RSG Pittsburgh -- 2008

Dave Tutelman -- April 22, 2008

RSG_Pittsburgh host Mark Georg
(Thor Collard photo)

I can't think of some single superlative for this year's Pittsburgh event. Guess I have to admit it is exactly what everybody expected: low-pressure, relaxed fun! Well, "relaxed" if you consider a day of lugging a bag for 36 holes around the hills of Pittsburgh relaxing. Actually, only Saturday was 36. We did 27 on Friday and 18 on Sunday. Of course, the reason the 18th hole at Cedarbrook is the last hole of the weekend is that it's the toughest climb; after that, no gas left in the tank for more golf. ... Speaking for this 66-year-old, anyway.

The itinerary was the usual south-of-Pittsburgh plan. We stayed at the John Butler House, played Lindenwood on Friday, Butlers on Saturday, and Cedarbrook on Sunday. Hey, it works!

Friday - Lindenwood

We played all three nines: Red to Blue in the morning, and the somewhat easier Gold after lunch.

Thor on Blue #6

I played the morning eighteen with Thor, Fred Stluka (my co-road-warrior), and Roger Georg (the father of our host Mark, and the only guy who comes to these things who is older than me). Roger played really well, hitting almost every fairway and occasionally outdriving everybody. There was a stretch in the middle of the round where he parred four out of six holes, including the 560-yard par-5 fourteenth (the fifth on the Blue nine). And he nearly had an ace on the twelfth hole, a 160-yard par-3.

I played really badly until the middle of the Blue nine, at which time I spent the rest of the morning in the zone. I was 17 over par for the first twelve holes, and 3 over for the final six holes. (And that includes a double-bogey on #16 -- a really terrible drive to a bad position followed by five pretty good shots to recover.)

Thor was playing a beer match with Fred, and it was nip-and-tuck all the way. On the 17th hole, a severely downhill par-3, Thor put a perfect tee shot close to the back hole location, for a tap-in birdie to go one up with one to play. But Fred was not done. He hit two big, straight shots on the par-5 18th that left him chipping from the fairway right in front of the green -- while Thor was still 200yd away after two shots. But Thor hit to the rough near the green, then got up and down -- to halve the hole and win the match when Fred chipped short and couldn't sink the long birdie putt.

Siesta time. Waiting
for our PM tee time

Lunch in the clubhouse was very good. Their wings are always pretty good, but the big hit today was the turkey Reuben. I can assure you first-hand that it was great.

Then we had to get into line for our afternoon tee time. We were scheduled to play the Gold course, but the starter seemed to be confused about who should go off before us. We relaxed until he made up his mind. He finally sent a couple (a twosome in a cart) ahead of us, assuring us that they would not hold us up -- and they promised to play fast. I won't describe the woman in the twosome, except to say that we were motivated to play quickly, at least enough so to keep her in sight. They both played well, and fast enough that we lost them until the third hole, where they caught the group ahead of them. After that, we waited on most holes, but did get a chance to socialize with the couple a little.

I was in the first of our two groups, with Thor, Mark, and Terry Easton. Thor's afternoon beer match was with Mark, and he found it anything but easy. In fact, Mark closed him out on the eighth hole with a nice up-and-down for par, duplicating what Thor did to Fred in the morning (but earlier).

Let me say a few words about the second hole on the Gold nine. A par-5, it slants severely from right to left its entire length from the landing area to just in front of the green. It is almost impossible to keep your second shot on the fairway. None of us did. I hit my second shot straight down the right side, but once it was on the ground it ran down to the left rough. The others hit down the middle and wound up deeper in the rough, with Terry and Thor actually in the big spruces lining the fairway.

(Thor Collard photo)

(Thor Collard photo)

One memorable moment -- one I'd probably prefer to forget -- was on the fifth hole of the afternoon. I hooked my drive hard left, a trajectory that usually winds up in the creek. But this was hooked so hard that it wound up in deep rough, halfway up a hill so steep it was hard to stay upright while trying to walk, much less take a stance and a swing. We did find the ball, and I managed to hit it back to the fairway and even advance it about 80 yards (almost injuring photographer Thor with the shot).

We finished the round knowing we had a workout that day. Combine that with the longer time spent waiting for groups ahead of us, and we decided against going for a fourth nine.

We chose Woody's for dinner. Gary Hayenga phoned ahead for a reservation and told us, "They are very busy tonight. They're putting us in the lounge, whatever that is." It turned out to mean that they had a few dinner tables in the bar, and our waitress was Lindsey the bartender. Lindsey was wearing a very low-cut red top, that showed a lot of Lindsey -- and there was a lot of Lindsey to show. I dare those with seats facing the bar to remember what they had for dinner; all they seemed to notice was -- you guessed it -- Lindsey. (My seat faced the wall. I had Chicken Parmagiana. It was delicious.) Which brings us to some of the discussion:

"Maybe we should add a few tables so we can all sit on this side and watch her."
"You realize there's a cover charge if we do that."

"Hey, look at what happens when she wipes the table. What do you think we can do to get her to come here and bend over?"
"How about spilling your beer?"

"Do you know how many microchips could be made with that much silicon?" (Yeah, I know it's silicone -- with an 'e'.)

Then back to the Butler House and sleep.

Saturday - Butlers

If this is Saturday, we must be playing Butlers! We had an early (8am) tee time -- as usual before the restaurant was open. (The B&B where we stay is really just a Bed -- no breakfast for real golfers.) We had nine players this morning; John "Mr. JFB" Balogh had arrived overnight. So we went as 3 threesomes.

I played with Bill Hogsett and Thor. Bill suggested a match, and said, "The first tee is where matches are really won. I want three strokes a side." That definitely got on the wrong side of Thor, who was still licking his wounds from yesterday afternoon; he doesn't have much practice in losing beer matches. Bill got 5 of the 6 strokes he asked for, but he had run into a buzzsaw. Thor got even for yesterday, shooting a 38 for the front nine and closing Bill out 7 and 5 on the 13th hole.

At that point, Thor lost interest (or at least focus) and didn't convert his great performance into a memorable 18-hole score. On the other hand, that was the point where my game came together. I played the last five holes with three pars and two bogeys, including pars on the long, difficult sixteenth and seventeenth holes. I was putting for birdie on both, and one of them (from 15 feet but just off the green) probably would have been in if the flag were out. I wound up with 44+41=85, probably my personal best at Butlers.

One particularly memorable hole was the downhill par-3 thirteenth, overlooking the Youghiogheny River far below to the right. I got a double-bogey there, hitting nothing but really good shots. My 8-iron tee shot was way up in the air, and came down on the front apron of the green -- and bounced as if it had hit a paved cart path. (Apparently it had hit a steel protrusion from a sprinkler head.) Thor finally found it for me in the woods way behind the green. I hit a sand wedge out just short of the green -- and still way below it on a nearly vertical slope. My lob-wedge pitch was just about perfect, but I had short-sided myself and the green ran away; my ball finished about 20 feet beyond the hole. I hit a very good putt that did everything but go in, and tapped in for my double.

Three generations of
Georges; Mark tees off,
his son Chris (left), and
his dad Roger.

Chris stalks a putt
(Thor Collard photo)

After lunch we were joined by Chris Georg, Mark's son, so we increased one of the threesomes to a four. I played in the foursome, with Thor (yet again -- what a great weekend), Bill again, and Mr.JFB. John was hitting his usual huge drives with his big yellow machine, but a lot of lefty pushes and a few slices. So he was all-too-often playing from the next fairway over.

MrJFB and his
big yellow driver
(Thor Collard photo)

We started with the front nine of the Lakeside course (we had played the Woodside in the morning). We dislike the back nine of Lakeside, but we were able to switch to Woodside at the turn. (The Lakeside back nine is a relatively new nine at Butlers, and is (a) unwalkable and (b) deserving of windmills on several of the holes.) John and I played the par-5 fourth hole similarly. We both put nice drives in the fairway, then hit our second shots into the trees on the right. We both escaped with shots surprisingly close to the green (JFB a lob wedge over the trees and I a knock-down runner between the trunks), and got up and down for par. Amazing!

My biggest surprise of the back nine (actually the Woodside front nine -- we started and ended the day on that) was the similarity of some unusual shots to the front nine. In particular, I only hit two stinkeroos with an iron all day: dead right into the woods from a promising position in the fairway. Both times, it was the second shot on the Woodside #4. Yecch!

On the 17th tee, we were surprised by a sudden change in the weather. Right in the middle of Thor's backswing (yes, Thor, appropriately enough), the almost nonextistent wind turned into a two-club bluster. Thor backed off and waited for the sudden gust to go away. It didn't. He finally hit the ball, holding it left against the now-strong left-to-right headwind. His tee shot went left along the tree line and didn't come back. After Bill and I saw our drives blown way right (making this long dogleg left even longer), John nailed one right down the middle. The second shots were interesting. Thor held a draw into the slice wind, and almost got to the green -- very unusual for us on this hole. I had over 200 yards dead into the wind, and got it to within 30yd of the green. Thor got up and down for a rare par, and my par putt just lipped out. The par-3 eighteenth was playing long because of the heavy headwind with a serious slice component. We all over-read the crosswind, and wound up in the left-hand bunker. (I think one of us did manage to avoid the bunker, but I don't remember who.) I eked out a sandy par there, a good finish to a fine day of golf.

Bill Hogsett

Fred Stluka

Terry Easton

David "Thor" Collard

A bunch of tired but happy golfers relaxed on the porch of the John Butler House, watching folks finish the Woodland course (the eighteenth green is right off the porch) and drinking our beer (well, Fred had Coors Light; the rest of us were drinking beer). After a flurry of discussion and dueling cell phones, we decided upon dinner at the reopened Boston Waterfront. (Yes, that's really its name. And it is on the Boston waterfront. Boston, PA, is on the banks of the Youghiogheny River.) Thor still thinks we should have gone to Molnar's. Thor always thinks we should go to Molnars.

Boston Waterfront has changed since they were flooded out and rebuilt. I think they're a little more upscale and the menu is more limited. There are now only a couple of seafood dishes; I remember their seafood as varied and really good. The meal was fine -- I'm sure we would happily go there again -- but most dishes did not live up to the billing of the owner, who doubled as the greeter-in-chief. The steaks were not "the best you've ever tasted"; giving us that expectation probably diminished the experience, because they were certainly above average. My seafood pasta was excellent, and Fred says that the seafood crepes did live up to the owner's press release. Have to try them next time. The owner's recommendation of a "really excellent wine" was evaluated by our resident oenophile (Bill has a wine cellar) as mediocre, even after we played with the aerator toy they gave us. When the next bottle was served, we discovered Bill recognizes several strata of "mediocre".

By the time we left the restaurant, it was raining -- not too hard yet but steadily, with the promise of being serious.

Sunday - Cedarbrook

So far the weather had given us a free pass. But now Thor had his work cut out for him. We woke to steady rain, which had been really hard at times during the night. Remembering 2002, several of us assumed that Cedarbrook golf would be washed out again today. But Thor did his work well. By the time we pulled into the parking lot, the rain had all but stopped. We had a good, hot breakfast in the clubhouse, paid our greens fees, and saw not a drop of rain for the entire round. Naturally, the course was soaked -- and therefore was playing very long. Fred wore golf sandals, and referred to the many puddles dotting the fairway as "foot washers". (Fred will spend the next month immune to weeds and bugs between his toes.)

We were two foursomes this time, Mark being the only Georg who came all the way down from north of Pittsburgh. I played with Fred, Terry, and Bill in the second foursome. We had a blast. It was warm enough for shorts and short sleeves, but cool enough that we didn't sweat -- even with all the climbing at Cedarbrook. I managed a 47+47=94, which pleased me because I never play well at Cedarbrook. Most of my concessions to bogey were on holes eight through ten, where I was 8 over for the three holes. I snapped out of it on the treacherous 11th, a downhill 185yd par-3 with water front, right, and left. I put it on the middle of the green and managed a 2-putt par from there. (The rest of my foursome had all sorts of problems there; they found as much trouble as I did on #8.) I also hit some good 4-irons and 5-woods on the difficult last three holes, par-4s that go all the way from the bottom of the course to the top, then back to the bottom, and finally back to the top. Those are really finishing holes; I know they finished me. Hard to imagine being ready for more golf immediately after walking them.

The best golf story of the day was told by Thor about Mr JFB. As yesterday, he was hitting huge pushes to the left off the tee. The sixth hole, a long par-5, parallels Interstate 70 and is separated from it by maybe 30 yards of woods. John pushed his enormous drive toward the Interstate and it was not even looked for. The fifteenth is another long hole on the other side of I-70, coming back the other way. (Yes, Cedarbrook is on both sides of the highway; there is a tunnel for the golfers underneath the road.) Again, Mr JFB pushed his drive toward the highway, but it looked like it might be found. They actually found two balls with John's markings on them. His wayward drive on the eighth had apparently cleared I-70 altogether.

The chili at Cedarbrook makes a great lunch, and their cole slaw is really good, too. After lunch, we said our goodbyes, piled into cars and headed for home.

Fred and I caught up with the rain on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. For a while, we were driving through some of the heaviest rain we had ever experienced. But we outran it by Harrisburg, and did not have to contend with rain while we transferred his stuff from my car. And I was home before 10pm, which was good.

Mark, thanks for setting it up. As usual, it was great!

: I started out by saying that the 18th at Cedarbrook left me with nothing left in the tank for more golf. I didn't go out on the course again until Thursday. (That was partly due to a heavy schedule, but I didn't really miss it too much.) But I must have gotten something out of all that golf. My first three nines back home were 39, 41, and 39.

Another postscript: Some of the things keeping me busy the following week were doctors appointments. Most were for my wife, but I had my annual stress test too. After that weekend, the stress test was a piece o' cake.