RSG Pittsburgh -- 2009

Dave Tutelman -- April 21, 2009

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Before I began writing about this weekend, I looked at the writeup of Pittsburgh 2008. The summary was:
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!
The same overall description applies to 2009, except for the facts that I am now 67, and that I didn't feel quite as dragged out at the end this year as last. "Hey, it works!" indeed!

So I guess I'll stick to the things that were different this year from years gone by. Not that I feel any desire to see the formula changed. This set of venues is always a good way to start the RSG golf season.

Friday, 4/16 - Lindenwood

There were a few things different about the personnel on Friday. The most notable was that our host was absent. Mark Georg couldn't get off from work, so he dispatched Roger (his father) to represent the clan. I always love it when Roger joins us -- I don't have to be the oldest one there. (This was the only day in which there were not two Georgs participating.)

The picture shows (l to r) Terry Easton, Fred Stluka, Gary Hayenga, David "Thor" Collard, Roger Georg, and Dave Tutelman (me). Missing are two other participants of the day: Todd Kos (operating the camera) and Chuck Bernard (had to leave before the picture was taken).

Todd joined us at my invitation. He is the developer of Optimal Flight, a computer program that helps you fit your clubs based on launch monitor data. He was very helpful to me over the years, especially when Frank Schmidberger and I were developing TrajectoWare Drive. Here he is with me after the round.

Chuck (as most of you know) is a certified Beer Judge, and had committed to judging a beer contest in Zanesville, OH, in the evening. (It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.) So he had to leave immediately after lunch. In fact, he had to pass on the garlic wings at lunch -- something about keeping his palate clean for the beer judging.

Gary tees off on Gold #4,
between the ball-eating spruce
trees. We discovered years ago
that the foliage was so thick
it could trap golf balls way
above the ground.
Our morning round was Gold nine and the Blue nine. I played with Fred, Todd, and Gary. All of us had rusty games. The others had the excuse of not playing much (or at all) yet this season; but I've been playing, and my game looked rusty too.

Todd's approach on Gold #7
was a wedge from the middle
of the fairway. I had hit what we
all thought was a huge drive,
and Todd's ball carried it
easily and bounced many yards
after it landed.
We quickly found out that Todd is a big hitter. It was his first round of the year, and his drives were not always accurate. But, when he kept it in play, he didn't have too much yardage left after the drive. In fact, on all five par-fives we played, Todd's third shot was a chip from within a few yards of the green. (Well, a tree knocked down his approach on the second hole, so he had a 30-yard chip.) He had a makeable birdie putt on a lot of holes, but somehow the birdie seemed to elude him all day. (They say the short game is the last thing to come around after a layoff.)

 The big victory for me on the Gold nine was having a makeable par putt on the long, par-4 sixth hole. (430 yards, with a very elevated green. You can't begin to see the surface from the fairway.) A good drive in the first cut and a good hybrid for my second shot left me a favorable angle for a half-wedge up the hill to the green. I left the third shot about 10 feet straight below the hole. I didn't make the par putt, but a tap-in bogey on this hole was an accomplishment.

Dave on Blue #1

Fred on Blue #1
The blue nine starts with the hardest par-4 hole I know. 433 yards and all uphill. Well, except for the lake your tee shot has to carry. There's no way I can get there in two, and I've never seen an RSG golfer threaten the green in regulation.

Once across the lake, you are on a long, uphill fairway that bends to the left. You can't hug the dogleg because of the tall trees left. Miss it right, and it's down a very steep hill; you'll never see the ball again. And the green is tiered; this time (in fact, too often), the hole was cut on the tiny back tier.

I hit two great shots, and still had a 50-yard chip. I thought I had hit it perfectly, but it just ran off the back. That gave me a bad angle to the hole -- and ultimately a double-bogey. (Tap-in double bogey is a lot better than most of us normally do, myself included.)

Todd tees off on Blue #3, a
steeply downhill par-3

Terry and Roger watch Chuck
putt on Blue #3
The Blue nine has two long par-fives: the 560-yard fifth (downhill dogleg with a lake in front of the green) and the 530-yard ninth (flat, but two creeks across the fairway define the landing areas). Todd managed to put his second shot just off the front of the green both holes. Good stuff!

After climbing back to the clubhouse at the end of the Blue nine, we had a more leisurely lunch than we had planned. (We had to push our afternoon tee time back a little.) But we eventually headed out to the Red nine. They are doing a lot of repair to this nine, and there was a temporary green on #3 and a large GUR patch on #4. Both are probably going to be improvements, remembering what those holes were like in the past.

Nobody in our foursome (I played with Thor, Fred, and Roger) cleared the pond at the par-3 seventh hole. Fred didn't drown his ball, but might have if his line were at the green. And Terry, convinced he could really do this, re-teed (instead of going forward to the drop area) and drowned a second ball.

After the round was done, we drove back almost to the Butler house, eating at Woody's Italian restaurant in Versailles. No night life after that -- home, showers, a little TV, and a good night's sleep.

Saturday, 4/17 - Butlers

Early tee time today -- 8am. So we couldn't have breakfast at the Rock Run Inn; they don't open until 8. That's the restaurant in the clubhouse. We stay at the John Butler House, a B&B right on the golf course, and that's where breakfast is supposed to be. But then, we never get to have breakfast at the Rock Run Inn. You'd think they would get a clue that mostly golfer stay at the Butler House, and golfers want to -- no, have to -- finish breakfast early. But they never do. That's why Chris, the manager of the Butler House, has taken to giving us a discount in lieu of breakfast.

So we do our own breakfast. Everybody shows up with a little something -- what they might eat for breakfast, and double rations to share. Cereal, bagels and cream cheese, bananas, milk, juice, yogurt... Our breakfast is not as sumptuous as a Rock Run omelette, but it is hearty and keeps us going through the morning round.

RSG Ohio and Pitt hosts
Thor and Mark
Then we found out about the frost delay. We were a half hour late getting off the tee. That's two days in a row we've had a half hour frost delay. Hard to believe it was mid-seventies by lunch time after frost in the morning, but that's the way both Friday and Saturday went.

Our host, Mark Georg, finally joined us for some golf. As you can see from the picture, his new hero is Troy Polamalu, the Steelers' defensive back. But he has a way to go before his dreadlocks stick far enough out of his golf hat to give a convincing impersonation.

We played two complete rounds on Saturday. The morning round was the Woodside course, which consists of the red and blue nines. We were willing to start with the yellow nine of the Lakeside course in the afternoon, but had no intention of playing the green nine -- never again! It is really unwalkable, and most of us are not into cart golf. (I have tried it twice, which was once too many. The first time walking -- which was borderline impossible, though I did play every hole -- and the second time with a cart.) Fortunately, they said that the red nine had no starting times when we'd be making the turn, so we could play our fourth nine of the day as a repeat on the red. Done deal!

My morning round was a combination of two totally different nines. There was a six stroke difference (48 and 42), and it could have been even more. I played the first five holes in 3 over bogey, and the first five holes of the back nine in just one over par. Toward the end of both nines, I reverted to my usual form, which is bogey or slightly better. I started the front nine with bogey golf (including some scrambling to save bogey) before I fell apart and triple-bogeyed the fifth hole. On the other hand, I started the back nine par-par-par-bogey-par. The pars were straight fairways and greens, and two of them I nearly made the birdie putt. Best stretch of holes I've had at Butlers.

During the morning round, Thor and Mark had a beer match. Mark was not playing well, and Thor was on fire. He had been complaining about his game on Friday, but halfway through the front nine he said, "Now I know what's been wrong. I haven't been playing for beer." (He proved it, too. More about that later.)  Every hole, Mark would give himself a pep talk, "Well, I've spotted him enough holes now; gotta start playing." He finally started playing on the twelfth hole, where he found himself six down with seven holes to play. He won the next two holes --well, one was a gift from Thor -- to climb back to four down with five to play. Then Thor won a hole and closed out the match. Then he proved his initial diagnosis by falling apart; he would have lost the rest of the holes coming in -- but he was no longer playing for beer, so it didn't matter.

We had lunch at the Rock Run Inn. My lunch was mostly carry-in -- yeah, they let me. I took the doggy bag from last night, which was the remaining half of my chicken parmagiana (delicious!) that I microwaved in the Butler House and put on a bagel to make a sandwich of it. I also ordered some of their very good chili and a lemonade. Not a bad lunch at all.

Our first nine after lunch was the tough-climbing yellow nine. Well, tough-climbing, but not impossible like the green nine. We survived it, though none of us had very good scores there. One good result: we all kept our tee shots dry on the last hole, a par-3 with a long carry over water. We finished on the red nine, the first holes we had played in the morning. There was a twosome behind us in a cart that was close to pushing us. Close, but never quite there. They waited for us a couple of times perhaps, but never for long. When we finished the last hole, our first group was waiting behind the green to cheer us in. They had refreshments, so we all stayed on the mound behind the green and watched several more groups play the last hole. Then we went to the Butler House and got cleaned up for dinner.

Dinner was at Molnars. We decided that it was preferable to the new Boston Waterfront. The latter restaurant, formerly a favorite, reopened last year with a new format. Upscale and pretentious. We didn't like it much. So we went for the tasty fried stuff at Molnars, where even the vegetables require a note from your cardiologist. I had a "small" fish sandwich -- which was not small at all, and much tastier than the fried fish sandwich you get in most places.

Again, the house was fairly quiet after dinner. Showers and bed were the order of the evening.

Sunday, 4/18 - Cedarbrook

If this is Sunday, we must be at Cedarbrook. That has been an RSG-Pitt tradition for a decade now. I just checked. We've been doing it since 1999, the only exceptions being the few we held north of the city. BTW, I always wear the same golf shirt at Cedarbrook; that particular tradition also started in 1999. Chris Georg (Mark's son) was able to join us, along with his friend Mike who has joined us in the past for Cedarbrook Sunday.

A few things were different this year. We had an early tee time, more like 8:00 than 9:00. It had not rained in several days, so the course was not soaked -- today was the best conditions we had ever played there. But the rest was the same. In particular, the hills were there. Big hills!

I believe this was my best round ever at Cedarbrook. I shot a 90. In fact, I shot 90 for all four rounds this weekend: 44-46 for the Lindenwood morning round (46 for the afternoon nine), 48-42 and 47-43 on Saturday at Butlers, and 45-45 today. Four nineties: how's that for an event of low probability?

But the big satisfaction was not the total score. I parred the eighth hole, where I usually consider a double-bogey a minor victory; I have carded a quadruple there on occasion. It's 355 uphill yards, with a green well protected by bunkers and terrain, and a hole protected by a green with a lot of slope. I put my drive in the fairway at the 160 mark, my approach just off the edge of the green, and got up and down. Well, my 8-foot putt was made easier by watching everybody else try it on the same line; every pitch to the green that day just gathered on that side of the hole.

I was instructed that I must include the quote of the weekend in the writeup. I wasn't in Chris' group, so I can't tell you the context. In fact, I'm not sue I want to know. But, at some point in the round, Chris said, "You have to use the whole club. The hosel isn't just for show."

In a bizarre father-son feat, Mark and Chris both played the 16th hole from the 17th fairway, then went on to the 17th hole which they played from the 16th fairway. And they did this playing in two different foursomes; we didn't know the coincidence until we started comparing notes after the round over lunch. While we were comparing notes, we mentioned the tee shots on #10, where father and son could not have been more different. Mark's was so far left and Chris' so far right that I don't think I could have hit a drive from one to the other. Well, slight exaggeration; a really good drive might have been able to bridge the difference.

Terry tees off on the terrible
eighteenth hole. 370 yards
straight uphill. It is impossible
for a photo to do it justice,
but the green is above the
distant sand traps just below
the clubhouse.
The round ended with several amazing performances:
  • On #17, Gary hit a big draw around the dogleg, using a hybrid so he wouldn't go too far down the hill and into the pond. Still too much club; we found his ball just in the pond, sitting up on a leaf so most of it was above the surface. Phil Mickelson might have been able to make the shot -- not because he's so skillful, but because he's left-handed. There was nowhere for a right hander to stand except in the water. But Gary turned his pitching wedge upside down and gave his best Phil imitation. The ball emerged from the splash, crossed the corner of the pond and onto the green. When it stopped rolling, he had a 15-foot uphill putt from the fringe. Almost made the birdie, and tapped in for par.
  • On #18, Mark's drive was way right -- almost in the twelfth fairway, in the rough with lots of big trees between it and the 18th fairway. Mark hit his second shot over the trees, and we all thought it had a chance to be in the fairway. Not only did it make it, he was only ten yards short of the green. The green is a nasty three-tier affair, with the hole in the [rather shallow] middle tier. Mark decided not to pitch it, but rather hit a low runner ("what would Thor do?"). It scooted up to the middle tier and continued up the hill. Almost all the way to the top tier, it stopped, teetered, and started rolling back down -- into the hole for birdie!
Mark made it look too easy. The rest of us had much more of an adventure with the tiers, especially Terry, who stranded himself in the rough above the green. He discovered there is no easy way to get in the hole with only a few strokes from there.

Between the early tee time and the fact that we finished in four hours even, we had time for a leisurely lunch and still hit the road before 2pm. I was home a little after 7:00, by far the earliest from RSG-Pittsburgh.

Had a great time!
Thanks Mark.