Brent greets Thor, Fred,
(Rob Pyle photo)I did say very early wake-up call, didn't I? That's 5:30, so we could make the 7:30 tee time.
No fog this morning, so nobody missed the entrance to Split Rock like last time. We got there and found people renewing acquaintances and making new friends. For my part, I finally got to meet -- and even play golf with --Warren Montgomery.
I finally got to meet Warren
and Carla MontgomeryWarren and I worked together 30 years ago. But we did it completely by teleconference; I was in New Jersey and Warren in Illinois. I don't think we ever met face-to-face during the entire half-year project. (With telecommunications and the Internet today, I have lots of projects like that; but it was a rarity in 1980.) Anyway, I got to spend the morning with Warren and Carla Montgomery, and thouroughly enjoyed it. Carla has got to be the fastest player I've ever met; probably even faster than Thor. When it's her turn, it seems the shot has already been hit.
I suppose I should have a better handle on whether Carla plays faster than Thor, since we played in his group. The first group, of course! Thor always is in the first group off the tee at RSG-Ohio. Actually that should not be allowed; it might let rain fall on the later groups. But that was not a problem this weekend.
Chuck Bernard chips while
Rock fixes a ball mark and
Mark Georg watches.Split Rock is a good warm-up course. It has enough trouble to be challenging, but sufficiently wide open that it isn't too punishing. (But maybe I'm just speaking by comparison with The Players Course, where we spent our Saturday rounds. Its picture is in the dictionary, next to the word "punishing".) I had a lot of trouble finding my swing, and racked up a 47 on the front nine. My driver wasn't too much better on the back nine -- I didn't hit a single fairway the entire round -- but I found the rest of my game. Wound up with a 39 on the back. Bill-O described that as, "You brought your Ray-Ray game. First Ray Charles then Ray Floyd."
We had lunch at Split Rock, then drove the couple of miles to Foxfire for the afternoon round.
Rock, Mark, and Thor
Patrick tees off first hole
(Rob Pyle Photo)We had finished the morning round pretty quickly. Even with a lunch break, we arrived at Foxfire with almost two hours left before our tee time. So we tailgated! We now have quite a few accomplished homebrewers in the crowd. Rock had brought the biggest cache of his specialty craft, though Mark also had some and Chuck had brought samples from his favorite microbrewery.
We finally did get the whole crew off the tee and around Foxfire. But it took a while. I played in the last group, and I'm afraid we were slow. The crew was Rock Pyle, Gary Hayenga, Mark Georg, and me. The last three holes of the course have so many places that can slow you down, especially #16 and #18 -- and we found all of them. And in case you wondered about that agonized scream from the eighteenth green as my group was finishing -- well, you can just continue to wonder.
(Rob Pyle Photo) Hmmm! This can't be good. Rock and Kern do not look like happy campers. And a jumper cable, too. Best I can figure is that Rock's beer fridge drained his battery while he was off with us on the golf course. ("Beer fridge?!? That's a plastic ice chest.")
|When we finally all got collected from the course, we
repaired to the Red Robin in Grove City for dinner. They don't take
reservations; you have to have someone there to hold a table. So Thor
instructed Coops, who didn't play in the afternoon, to show up around
4pm and hold us a table. Yeah, we weren't going to be there before
around seven, but certainly a man of The Senator's talents would not
have much trouble filibustering the waitress. Of course, it didn't work
out that way, but we didn't wait long to be seated.
The Pflum family joined us, having missed the day for a family funeral. Unfortunately, they did not stay for the golf on the weekend; there was another family tragedy and they had to return to Cincinnati. Our thoughts and good wishes are with them; John's brother Steve is having a very rough time now, and needs all the support they and we can give.
A few pictures from the Red Robin:
Thor and Fred are in
the first group to tee offThe first tee time almost came before dawn, as you can see from the picture on the left. There were not many pictures from the tournament round. Everybody had their hands full with The Players Course, which just plain beat us up.
For example, I play most familiar courses in the 80s, and I've played this course more than once. But the course got to me, and I didn't break 100 -- not even close. I also lost a bunch of balls, something I don't do as a rule. Even when I played it safe, things went wrong. A classic case was holes #6 and #7, around a lake.
On the sixth hole, I didn't go for a long approach shot over water. I didn't have a very good tee shot, and would have had to carry over 150 yards. Not that difficult, but I played safe and hit a full wedge to the fairway about 50 yards from the green. That left me a half-wedge in, and I hit it cleanly, nice and high -- and with not enough on it. The ball drowned anyway, even after a perfect layup and an approach that wasn't muffed, just not hit hard enough. I didn't let that happen again; my next shot was over the green and into the bunker. I wound up with a quadruple-bogey 8 on the hole.
The seventh is a par-3 over another arm of the same lake. The further right you hit it, the more you have to carry. I aimed at the left edge of the green, and took one extra club to be sure it stayed dry. And it did stay dry, for now. I hit into a horrible lie in the left-side bunker. I had nowhere to stand, and was reaching way down for the ball. Wound up picking it clean; it flew the green and went back into the lake. Another big number.
I spent much time in the sand in that round, and also in the woods. Sometimes I found and played my ball in the woods, and sometimes I played my provisional. By the time I got to what Thor calls "the holes from hell", my game was so inconsistent I went quintuple-bogey, par, quintuple-bogey, par. Ouch!
That par 5 on the fifteenth is worth talking about. For a change, Brent and I both hit really good drives. In fact, Brent got the longest drive prize on that hole! (What would you have bet on that?) I was right behind him, and hit an even better 3-wood down to the flat in front of the river. Then I waited there for the rest of my foursome to get out of all sorts of trouble; remember, this is still a "hole from hell". I put my nine-iron on the green and two-putted for a by-the-book par.
Chuck Bernard had his camera at the final green and took pictures of most of the pairings as they finished:
|On the way to the clubhouse, I asked Paul Osad how he
had done in his first RSG-Ohio. (Paul joined our merry band this year
when Chuck dragged him to RSG-Pittsburgh.) He shrugged and echoed what
we all were saying -- that the course had gotten the better of him, and
he hadn't broken 100. Then we were all in the pub and ordering their
famous pulled pork sandwiches...
Gentlemen, start your engines!
There were more folks riding
at MPM than we usually see
(Rob Pyle photo)It's after the awards lunch, so this must be... wait for it... Match Play Madness! I was in a fun group: Coops vs Fred, and Deuce vs me. Fred and Deuce were honoray Ohioans, so when Fred and I won our matches the two pairings resulted in "no blood".
The high point of my match with Joe was the par-5 fifth hole. We both hit good drives just short of the fairway bunkers, and both aimed our second shot at a small bunker beyond the dogleg left. I hit mine perfectly -- too perfectly. It bounced beyond the fairway and into the bunker. Joe, from the fairway, came back with a perfect match-play counter; he put a short iron on the green ten feet below the hole. Sure par, and a possible birdie. From the sand, I was able to get the ball into the vicinity of the green, but I had a downhill lie in the rough, with about ten yards of rough in front of me, to a green that runs away. Fortunately, it was a pretty good lie in short, wiry rough. I hit down through it with a lob wedge, with almost perfect weight. It carried the rough, landed softly on the fringe, and trickled downhill toward the hole. It just missed going in for a birdie (the would have been a real turnaround), and stopped five feet below the hole. Joe putted first, and just missed; a gimme for his par. But he had shown me the line, and my putt tracked into the hole for a halve. Very exciting hole!
Now let's look at the annual tradition: the Match Play Madness lies. (Remember, no relief from anything! You have to play the ball as it lies.)
Unfortunately, nobody got a picture of the ultimate MPM shot this year. Chuck Bernard hit his ball into the water hazard on the second hole. He took off shoe and sock, rolled up his pants leg, hit the ball from the water... and halved the hole!
After we finished our match, we continued to play the course. Remember, the ninth hole is way out on the far end of the course, not near the clubhouse. We saw nobody waiting behind the ninth green, and Thor had been vague about what we should do. So we picked a few holes that would get us most quickly back to the parking lot. I'm really glad we did -- even though most others did wait at nine for the finishing groups. One of my reasons for being so pleased is that I parred #9 and #13, both long, hard par-fours. (The ninth is ridiculous as a par four at my age, but I managed to be hole-high in two and had a fairly routine up-and-down.) That was a lot better than I did on those two holes in the morning round.
Rain had been threatened for the afternoon. But it held off until we were all in our cars. It rained hard while we drove from the course to dinner, but it had stopped by the time we had to walk from the car to the restaurant. Very cooperative weather, don't you think?
The stories at Saturday night dinner were fewer and more tepid than usual. I don't think it was that there weren't any stories. Rather, we were tired and beat from fighting with The Players Course all day. Dinner at the Longhorn was tasty, but we were all rather subdued. Fred and I turned in early. I'm not sure if anybody went out to close the bars like last time. I do know there were no stories this time ending with, "Shut up and get in the minivan." However, I did hear the same guy say to his crew this year, "Your fingers are too fat." And, like last time, I don't want to know!
(Rob Pyle photo)
Thor and Patrick ready to hit
(Rob Pyle photo)Sunday is Fun Day at RSG-Ohio. And Phoenix Links is a great place for that. It's a big, open, links-style course. It has matured some since the last time we played there; the rough is much higher and more varied.
Phoenix links is appropriately named, having risen from -- if not the dead -- a much more humble use of land. It is a reclaimed land fill. Its rolling slopes are all above the grade of the rather flat Columbus plain. For its first few years as a golf course, it's moniker was "Stinky Links", for obvious reasons.
Those days are now long gone. It is a good, challenging, non-odoriferous course. But its roots remain. As a garbage dump, it was located on decidedly non-prime real estate -- as you can see in some of the following photos.
These photos show how industrial the neighborhood is. This is the one border of the course that is not an Interstate highway.
Sorry, but I couldn't decide which shot to pick, so here's my whole fourseom: Kern Singh, me, Roger Georg, and Fred Stluka.
And see y'all next year.