RSG-Ohio  2007

Dave Tutelman -- September 21, 2007

It's actually scary. RSG-Ohio is just expected to be good. And it always is. Yes, it was a 1200-mile round-trip drive for me. (Not alone fortunately; all but a couple of hundred miles I had my trusty co-pilot Fred Stluka with me.) But the drive was well worth it. The golf was great. The fellowship was great. I'd say the partying was great -- but I don't know firsthand, so you'll have to take the word of others, as I did.

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

Friday morning - Champions

Before the Friday morning round, it doesn't matter what the course is; the scene is always the same. People who haven't seen one another in a year greeting and catching up. Practice putts and cameras everywhere. New friends being made. (That's how Rock got his nickname last year.) And Thor herding everyone in the general direction of the first tee because we're all ignoring the fact that the starter is waiting for us.

That said... Champions is actually part of the Columbus Parks Deparment -- a true muni. And a really nice layout. There are a couple of unusual holes that are a bit out of character, but for the most part it's a solid, challenging design. And even the "windmill holes" are better than you'll find at most municipal courses. Hey! I just checked the facts, and the designer is Robert Trent Jones, Sr. He's also the architect for my favorite home course, Hominy Hill.

I played with Terry Easton, Mark Georg, and Patrick Inglis, the Sun Mountain Cavalry (photo by Dave Collard). Pat and I reminded one another that this course is where we first met, and where we played our first round together. Being clubmakers, we had quite a bit of correspondence behind us before we were finally face to face at RSG-Ohio 2000. Turns out we both have quite a number of Dynacraft clubs in our bag. Interesting, because:
  • Dynacraft really is no more. They were bought out by Hireko, which still sells a few components under the Dynacraft name. But all our clubs are pre-buyout.
  • One of the last things I did on Thursday before turning off the computer and departing for Ohio was answer some email from Jeff Summitt, who was the chief technical officer for Dynacraft and is now the CTO for Hireko -- and who probably designed those heads that Pat and I have in our bags. I have been in touch with Jeff via the Internet since...
  • The very first RSG-Ohio! That event kicked off with a tour of the Dynacraft facility outside of Columbus. At that time, Jeff found a place in his busy schedule to sit down with us for an hour of Q&A.

But back to 2007, and our round at Champions. There was at least one other coincidence. All four of us had Sun Mountain Speed-Carts. Here's the Sun Mountain Cavalry at play.

Terry insisted on playing from the blue tees. He made it work for him, but there's no way I could have. My game basically sucked. It was worst at the beginning of the weekend, but I never really got it going for more than a few holes at a time. I didn't break 90 once all weekend. (Well, I probably did Saturday afternoon -- but counting cumulative strokes in Match Play Madness is a capital offense. Besides, it was only nine holes.)

Mark and Patrick hit some big drives. Well, all of Patrick's drives are big. If they stay straight, he has a good shot at birdie. If not....

Mark's problem was different. Many of Champions' greens have "elephant grass" fairly close. (That's what they call that stuff here in NJ. Think of "native fescue" on steriods. Actually, probably more like a cross between native fescue and ripe corn.) Mark's approach shots flirted with the elephant grass entirely too often.

We were among the early groups, so we hung around a bit to watch a few groups come in. Then to the snack bar for lunch before driving over to Kyber Run.

Friday afternoon - Kyber Run

What a great group for fun at Kyber Run: Thor, Debazon, and Rockpyle. It doesn't get any better than this. (Well, thinking over the weekend, it doesn't get any worse either. Where does such a great crowd come from, anyway?) We all saw our games come and go: great one hole and really bad the next. And sometimes not even hole-by-hole, but shot-by-shot.

A few high points of the round:
  • When I think of Kyber Run, I think of the par-3 fourth hole. (That's Deb teeing off on the fourth.) It's a full swing with a 19* hybrid, all carry over water, and nowhere to bail. The only other time I played the hole, I parred it -- but the very thought of that tee shot terrifies me. Not the swing thought you really want. I got a snowman this time.
  • I thought I had fixed things on the next hole. The first couple of shots were pretty good. But my approach airmailed the green -- badly. I plugged up at the top of the bunker behind the green. This has got to be the worst sand lie I've ever experienced. I was at the back of the bunker, in a steep downhill stance. The wedge has to dig into the sand to move the ball, and there was no room behind the ball for the wedge to go. The only choice that made sense was to hit out of the trap uphill, then pitch back down to the green over the bunker. Fortunately, it worked. (Dave Collard video.)
  • The hole after that was a 150-yard par-3 over water. I laid up. I didn't plan it that way, but my topped dribbler off the tee stopped on the forward tee box, giving me a smooth wedge to the green. Easy bogey.
  • Deb wasn't as lucky. She also suffered an inadvertent layup, but we never found the ball in the short rough. We all saw it land there, and the rough wasn't all that deep. Its whereabouts will forever remain a mystery. We do know where she drowned her second ball, though.
  • Thor and Rob took more conventional routes on that hole. Thor missed the green left -- where another pond was lurking. He was able to find and play it. Rob put his tee shot on the green -- and three-putted for another easy bogey. Actually that hole, as intimidating as it appears from the tee, is really pretty easy. We just made it look hard.
  • I got very lucky on the ninth hole. It's a short par-4, where the tee shot has to carry about 130 yards over a pond. I hit a flat skimmer that splashed in the pond -- and skipped. It disappeared into the cattails on the far side. I hit a provisional, in case my ball was in the hazard. (Actually, the USGA rules say that you can't hit a provisional in this case. The USGA must really love slow play.) The provisional was fine -- just a wedge from the green. But -- to my amazement -- my first ball had ripped through the cattails and was sitting in the light rough off the fairway. A nice 7-iron put me on the green for a par.
  • #13 is a long par-4, where a stream meanders twice across the fairway. Getting the ball on the clubface pretty much guarantees clearing the first meander. And you aren't likely to hit it far enough so the second meander is a problem for the drive. Well, I won't anyway. Rob killed his drive down the left side, and it went through the fairway into the creek. Somtimes bad things happen to good shots.
  • The last hole is a relatively short par-5. Thor put it on the green in two and just missed his eagle putt. Don't you love to finish a round with a tap-in birdie?

The staff at Hoggy's in Gahanna should be the trainers for the staff at their Grove City place. Unlike last year, the service was every bit as good as the food. And we gave them a harder time this year. We didn't arrive on time. John Nives changed his order after the first orders started arriving. Coops went off-menu. (I should talk! The next morning at breakfast, I went off-menu... at McDonalds.) The staff rose to every challenge with competence and cheerfulness. Thor even got the three staffers assigned to us to pose for pictures. The horseplay in the middle picture can be explained by the fact that the waitress is the waiter's older sister.

Saturday morning - The Main Event

Saturday dawned clear and cold at the Chapel Hill golf course. Very cold! How cold was it? (Insert your own favorite punch line here. Mine has something to do with a dog frozen to a fire hydrant.) The actual number was 41F. Suffice it to say that several people were wearing ski hats, and everybody who had them was wearing winter golf gloves. OTOH, enough people (myself included) were wearing shorts. And Rancho Bob Patterson (see Rob Pyle photo) used hot design -- and his wife Brenda -- to keep warm. BTW, while Brenda didn't play golf, she walked the course with a camera most rounds. Cool lady!

I played in the last group, consisting of Super Dave, Mike Dalecki, and Coops. The three of them had a good round. I, on the other hand, racked up some big numbers in the middle of the round. (I was 11 over par on the three-hole stretch from nine to eleven.)

I guess the law of conservation of strokes in a foursome seems to work. Super won the maroon jacket. I think Coops was second or third. Mike D tied Tex for low gross, but Tex won The Quaich in a scorecard match. Tex said they should chip in to buy me dinner that night. They didn't agree. Oh well, see if I help them next year.

And I can! History shows that, in order to win the Coffeemaker at Chapel Hill, you have to play in my foursome. Check it out!

Anyway, Mike started with a very solid game, and Super was encouraging him and pushing the rest of us to do likewise. "He's the only guy in our foursome with enough game to win." And it looked that way until the seventh hole. (That is a brutal hole. It's amazing how many of the Saturday night stories involved #7.) We all had pretty good drives, with three of us in the fairway and Coops with a straightforward layup pitch from the right rough. (Layup on a par-4? Yep! It's long, and there's a lake in front.) Mike was well down the right-hand side of the fairway, giving him a makeable go-for-it. And he did. His five-wood was high enough and [probably] long enough, but carried too much fade. We heard it hit trees well to the right of the green. He hit a provisional; it looked like a repeat, but not as far right and no sound effects from the lumber. We only found the second ball, and it was not in a spot for an easy up-and-down. It took a couple more than that. At that point, Super stopped assuming Mike was our "horse", and played for himself. He wound up having enough game after all -- four birdies in one round at Chapel Hill has to qualify -- and Mike would have won low gross if he could have found one more stroke somewhere.

The eleventh is another hard hole. But I made it look a lot harder than it really was. In fact, I won the "prize" for that hole, which was "most strokes to get to the green." I took nine. Here's how it happened:
  • Tee shot hooked into the swampy junk on the left. Don't even look for it. Lying 2, and not even off the tee.
  • My 3-wood is shafted to hit low ropes. Sometimes that's effective (like my approach shot on the final hole of the weekend). It is not effective when the forward tee box is elevated and directly in front of my tee box. I hit the face of it. More accurately, I hit a branch that was lying where my ball struck. Stopped it dead, in some very thick rough. Lying 3.
  • Managed to gouge a short iron out to the fairway, but not very far down the fairway. Lying 4.
  • I was still outside 200 yards to an elevated green, with water hazards in front. Not a high-percentage shot. So I made a 9-iron layup to the perfect spot for a wedge in. Lying 5.
  • Someone in an earlier group had also decided that was a perfect place for a layup. He got there first. I was in his divot. I tried to get a clean wedge on it anyway. Did not succeed, and the ball wound up in the hazard. Pulled it out and dropped behind the hazard. Lying 7.
  • Now I can't hit a full wedge; I have to keep the shot under tree limbs. I decided to bump something into the face of the steep slope up to the green, and hope it bounced up and onto the green. Good effort and a good shot, but it stayed in the rough on the slope, not far from where it struck. Lying 8.
  • Perfect flop shot onto the green, one foot from the hole. Lying 9. Made the putt for a nifty moose.

Speaking of prizes, we saw some interesting scribbles on one of the long drive cards. (Being the last group, we were collecting the cards.) Doug Rich's name appeared. On the next line was, "Sorry, dear. Deb Rich." Unfortunately, Deb's drive didn't stand up either.
There was a stumble in Super Dave's march to victory. On the long, wide-open par-5 fourteenth, he made a total mishit of his approach after a good drive and great second shot. The ball plunged into the hazard in front of the green. But it was not in the water; it was sitting on the rocks. It was a true Jean Van De Velde moment. While three of us stood there biting our tongues (to avoid giving advice like, "Dammit, just drop behind the hazard and take the penalty stroke!"), Super climbed down onto the rocks to hit the ball. The first swing, the clubhead clattered off the rocks without ever touching the ball. Three swings later, the ball finally reached the green. Even with this hiccup, he still shot a net 65 to win the trophy.

Do you want to know Super's secret for victory? Hey, he's a two-time winner; there must be a secret. No, I don't think it's sandbagging. It's intimidation. Specifically, he intimidates the ball. By the end of the round, the ball wouldn't dare disappoint him. Throughout the round, he would hit a ball and mutter some expletive while the ball was in the air. Never, "Be right!" instead, "#@&**! That's too short."

Prime example: The par-3 sixteenth hole. He hit the ball, and complained -- while it was still on the way up -- that it was way short. It wasn't. It almost damaged the hole when it landed. And it was high and pure enough that it stopped less than a foot from the hole. For a few seconds, we thought Dave would be buying our drinks.

My opinion is that the ball really wasn't hit hard enough to reach the green. But Super made it clear to the ball that there would be dire consequences if it didn't, and the ball responded. Any questions?

Saturday afternoon - Match Play Madness

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

This time Super Dave and I moved from the last group to the first. This was a repeat of last year's match. We shared a foursome with Gary Hayenga and John Griffin.

Both matches had interesting swings. John was up 3 with 4 holes to play. No-brainer, right? Wrong! Gary won the next three holes, and they went to the final tee all square. Gary's approach shot sliced and splashed, so John's safe shot (no need to be a hero any more) won the match.

In my match, Dave was up one when we got to the fateful seventh hole. I hit the fairway and then a good layup. Dave's drive got a long roll on the cart path -- enough to tempt him to go for it. He missed the green left, exactly where the second pond lay. He told me to pick it up; the match was all square. I thanked him, but insisted that the spirit of Match Play Madness required him to watch me clear the pond. At the same time, John and Gary were urging him not to concede the hole; his ball might still be found.

As things worked out, we allowed -- in fact encouraged -- him to retract the concession. (Not proper under the Rules of Golf. But there are no rules in MPM.) I hit a conservative shot guaranteed to clear the pond, and was in the rough considerably behind the green. We actually found Super's ball, dry but in a difficult spot -- down in the rough and right next to a tree. He managed to knock the ball near the green without breaking his club on the tree. We halved the hole, and he was still up -- rather than the all square that would have been the result of a concession. I tried for too much on the eighth hole, and he won the match there.

Here are more visual highlights from Match Play Madness...

Bill-O attempts a dangerous shot. Fortunately, his ball cleared the rock.
(Dave Collard photo)

Having survived that shot, Bill decided this MPM-shot stuff is easy. Here's the next challenge he gave himself.
(Dave Collard photo)

Meanwhile, Thor was having his own MPM moment. He actually got this ball to the green in spite of its being tangled with the rake.
(Dave Collard photo)

On the fateful seventh hole, Mark Georg's ball nestled down in the rough at the edge of the pond.
(Rob Pyle photo)

Mark decided he was not out of the hole.
(Rob Pyle photo)

"I think I've wet myself."
(Rob Pyle photo)

Ever wonder why it's called "Chapel Hill"? That's the clubhouse you're looking at. There's a great veranda for watching groups come in. But the RSG crowd prefers to gather on the hill...

...Like this. The slope behind the green provides a wonderful amphitheatre for watching -- and a nightmare downhill chip if you play the over-the-pond shot long and "safe".

Here's what the crowd sees from the hillside. Nice finishing hole? You bet!

The final grouping of the day arrived at the final hole. The match was Debazon vs Thor's son Jacob Collard (age 13, and a wonderful golfer for his age; I played in his foursome last year, and he outdrove me almost every hole). Jacob won the last hole to square the match -- and to square the Ohio vs World points.

Last year we also had a tie, so now we knew what to do. Appoint a golfer from each side for a one-hole playoff. It was decided that Jacob and Deb would be the representatives. Rather than repeat a drive and a layup (waste of time, and all out of sight of the gallery), they dropped about 130 yards from the green and played it as a par-3.

Deb's ball never made it across the lake, so it was up to Jake. With his trusty caddy's advice (Dad, who else), he took one more club than he needed -- and parked the ball in the gallery behind the green.

Remember, this is MPM. "Play the course as you find it." In this case, the spectators and their equipment constituted "the course" as Jacob found it. The people had the presence not to move (flinch maybe, but not move) while Jacob chipped from the golf bag that his ball was against.

A couple of strokes later, his ball was on the green and he was lining up a putt to seal the Ohio victory. Pay no attention to those cameramen; Jacob insists they were not a distraction, even though they tried to be. (Both play for the World team.)

The putt was center-cut all the way.
(Rob Pyle photo)

 The competitors after the match.

That night, we had dinner -- and the story contest -- at the Mexican restaurant near the hotels. This year it was called El Acapulco. Next year, it will probably have a new owner and be called something else. (I hope so. The food was much better in previous years, IMHO.) After dinner, much of the crowd went next door to the Ruckmoor (yes, it is a dive) for the rest of the evening.

David Hayes found a novel way to join us, even if he couldn't be there in person. He sent his picture, along with a substantial check to establish a tab at the bar. Here he is, raising a beer with Vander Pflum.
(Dave Collard photo)
He even managed to meet a cutie in the bar. Oh wait. That's Brenda Patterson. (La Rancherita?) I still think I was right in the first place.
(Dave Collard photo)

Sunday - Clover Valley

Sunday at RSG-Ohio! Always a fun day. And we had Clover Valley, a perfectly beautiful course, as our playground. Some of the pictures below are of the people, and some just feature the picturesque course...

The Pesky Canadians came in uniform for the annual Sunday International Match.

Snedds even wore the moose antlers to play golf.

The US team consisted of Thor (shown driving from the first tee) and Pflum.

I played with Neal Bell, Tex, and Fred Stluka.

Here's the second hole at Clover Valley.

Pflum gives a sand-shot clinic. Perfect form.
(Dave Collard photo)

Thor, match play madness was yesterday. Is the penalty stroke really that important?
(John Pflum photo using Thor's camera)

Oops, I forgot. There is nothing more important than golf, and little more important than the International Match.
(John Pflum photo using Thor's camera) 

The twelfth hole is a really pretty par-3.

Between the frost delay and the five-hour round, we didn't finish until ten minutes to three. Since Fred and I had to hit the road no later than 3pm, we bid a hasty goodby to everyone near the last green and left. Our farewells and apologies to those still out on the course that we couldn't tell in person. (I didn't get home until after 1am.)

Thanks, Thor! It was great.