RSG Pittsburgh -- 2011

Dave Tutelman -- April 19, 2011

Click on thumbnail images to see full-size pictures
Pictures are from:
GH (Gary Hayenga)
RP (Rob "Rock" Pyle)
DT (me, Dave Tutelman)

The weather forecast told us that Thor would need to be at his best. His best was not quite enough this time. You'll see pictures below.

As we arrived at the John Butler House where we would be staying, we all wondered whose set of clubs were in the dining room. A closer examination showed it was none of ours -- probably a loaner set for anyone who had come without clubs and wanted to play. It was truly a "mixed bag"; there were no two clubs of the same model, and precious few with even the same brand name. The set consisted of:

    A 73-degree wedge
    (RP photo)

  • Driver: a 9 Cleveland Launcher with a very expensive Mitsubishi Diamante shaft. Definitely custom, and suitable only for a big hitter.
  • A three-wood and a 19 hybrid to complete the metalwoods.
  • Irons: Included a 1-iron and a 2-iron, plus the standard 5-iron through 9-iron. Every one a different make and model, including some very well known and a few you never heard of.
  • Wedges: Two pitching wedges, two sand wedges, and a 73 lob wedge. No typo: seventy-three degrees! Some of us went out to try it. A full swing is good for about 20-25 yards. That's if you hit it right; a bladed wedge could easily go 100. Not something I'd ever want in my bag. But I did notice that, for the rest of the weekend, there were people saying, "This is where I need a 73 wedge."
  • Oh yeah, there was a putter. Don't remember the model. I do remember that it was an expensive, highly-advertised model that never made it big in the marketplace.

(RP Photo)
The John Butler House is a Bed & Breakfast. We take them at their word, and always bring breakfast makin's. It gets us out in time to play golf -- important because the Rock Run Inn (where we are nominally entitled to breakfast) doesn't open until 8:00am at the earliest. Over the years, we have convinced the management that doesn't work for real golfers. No, they still don't open at a reasonable time. But now we get a no-breakfast discount, and supply our own breakfast. Another year or two and the cashier at the Shop'n'Save down on Route 51 will recognize us.

Now all we have to do is convince the fire alarm that the new toaster is not dangerous. Or maybe convince Rock to use a setting less than "cinders".

Friday - Lindenwood

JFB and Mark, Red fourth tee
(DT photo)

A pesky mower man was
dogging us the whole first
round. On the next-to-last hole,
he was mowing the rough in
the vicinity where JFB hit his
drive. Mower-ball!!
(DT photo)
You'd think that playing the same courses every year would get boring. But Lindenwood is never boring. Gorgeous course, and we had a gorgeous day to play. When it was all over, we played 36 holes. (Red, gold, blue, and back to red.)

There were nine of us playing in three threesomes. (Well, eight people two foursomes for the final nine; Gary Hayenga opted out.) I played the morning with Mr. JFB and Sir Markus, so you'll see them in most of my pictures. The blue nine was with JFB and Thor, and the final nine on red was with Fred Stluka, Chuck Bernard, and Paul Osad. And at this point, I think I mentioned everybody who attended.

We compared scores at lunch, and found that almost everybody did better the second nine than the first -- with some extreme examples. For instance, Thor turned in a 63 on the front (red) nine, and carded a 39 on the back (gold). On the other hand, I had a pretty consistent 47-44. Most of the others fell in between.

A couple of stories to tell on Mark -- and one on JFB and me too:
  • On the fourth hole of the red nine, Mark actually played three holes. His drive went well left and bounced further left off a tree, over to the sixth hole. He pitched back through the trees to the fourth, then hit his next shot left again to the fifth hole. He eventually did finish the hole on the fourth green, so it was all legal golf.
  • On the par-4 fifth hole of the gold nine, Mark was just left of the green in two. Unfortunately, he was left of a greenside bunker, with the pin tight just over the bunker -- a very delicate shot. After reciting the obligatory, "This is where I need a 73 wedge," Mark hit his own lob wedge way up in the air and over the bunker. It landed on the green like a sack of potatoes, and stopped less than two feet from the hole. Then JFB and I chipped to just outside Mark's ball, all in a line. Mark had a short, un-missable putt, and reads from both of us. JFB and I both underestimated the break; our putts died just right and missed the hole completely. Mark, determined not to let that happen to him, blew it past the hole on the high left side. That's three missed putts inside three and a half feet. Ouch!

The first hole on the blue nine
starts over a lake. That's our
second group on the tee in the
background. Thor is admiring
his drive well up the fairway.
(DT photo)

Mr JFB tees off on the blue #7
(DT photo)
Lunch was tasty, but a little weird. We almost missed our afternoon tee time, so slow was the clubhouse service. We had the same waitress as last year, and she was just as flustered and just as slow. She blamed it on a "new system". Fred and I had talked on the drive to Pittsburgh about how everybody accepted the excuse "the computer is down" these days, and she just had another variant of it.

After lunch, we played the blue nine. I played with Thor and JFB. I know I didn't play it very well, starting with a double bogey (hard hole) and a triple bogey (easy hole), followed by a beautiful tee shot and a three-putt bogey. No more distasters for the round, but not a single par. The blue nine involves the most climbing and (except for red #7) the most opportunities to lose a ball. So we were pretty worn out when we finished. But JFB pointed out the Saturday forecast implied we were not likely to play at all -- and almost certainly no more than 18 holes. So we should use the remaining daylight on this beautiful day and play another nine. We did, all except Gary who watched us from a cart for a few holes. Then he decided a hot shower and a nap sounded good, so he left. We played as two foursomes.

The gold #2 is a hilly par-5.
JFB and Mark are on the [very
elevated] tee waiting for the
group ahead to clear.
(DT photo)

The west edge of the course is
against a river and a road. The
other side of the road rises
steeply to a development that
is almost a cliff dwelling. That
is the background behind
Thor's drive.
(DT photo)
We wanted to play the gold for our final nine, since that is the easiest walk. But we were told that it would be half an hour to an hour before we could tee off on gold, and red was available now. Great... We played red. By the second hole, we had hit "the wall"; there were a lot of groups backed up, and the going was very slow until the eighth hole. (The seventh is a par-3 over a lake, that takes a lot of time -- and allows the groups to spread out.) When we finished, we waited a long time for the final foursome, a big surprise because Thor and Mark are fast players, and Rock and JFB are not slouches in this department either. Turns out there was a team beer match going, and everybody was being very careful not to waste any shots. (But they were not hesitating to waste breath trash-talking about whether the teams were fair.)

After golf, we adjourned to Woody's Italian Restaurant in Versailles for dinner. (Everyone except Chuck and Paul. They decided that, given the weather report, it wasn't worth sticking around; they headed back to Cleveland.) Woody's Chicken Isabella was almost as good as last time -- maybe a bit salty, but still very tasty. And a lot of it! I couldn't finish, and took half of it back to the B&B. Hey, the house has a microwave oven, and I'll need to do something for lunch tomorrow. Everybody else seemed to enjoy what they had, too. I am confident we will continue to eat there.

Saturday - Butlers

Saturday dawned gray and cloudy -- and wet underfoot because it rained overnight. But it was not quite raining, even though the forecast said it should be now and it will for most of the day. We quickly downed our do-it-yourself breakfast and headed to the clubhouse. There was no competition for tee times -- we were the only crazies in western Pennsylvania -- so we set off immediately. I was in the second group, a foursome with Thor, Gary, and Rock; our lead threesome was Mark, JFB, and Fred.

The course was very wet, and of course playing extremely long. Well-hit drives were staying within a foot or two of their ball marks. So I was thrilled with a birdie on the par-5 first hole. Good drive, pretty good 3-wood, and a less-than-full sand wedge to 6 feet... And I made the putt. Actually, this was my best nine of the weekend, a 42, and the back nine tied my second best at 44. That's an 86, just one over my personal best at Butlers.

You don't see this very often.
Thor in a rain jacket and
bucket hat -- both soaked, by
the way. And yes, we all have
our umbrellas up. (L to R:
Rock, Thor, and DaveT)
(GH photo)

On the 17th green, we faced
an absolute lake. And it was
even worse on #18. BTW, the
diagonal streaks are not
scratches. (It's a digital
picture.) They're raindrops.
(GH photo)
It was very windy, and we got the occasional drizzle. Not at all comfortable, but I think we expected worse; we were prepared, psychologically and sartorially. The umbrellas were occasionally up, but that was iffy. The wind was strong enough that both Thor's and my cart blew over when the umbrella stand acted like a spinnaker mast.

The weather, both wind and drizzle, got worse on the back nine. By the fifteenth hole, the rain was really hard, and did not let up from there on. Fortunately, our first threesome was done by then; it was just our second foursome that got soaked. But boy, did we get soaked. Thor was not having a good day, with either the weather or his golf game. Nobody is used to golfing with Thor and seeing him in a rain jacket and bucket hat and still dripping wet.

Gary managed a tap-in birdie on the short but steeply uphill twelfth hole. And that was the highlight of the back nine. Well, I hit the green with my tee shot on #15; I've never done that before. It's only 165 yards, but features a small, well-trapped green and no good bail-out if you hit the full distance and miss the green. For the whole round, I managed to limit the damage to bogeys -- until the last hole, which I played like a drowned rat and got a double-bogey. And it wasn't even an honest double. I was on in four, looked at the condition of the green and said, "If I miss this putt, I'm just taking a 2-putt; this green is silly." It had a puddle across the middle that was already an inch deep. Thor bet me that I couldn't get the ball to the hole. I hit the putt as hard as I could, and came up more than six feet short. Rock and Gary also came up way short of the hole. Then Thor proceeded to "putt" with a hybrid; he was the only one to reach the hole.

The rest of the day saw no more golf, at least not from us. Late in the day, Chris Georg showed up with his friend Clark. They played 18, and Mark walked the course with them. As for the rest of us:
  • Some had lunch at the clubhouse (the Rock Run Inn) and some in the Butler House. I reheated Woody's Chicken Isabella from last night. Rock complained, "I had to sit next to him last night and smell delicious stuff. Now I have to do it again today!?!"
  • Mark managed to break two pair of reading glasses in the space of 20 minutes. One was his own, and one was Fred's. Don't ask.
  • Showers, naps, beer, and the PGA Tour on television were the order of the afternoon.
About 8pm, after Chris, Clark, and Mark finished their round, we headed off to Molnar's. We were too late! They had closed the kitchen. They sent us down the road to another biker bar with what they said was equally good food. We found The Kickstand with no problems and only three illegal turns. We were not sure if Chris and Clark were joining us. Turns out they did, but when the proprietor asked for our table size, Thor said, "I don't know how many people will be here." He answered with a complete non-sequitur, "Don't worry, there'll be plenty." Turns out it was karaoke night, and he thought we were worried the place would be dead. We wound up at a big table right next to the karaoke setup. And, proprietor's wishful thinking to the contrary, we were the sole audience for the karaoke until we finished our meals and left. Good food, by the way. Not limited to deep-fried goodies, and Thor even managed to order a sausage sandwich. My Reuben sandwich was plenty good... and it was a rural Pennsylvania biker bar and not a New York deli. Kudos to the cook.

Sunday - Cedarbrook

I have never, ever played Cedarbrook when the course was even slightly dry. And I still haven't. It was soaked, as it always is. Yesterday's rain was added to the already wet Spring they have had, and the ground was very spongy.

The day was cold and very windy, not comfortable at all. By the turn, it had warmed up enough to take off the winter gloves and windbreaker, but it was still very windy. A long-sleeve golf shirt and light sweater were still called for. I wore shorts all day, because I knew the course would be wet and didn't want more mud on my cuffs.

We usually play the Gold course -- it is longer and more challenging and interesting. This time we played the Red course, in two threesomes. (Mr. JFB had decided to leave yesterday before dinner.) I played with Gary and Mark in the second group. We were caught by a single in a cart on the eighth hole. He decided to join us rather than play through. That slowed us down a little -- we had been right behind our first group -- but not much. We were only a little over a hole behind when we finished.

Fred did his usual barefoot bit, in
spite of the cold... and because
of the wet course.
(RP photo)

Thor on the extremely
elevated tenth tee.
(RP photo)

Dave chugs up the hill
in the final fairway.
(RP photo)

Mark's coment after struggling
from the terrible front bunker on
#18: "I knew I shoulda' laid up."
(RP photo)

We played pretty well for holes 2 through 5. Mark parred the long downhill (but upwind) par-5 second, by putting a 160-yard approach shot inside ten feet. Then he got two reads from Gary and me. Unlike Friday, he handled the reads -- and made the par putt. We all parred the next three holes, a par-3, a short par-4, and another par-3. In fact, Mark sneaked in a birdie. Then it all fell apart. There is a hidden pond in front of the green, but we knew it was there. Knowing didn't help. My layup was longer and lefter than I intended, and Gary's approach shot wasn't quite long enough. We both drowned balls. Mark, after a gorgeous drive, found several other ways to screw up the hole. I think the best score among us was a double-bogey -- and I guarantee that wasn't me. BTW, earlier, as we drove into the course, I had pointed out the pond to Fred and warned him it would not be visible from the fairway. Do you think it helped? Not!

Actually, my score on the front nine was very interesting, to say the least. It was perfect bogey -- nine over par -- pretty normal for me on a course I don't play often. But I did it with only two bogey holes. The rest were a triple, two doubles, and four pars. Bizarre! The back nine was more conventional: one over bogey, with two doubles and one par. I was especially pleased with the way I played the difficult last hole, a long uphill and upwind par-4. I had a good drive, breaking a string of ugly duck-hook drives for most of the back nine. But I was still a long way from home. My layup 3-hybrid found a fairway bunker I didn't even know was there over a hump in the fairway. My 70-yard PW out of the bunker was on line and high enough to hit the elevated green. It finished in the rough just behind the flag, a routine up-and-down for bogey. (Bogey doesn't sound impressive, but it would have gotten the skin in our foursome.)

Gary probably had the best round of our group, especially if you drop his adventures on the second hole. He had a birdie somewhere along the way, and just missed a host of birdie putts (including some he really should have made, as he would be the first to tell you).

(DT photo)
Mark, Fred, Gary, and I had lunch in the clubhouse, while everybody else headed straight home. Even so, we were on the road by 1:30pm, an hour or more earlier than usual. I was home by 7pm, much to Honey's delighted surprise.

Mark, thanks again for a great RSG Pitt!