net!

The story should have ended there. But it didn't; it actually got worse. The ball didn't stay in the cup. It hit bottom so cleanly that it bounced out and landed a couple of inches from the hole. Terry picked it up, ignoring my suggestion that he tap it in and get the ruling later. (Hey, I just realized that I gave advice; disqualify me, too.) He was sure that:
He was, sad to say, wrong on both counts. The ball must come to rest below ground for play to be over. He would have needed to tap it in to finish the hole. And the maximum penalty for too many clubs is 4 strokes for the entire round, not DQ. But picking up the ball without holing out was a DQ offense, so now he really was disqualified.

I got through the back nine with not too much skill and more luck than I deserved. Consider:
As I mentioned, I was in one of the last groups. When I got to the tee on #18, a long straight par-4, I could already hear the RSG crowd gathered around the green. It must have pumped me up, because I hit a good drive and a good 3-wood to put me a few yards in front of the green. And, for the second day in a row, a pitch and a putt got me a finishing par in front of a gallery. Turned out I needed the par; when I added up my score later, I found I had indeed broken 100 -- by a single stroke.

We adjourned to the grill for beer, barbeque, and prizes. After Tex entered all the scorecards into his computer, the results were:

(Steve Hall photo)

Kelly Newell was the Ladies Champion, as you can see by the distinctive winner's necklace she is wearing. Actually, this result was no surprise; Neal Bell couldn't talk his wife into competing this year and Gayle Stultz didn't make it, so the title was uncontested. What was a surprise was that she also won the long drive prize on the par-5 fifth hole. As I observed yesterday, her solid drive and a red-tee advantage put her out there with the longest of the guys.

For the first time ever, there was a sweep of the men's trophies. Shawn Beachy won both the Coffeemaker Trophy (for the low net) and The Quaich (for the low gross score), along with the coveted Maroon Jacket. (My wife goes into giggles and then hysterics every time she sees that jacket.)

Shawn was actually two under par through fifteen holes, and held it together well enough to come home with a 74. Amazing for this tough a track.

Saturday afternoon - Match Play Madness

(For an explanation of Match Play Madness, see this link.)

Most of the best stories this year come from MPM on Saturday afternoon. Most of the best stories every year come from MPM on Saturday afternoon. Here are the ones that I remember. Some are accompanied by visual aids...

  • I played in the first group off the tee. It was Mark Georg vs Neal Bell, and Super Dave vs me. My most vivid memory of the round came at the fifth hole, a long par-3.
  • Super put his tee shot in the middle of the green, while the rest of us missed the green. I missed it pretty badly, leaving myself in the rough well to the right, in among some small trees and hitting over a bunker to the green. Dave (who was in a cart -- wimp!) scooted up to my ball and then came back to me to ask, "Want to concede?" I told him no.

    I proceeded to pitch to the green 12 feet from the hole. Dave's putt came up 8 feet short. I made my par putt and said, "Concede, my ass!" Dave missed his, and I won the hole. In fact, of the four of us, Dave was the only one who didn't get a par there.

    Super wants me to point out that he did win the match. It went to the last putt on the last hole. We have to do it again next year.

  • John Yoshi put his first shot of MPM into the parking lot. In fact, he had a bad lie in the parking lot. But, true to the spirit of Match Play MadnessŪ, he took a practice swing (yes, it produced sparks), then hit his ball back to the fairway.
  • The golf gods were so amused by this that they ordered an instant replay on the second hole. This time John put it on the paved road left of the fairway -- and recovered in similar fashion. In fact, he managed to halve both "road holes".

(Joseph Dean Photo)
Here's Yoshi's trouble club -- after the troubles.

The finishing hole (#9 at the Foxfire course) is perfect for MPM. It's a 130-yard par-3, mostly carry over water, and with big bunkers in front and a small one in back as well. There is plenty of room around it for a gallery to watch the later groups arrive.

Since we were the first group, I had the good fortune to be there for all the finishing-hole hijinks. Here's a sampling...

  • Neal Bell is a riot during MPM. He lets it all out, and taunts anybody in earshot. At the last hole, he stood in front of the flag, daring Kelly on the tee to "make my day!"

  • Mike Dalecki hit his ball into the back sand trap. Neal, an Ohio player, tried to put some extra pressure on Wisconsin's Dalecki; he offered, "Get up and down from there and I'll buy your dinner." Mike did. I don't know if Neal paid for his dinner.

  • When David Sneddon hit over the green to the rough where we were watching, Kelly thought it would be cool to behave like a PGA Tour gallery and crowd around the ball forming a "gauntlet" in the direction of the hole.
  • Of course the goal soon became to provide as much distraction as possible. It may have been effective; Snedds completely chunked the chip. (He claimed afterwards that he stubbed it intentionally, for the entertainment value. That's his story and he's sticking to it.)

  • A little later, Snedds "took one for the team". Rob Pyle's shot airmailed the green, bounced once in the rough, and glanced off David's head -- stopping there, pretty close to the green. World team Captain Koenig pointed out that Snedds had made Rob's chip a lot easier by preventing the ball from bounding down the hill and into the trees.

The mood got goofier as gallery accumulated.

I won't tell you what trash-talk prompted this muscle match between the two least likely candidates in the field.

Would you buy a used golf club from either of these guys?

When all the groups had finished, Ohio and The World were tied. Some wag called, "Playoff!" Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, so...

Thor challenged Tex (as the captains) to a playoff. Obviously it would be a replay of the last hole. Two volunteer caddies picked up the bags, and they marched back to the tee. The first playoff hole was halved, and the gallery insisted that the caddies compete in the next playoff hole. So they went back to the tee and Scott Newell (World) played John Pflum (Ohio). Scott had canned his bogey, and Pflagstick was left with an eight-footer for the win. See what happened in this Patrick Inglis video...

Saturday night dinner was in Hoggy's. The service was confused and spotty, but we were having too much fun to let it bother us.
Thor won the storytelling contest, with the tale of Yoshi's paved-golf adventures.
We were joined at dinner by Amy and Jeannie Pflum, who had an exciting day at the ZooQuarium. Jeannie met Jack Hanna, and had an octopus painted on her cheek.

I was not among those who sampled Grove City's apparently thriving nightlife; 73 walking holes in two days strongly suggested a good night's sleep. But the next morning I heard from those who experienced a lot of last calls -- including one where they thought they were last-call-proof. A few quotes from the parking lot chatter:

Sunday - Phoenix Links

It was very foggy in the morning, and the course insisted on delaying the start. We waited an hour and a half for the tee. In the meantime, we found all sorts of ways to amuse ourselves. One of the more creative was crazy putting contests on the practice green. Well, the practice rug. Sorta like "horse" with a golf ball. The climax was when the contestants had to make a putt using Dalecki's normal putting stance. One golfer actually injured himself trying.

Thor had his sons there for the Sunday round, Joey (15) and Jacob (12) -- see photo.

When we finally started our round, I was in the second group with Sir Marcus, Super Dave, and Jake Collard. Super and Mark had a match going. Dave quickly got to 2 up, then lost the next four or five holes to Mark. He was way down when he had to leave after nine holes. Not only did he lose the match, but he was consistently out-driven by a pre-teen. (BTW, so was I.)

For the back nine, we decided that Mark -- who was playing very well -- would play against Jake and my better ball. The match ended all square. At age 12, Jacob contributed a lot to the team. In fact, he had the best tee shot at the scary seventeenth, and won the hole to put us dormie. (Mark won the last hole to square the match.)

Again, as a member of an early group, I got to watch the other groups come in. We got a little panicked when we saw Rockpile lying flat on his back in the fairway. But his playing partners didn't seem concerned, so we assumed it was OK. Later he explained that, at one point in the middle of the round, he had felt really sleepy. (No surprise, I think he was the one with the "minivan" quote.) So he lay down at the next tee and napped for about three minutes. It worked so well that, for the rest of the round, he incorporated a cat nap into his pre-shot routine.

After everybody was finished, we trekked the long walk back to the parking lot and said our fond farewells -- after the best RSG-Ohio ever. No, I'm not sure why it was the best, but everybody agreed that it was.

Thanks, Thor!