The un-RSG-Pittsburgh 2004
Dave Tutelman -- April
For a while there, it looked like it wouldn't happen at all.
RSG-Pittsburgh, I mean. Mark Georg is going to Scotland, and couldn't
swing organizing an RSG-Pitt just two weeks before "The Big Trip".
(Besides, he had to "open his deck", whatever that means. I think it
has something to do with a card game.)
But Fred Stluka said he'd be there if anybody wanted to join him. I
said if he was driving out, I'd be happy to share a ride. And, before
we knew it, Thor (who -- don't tell Mark -- is also going to Scotland)
stepped into the breach. He reserved the Butler House for three days,
and made all the necessary and appropriate tee times. And, except for
the smaller than usual turnout, a great RSG-Pittsburgh was had by all.
While Thor was making the arrangements, he arranged for great weather
as well. It got well into the 70s, with bright sunshine abundant every
day. The courses were in generally good shape, though there were some
wet and soft spots to be dealt with. (Unfortunately, the entire Gold
nine at Lindenwood fit that description, so it was closed. We had to
play Red-Blue twice. A fate worse than death? Not really. Any nine at
Lindenwood is a great experience.)
wound up with six golfers for all rounds, and cameo appearances from
Mark Georg (the morning round at Lindenwood) and Ken Learman
(Cedarbrook). The core group consisted of Thor, Fred, Mr.JFB (John
Balogh), Terry Easton, Gary Hayenga, and me. We stayed at Butler
House, the bed-and-breakfast on the Butlers golf course (see picture).
It has five bedrooms and sleeps eight, so the six of us were very
comfortable. As usual, the "breakfast" part of B&B was more
do-it-yourself than advertised. The restaurant at
Butlers (the Rock Run Inn), has a schedule that is casual at best. They
were only open
once at a time consistent with our tee times. That was Sunday, and they
were actually serving breakfast at 7:15am; what a concept! Fortunately,
Terry had arrived early and gone grocery shopping. By the time the rest
of us arrived, the refrigerator contained the makings for our own
Friday - Lindenwood
We rendezvoused Friday morning at Lindenwood, the course that is the
main reason we drive all those miles to get to Pittsburgh. Mark was
there; he joined us for the morning round, but couldn't stick around
for the afternoon. I was glad I got to play with him; I missed out in
Ohio last year.
As noted, we played the Red-Blue combination both morning and
afternoon. I suppose familiarity was one of the reasons I scored five
strokes better in the afternoon round. A few memorable moments:
- The marshal stopped to chat with us on the seventh tee. We told
him to tell the group in front of us -- Thor's group -- to step it up,
we were tired of waiting for them. After all:
- There were only three of them, and four of us. They should be
able to go faster.
- They were walking. Maybe they should get carts so they can go
faster. (Never mind that we were walking too.)
- The marshal mentioned that one of the guys was playing with
both knees taped. (That would be Terry.) I suggested it was to keep
- Fred and I almost
got the ball to the green over the pond on seven. In both cases, we
splashed just inches from dry land. I hit my next ball from the drop
area. But Fred's reaction was, "I can do this." He couldn't, at least
not that time. We both wound up with big numbers on the hole.
- The Lindenwood bunker-raking mob (I was about to say "team",
but "mob" is more accurate), seemed to be keeping pace with us for
holes. It reached a peak at the seventeenth, where they roared up in
their tractors while we were on the tee, and camped in front and a bit
left of the green. They were clearly in harm's way, and wore no
protective gear, no helmets, nothing. My subconscious reaction was to
avoid them; I bailed to the right, away from them. JFB's reaction was
the opposite; the mob seemed to attract his ball, which bounced hard
off a tree above them and almost hit one of them.
- Fred was truly "the arboreal golfer" for several holes. Most
notable was the sixth, a par-5 through the woods, around a bend, and up
the hill. In the afternoon round, he rattled no fewer than four balls
the trees, three of which were never seen again.
- Number 14 is a long par-5, but the dogleg and the downhill
make it nearly reachable for the biggest hitters. I managed to cut the
dogleg by a little in the morning. Emboldened, I went straight for the
trap in the afternoon -- and cleared it; almost got to the fairway, and
had a good lie and a clear second shot. But that great drive was puny
compared with Thor's mighty blast. He tried the same line, and his ball
waved to mine as it passed overhead. He easily made the middle of the
fairway, well beyond the dogleg. Then he told us that he cut it by even
more in the morning; after his second shot, he had been left with just
a short chip to the green. (And yes, he did get up and down for birdie.)
- The pin position on #17 was unreal. Not only was it tucked so you
couldn't get there from the fairway, but you couldn't even get there
from the middle of the green! It was in the back right corner, behind a
sand trap and with nasty wiry rough behind it. But if your approach
shot got over the
bunker, you were hoping the rough grabbed your ball; otherwise you were
in the stream right behind the rough.
But even a conservative approach to the middle of the green was futile.
The green by the hole sloped away steeply; if you didn't hit the center
of the hole, your next putt was from the fringe. I four-putted that the
first time through, and I was certainly not the only one. The typical
road to a four-putt (I experienced this, and heard it from others) is:
I managed two birdies for the day, more than my usual quota. One
was at the par-5 sixth in the morning, where I stuck my wedge approach
for a tap-in. The other was the uphill par-4 thirteenth; I left a good
approach about 12 feet below the hole, and made the putt. (And no,
Thor, I still don't consider putting interesting. Nor important.)
I had a disaster after the round ended. Gary, who decided to cart
for the afternoon round, graciously offered me a lift back up the
hill from the 18th to the clubhouse. I sat down and dragged my pull
cart. It bounced badly on the bridge over the river, something came
undone, and the cart kind of pulled itself apart. Anyway, I had long
myself that the next time it broke I wouldn't even try to fix it. I
was going to bury the carcass, but Thor may be able to rebuild it as a
bicycle trailer so Joey can take himself to the golf course. Good luck!
As for me, I think I'm going to get a three-wheeler like Terry and
Thor hates waiting for a table, so we didn't even try our usual
post-Lindenwood hangouts, TGIFriday's and the Texas Steak House.
Instead, we followed a tip from the starter to Grande's Italian
restaurant/pizzeria/bar. There, we not only had the opportunity to wait
as long as we otherwise would have, but we watched the mistakes the
hostess was making -- at least from the point of view of getting us
seated and served. We eventually agreed to be separated, to tables that
had been vacant for almost a half hour at that point. The
best thing to come out of that was a doggie-bag bonanza that provided
pizza for breakfast the next day. The second best thing was Killian's
- Watch somebody else's reasonable putt roar by the hole, picking
up speed and rolling off the green. Say to self, "I mustn't do that."
Wind up leaving the putt at the top of the ridge, still above the hole.
- Tap it gently, and watch your own putt pick up speed until the
fringe stops it 15 feet from the hole.
- Putt it close.
- Tap it in.
One adventure associated with the wait for a table: Terry decided to go
find a gas station while we were waiting, so he didn't have to waste
time gassing up on the drive back. When he didn't return after half an
hour, Gary got worried and went out looking for him. Naturally
(hey, you've watched sitcoms; you know how this works) Terry returns as
soon as Gary is out the door. He was beaming, and presented us with
honey-soaked fried donuts. "I saw a sign for a Greek food festival, so
I followed it." Those who know Terry will be disappointed to learn that
he once again declined to enter a Mediterranean-food addiction recovery
Saturday - Butlers
Saturday dawned just as pretty as Friday, and a
little warmer. From the deck of the Butler House, we could watch the
eighteenth hole as the sun filtered through the trees to light up the
fairway. Just a beautiful morning.
True to form, we played 36 at Butlers on Saturday. Thor managed to get
us onto the three nines we like, and avoid the new nine that nobody
wanted to play. (Well, I think I heard one voice in favor of the new
nine, but he didn't want to play it alone -- and would have had to.) We
played Red-Blue in the morning and Red-Gold in the afternoon. (My,
these Pittsburgh clubs are
unimaginative in their naming of courses.)
For the morning round, I was paired with Thor and JFB, and a more
amicable group could not be imagined. We had a ball. None of us was
playing as well as we might. But the company, the weather, and a course
just challenging enough made our day.
A few words about Mr.JFB. He swings from the left side, and he "swings
from his heels". His clubhead almost whistles
at the bottom of his practice swing. The club, I should mention, is a
Mellow Yellow driver. He plays matching bright yellow balls, that are
Putting on my golf engineer's hat, he is one of the few golfers I know
who hits his driver too high;
most people have lower than optimum loft for their swing. And it is
super-high trajectory that caused his ball to experience one of its
adventures and hiding places on the last three holes. Let me illustrate:
On #16, John's drive carried over Thor's and mine, past the dogleg
in the fairway, and landed in the rough. We couldn't find it. Just when
we were about to give up, Thor found just the proper angle to see it in
the hole it had burrowed. You could have put two more balls on top of
it, and the upper one would still not be above the surface.
On #17, JFB chipped the ball too low and hot across the green, where it
zipped off among the cedar trees. It came to rest in a seam of the tree
trunk, almost surrounded on three sides by trunk. You can find this
picture in the rulebook, next to the definition of "unplayable lie".
On #18, another chip did the unexpected. But this time, it was a happy
surprise. It wound up in the hole for a par.
The afternoon round began inauspiciously. There was a fivesome ahead of
us, and they were slow!
Well, actually it was a four-and-a-half-some. There was a cute little
kid riding with four adult men. He was about 5 years old, and they let
him play a ball, too. Actually, he wasn't the slow one. He hit the
ball, then ran down
the fairway after it and hit it again with very little pre-shot delay.
Unfortunately, his playing companions did not follow his example. One
guy in particular seemed unable to hit the ball further than the
five-year-old, but he did the whole bit: put the club away, get back in
the cart, ride to the ball, find the distance, select a club, etc, etc,
etc. It was agony watching him. And on the green, his putts were slower
than his companions'; he took so long that the grass had grown. On the
fourth hole the drink cart stopped to chat with them, slowing their
already glacial pace to a full halt. I thought Terry and Gary were
going to lose it right there. I wasn't too pleased either, but figured
we could finish before dark no matter what -- so I was determined to
enjoy the round. But getting a chance to converse extensively with our
other threesome on every tee was not in the plan.
Fortunately the group ahead was playing the standard Red-Blue, so we
lost them when we took off for Gold on the back nine. The rest of the
round went quickly. Or anyway, as quickly as our now-tired legs could
carry us on this hilly course. We had a few "these guys are good"
moments, like when we all parred the par-5 thirteenth. All three were
tap-in pars, and Terry and Gary burned the edge with their birdie
I had a strange set of scores on the back nine. My handicap says I'm a
bogey golfer or a little better, but I didn't get a bogey on a single
hole. I had six pars and three doubles. Interesting!
Here's the crew on the deck of the Butler House
after we finished walking 36 holes two days in a row. (L to R: Thor,
me, Mr.JFB, Terry, Fred, and Gary.) After the photo shoot, we realized
we again had a restaurant decision. Problem:
We eventually decided to just have supper at the Rock Run Inn.
Our lunch there was certainly promising; my chili was good, and
somebody thought the same of their cheeseburger soup and pierogi soup
(you can't make this up, folks). And they were having a prime rib
special that sounded good. In fact, most of us ordered prime
ribs for dinner. We did so even though the waitress tried to discourage
us, especially those who wanted it rare. I don't think we'll do dinner
there again. Sparing the details, the price was right and the food was
decent, but the prime rib left a lot to be desired: tasty but tough.
And you couldn't tell the difference between rare and medium.
- Our favorite Boston Waterfront had suffered the consequences of
their waterfront location; they flooded three times over the winter,
and didn't expect to open for weeks.
- Woody's probably wouldn't let us back after last time. Besides,
we had Italian food last night.
- Thor wanted to go to Molnar's, the ugly pink building where you
can raise your cholestorol level by just breathing. Fortunately (IMHO),
nobody else was interested.
After dinner, we unwound in the living room of Butler House. There was
no remote for the TV, so Thor entertained us. First, he gave a
carpet-putting exhibition. Once he proved he could do this, he
embarrassed me by pulling out, reciting, and critiquing "The Annotated
American Pie" -- while simultaneously continuing to carpet-putt. We
turned in pretty early again. (Without Coops and Metz, there seems to
be no strong push for sampling the local nightlife.)
Sunday - Cedarbrook
This was my first time playing the Gold course at Cedarbrook. I like it
better than the Red course. (You will probably notice the same
unimaginative naming scheme, this time for eighteens instead of nines.)
It's still got a very hilly, hard-walking back nine, but doesn't seem
quite as bad in that regard -- except for #18, more about that later.
It's longer and tougher, but seems less "hokey".
It was cloudy, and I tried to talk Thor into playing in the last group
so none of us would be caught in any rain that might occur. But he
assured me it would be a beautiful day, and took off with the first
group. Of course he was right. The sun came out soon after we started,
and it reached 80° at least. The strong breeze kept it comfortable
-- but also made holes like the sixth a lot harder. #6 is 537 yards,
uphill, and now into a two- or three-club wind. And once you get there,
you may have to waste a putt getting back below the hole, because
you're not stopping near the hole from above it. Tough hole!
Most also considered the next hole tough as well. Our first group was
still on the tee when we got there; the group in front of them was
taking a lot of time on this. It's a 175-yard par-3 playing into the
wind. I took my 200-210 club (5-wood), and put it in the middle of the
green, then two-putted for my only par of the day.
Ken Learman joined us for the day. He was trying out a new driver.
Looked like a success to me; he was crushing his drives, and they got
better as the day went on. A few examples:
John was still hitting his drives high and long, but didn't have his
usual touch with the other shots. The fifth hole is a short par-4, a
dogleg right around a lake to a green 277 yards away. I played 7-wood
out to the fairway and Ken hit an iron, but John pulled out the Mellow
Yellow. He hit a big, high draw that landed on the bank at the edge of
the green. Thor didn't let him forget about driving into them for the
rest of the day.
- The tenth is a long (553-yard) par-5, down the hill and then back
up. (For those who have seen Cedarbrook, it goes all the way
from the clubhouse to the snack bar.) Ken's drive finished about 220
yards from the green at most, maybe less. (He opted to put a 5-wood
just short of the green while Thor's group putted out, rather than
waiting and trying a 3-wood to get there.) Anyway, that's well over a
300-yard drive. Granted, that's from a seriously elevated tee. But
driver-5w to within chipping distance is enormous for that hole.
- The sixteenth hole is 414 yards, and all uphill; steeply for the
drive and still substantially uphill for the second shot. It's the #1
handicap hole on the course. I hit a great drive, and was still left
with 200 yards to the green. Ken, however, was sitting just outside the
150 pole. Man!
I was striking the ball well, but my partial shots were proving my
undoing. (No, Thor, my putting was not hurting me, though I still
wasn't much interested.) Actually, the problem was I was striking them too
solidly. A lot of my half- and three-quarter wedges felt and looked
great, but landed very deep in the green; on these fast greens and with
my distance rock, that meant I'd get another chance at my wedges before
I could putt. In fact, on two different holes I had a pitch clear the
water in front comfortably, only to roll off into another water hazard
on the other side of the green.
A word about the fate of my "distance rock". I couldn't lose this ball
if I tried -- and it sure looked like I was trying. I mentioned going
into two water hazards. But in both cases the ball had rolled in after
trickling off the green, so it was easily retrieved. The closest I came
to losing the ball was when I hit a big push on #13. It looked like it
was heading for I-70 (which runs through the course), but a tree
knocked it down. I eventually found it, less than a foot from the
chain-link fence marking the boundary of the course. I finished with
the ball I started with.
I promised to say something about #18. It looks a bit short on the
scorecard, at only 373 yards. But that is the horizontal projection; if
you measure along the steeply sloped fairway, it's probably over 400.
And it goes straight up a hill that would be a black diamond if this
were a ski area instead of a golf course. (Another similarity, Thor?) I
hit a driver to the plateau landing area; the reward for a good drive
is a relatively flat lie for your second shot. After I hit my approach
shot, I saw Thor coming down the hill to me. He offered to finish up as
my caddy. Thanks, Thor, I do appreciate the offer. But after carrying
my bag for the first seventeen-and-a-half holes, I'm damned well going
to finish the job.
Some of us stuck around for lunch. That "some" was a shifting cast of
characters, thoroughly confusing the waitress. Each time she came to
our table, she found different people, sometimes a different number of
people, and once we were even at a different table. Keeps the staff on
their toes. Anyway, the food was decent but not great (the Lindenwood
and Butlers lunches were much better). We were on the road by 3pm, at
Fred's before 7pm, and I was home at 8:40. That's very good time.
And, speaking of very good time, a very good time was had by all.