RSG Pittsburgh -- 2017

Dave Tutelman -- May 5, 2017

Click on thumbnail images to see full-size pictures

Finally, an RSG Pittsburgh. The first in three years, and for me in four years. Thanks, Mark. I appreciate your effort. RSG-Pittsburgh has always been one of my favorite events.

Here is most of the "core group".

L to R: Guy "Coops" Cooper, David "Thor" Collard, Fred Stluka, Mark Georg, Gary Hayenga, and Roger Georg. I'm missing, of course; I'm behind the camera. And no, this isn't the Blue Team vs the Green Team. That's just an accident of who wore what. Well, except for Mark and Roger, who decided in advance on the RSG-Ohio golf shirts.

The weather forecast was disconcerting, to say the least. Friday was supposed to be good, but Saturday was heavy thunderstorms and Sunday more of the same. My only reaction, which I posted to the groups, was, "At least we have Thor with us." As it worked out, Thor done good!

Friday, May 28 - Lindenwood

As usual, the Friday course was Lindenwood. In fact, we played the entire usual rota. All beautiful, very hilly courses. (Hey this is Pittsburgh here.) We played the three nines Red to Blue to Gold. I use "we" advisedly; a bunch of "we", myself included, only played the first 18.  My excuse is sciatica; my back begins to hurt after about 13-14 holes. True whether or not I walk, so I walked. Fred Stluka and Chuck Bernard also limited participation Friday to just 18 holes. Chuck went back to Cleveland, and Fred and I drove back to the John Butler House, the on-course B&B where five of us were staying.

Our first 18 holes were Red and Blue, my favorites. I think they're both a cut above the Gold nine, in difficulty, interest, and beauty. And, as the forecast had suggested, it was a beautiful day all day.

I played with Gary and Coops, who shared a cart. They also helped me by pulling my push-cart for a few tough uphill spots. (Notably, the climb off the tee on Blue #2 and the long climb out of the valley from the last hole on Blue.) There are no stories this year from the signature Red #7, because it was closed for repairs; they were doing a lot of work on and around the green. (Getting rid of those bunkers behind the green maybe? They added challenge to a hole that hardly needed it.) Unbeknownst to me, Lindenwood had made up for the missing hole by designating a hole on the executive course to be played after you are done with Red. (They chose the first hole, a par-3 of similar length to Red #7.) I was waiting at Blue #1 for 5-10 minutes before Coops drove down and informed me I had another hole to play "on Red".

The most memorable highlights of the round for me were all from Blue. Could be it took us that long to warm up... or it took that long for me to wake up.
  • Blue #1 has always been a brutal hole: tee shot across the lake, then bending left and all significantly uphill for 420 yards. But this time, the white tees had been moved well up, and it was playable as a real par-4 even with my lack of distance. Fairway, middle iron to the green, and 2-putt from twenty feet for my first par ever on that hole.
  • Gary had a huge drive on Blue #7. Hu-u-u-uge! Well, I guess a Tour pro might consider the hole driveable (325 yards), but this is us -- RSG-ers. Gary's second shot was a short pitch from the middle of the fairway. It stopped about 5 feet from the hole, and he made his birdie putt.
  • Gary managed a par on the par-5 Blue #9, our last hole of the morning. The fairway is crossed twice by a wide, swiftly running stream, that pretty much creates the strategy you need for the hole. Gary's drive missed well right, and was almost in the never-find-it rough on the hillside. But it stayed on the flat (barely) and he took a big cut at his second shot. This missed just as far left; he was greatly relieved to see it stop before it reached the bushes there. When he found it, he did have a stance; but he scuffed a bad pull into deep rough left of the green. His fourth shot from a really bad lie was a high lob that landed on the green and stopped only inches from the hole. Kick-in par!
At lunch, we had an unusually good team of waitresses for Lindenwood. In the past, we had always had to wait a long time for food, and scramble to get our bills paid in time for the afternoon tee time. This year, they were prompt and efficient -- in spite of Coops' efforts. Of course, he tried to throw a monkey wrench into the works by going off-menu.
"A chunky chicken salad club sandwich, please."
"You have a club sandwich, right? What meat does it have on it?"
"Turkey and ham."
"Well, instead of the turkey and ham, I want," pointing elsewhere on the menu, "your chunky chicken salad."
"Wait, I'll see if we can do that."
A more senior waitress appeared, and the same dialog occured. She nodded and scurried to the kitchen.
A long time later, a sandwich arrived for Coops. It was a standard club sandwich, with turkey and ham. He ate it without comment. Time for more golf.

I can't say much about the afternoon nine on the Gold course; Fred and I went back to the B&B to protect our bodies for the rest of the weekend. Chris Georg showed up with a cousin (Jenn?), and his two friends Clark and Mickey also played. (They had played in the morning as well, but I didn't see them except when Clark's ball was in my fairway -- which was often enough on Red.) I heard a lot of "Mickey has game" afterward. He eagled Gold #8, a shortish but very uphill par-5. On the green in two, and made a 20ft putt.

Since it's Friday night, dinner must be at Woody's Italian Restaurant. It has been a tradition for decades. And, for the second time in a day, Coops met his match in a waitress. This time it was the drinks. Coops wanted a Campari. He would not accept Stacy's insistence that they didn't have any. "Don't give me that. Every Italian restaurant that serves drinks has Campari." To convince her to go back and ask the bartender, he bet Stacy a potato that they had it. (He had ordered a main dish that came with a baked potato.) As soon as Stacy disappeared, so did Coops. We guessed that he had gone to the bar to ask the bartender himself. We were right. Stacy came back to assure us there was no Campari. And when Coops' meal came, he gave Stacy his baked potato as payoff on the bet. She said she would take it home and make french fries. We doubted it; who knows what she had done to or put into Coops' potato.

For my part, I tried the stuffed eggplant parmigiana. The dish has become a favorite of mine, and this is the best I have ever had. And a huge portion, too. I had stuffed eggplant parm for breakfast for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday, May 29 - Butlers

This was the first day to beware weather. Supposed to rain all day, except when downpouring or thunderstorming. And it was raining when we went down to the clubhouse to sign in. ("Down to the clubhouse..." In case you didn't notice, we were staying at the John Butler House, a DIY B&B right on the course. We really didn't have to move our cars.) But the rain had stopped by the time we got to the first tee. We went off as two threesomes: Thor, Coops, Gary in the first and Mark, Roger, me in the second. Mark carried, I pushed, and Roger rode. Roger and I played the senior tees, which are probably the right tees for me. None of us played especially well, but we all hit a few very good shots and had a great time.

We played the Woodside course in the morning, and I only felt rain twice during the round.
  1. It drizzled a little -- only a little -- for our first shot on the par-5 fourteenth hole.
  2. Thor's group had just putted out on #18, and we were waiting in the fairway. Fred, who had planned to play the afternoon round, had come out to watch us finish. (Our quarters were right off the 18th green.) I looked up at Fred and saw a bright flash of lightning just behind his head. It was several miles behind him, of course, but it was dramatic -- and it was a reminder that Thor was off the course and we were no longer protected. We managed to finish and put our clubs away in light drizzle. But, by the time we got to the clubhouse (the Rock Run Inn) for lunch, it had started to rain in earnest. There was a major thunderstorm while we had lunch, but it was gone by the time we were done and ready for more golf.
I missed the afternoon round. Showered, napped, popped out with my camera when I expected our guys on holes near the clubhouse. Those are the pictures you see here.

Thor tees off while Roger
and Mark watch

Gary needs to pitch just over
the bunker

Thor's chipping form is good

Mark used his putter for all
sorts of short-game shots.
Sometimes it worked, and

Fred tees off while
Gary watches

Roger pitches to the
18th green

Coops' pitch from a deep lie
in wet rough finished 4 feet
from the hole. Brilliant!
It looked like he would
make the putt and win the
match. I  won't say any more.


Thor and Mark relax at the
John Butler House.

Picking a place for dinner seemed difficult. The Rock Run Inn was about to close for the night. (What restaurant closes at 8pm on Saturday night?!?) No enthusiasm for Molnars; I guess the deep-fat-fry crowd was not among the attendees this year. In the end, we attacked the snacks that people had brought but nobody had touched yet. Hey, it was use them tonight or early tomorrow morning, or just leave them. Crackers and cheese and sausage and bagels and cream cheese and bananas and organic carrots and... Not to mention all that beer and hard cider. I'm sure there are snacks I am forgetting. Three among us felt the need to supplement by ordering pizza; the main criterion was "do they deliver". We didn't leave the premises the entire day.

Sunday, May 30 - Cedarbrook

Fred and Thor
If you were there on Sunday, you witnessed something very unusual: Thor and I sharing a cart. One of us had a Thor foot. (Ooooh! Bad pun!) The other wanted to make it easier on his back. And to top it off, Cedarbrook has the nastiest climbs in the rota. Fred just shook it off, walked and carried his bag. Tough guy!

We waited a lot for the slow group ahead of us. Even after the short fifth hole, on which Thor and I between us showed four balls "a watery grave", we still had to wait on the sixth tee. Finally, they waved us through on the par-3 seventh hole, and we just pulled away. Our second group, Mark, Coops, and Gary, got stuck behind them and finished maybe 40 minutes after we did.

Thor lost his 9-iron and his sand wedge, and found them both again, all in the space of half an hour. Turned out they were hidden underneath the rain hood on his bag, which was still there from Saturday. All good I suppose. But it's unusual when seeing your sand wedge in your golf bag is cause for jubilation.

My own psychological fragility is losing enthusiasm and focus after a good shot gets a really bad break. And I had two on the back nine. I thought I survived the first bad break rather well. On the 13th hole, I hit a perfect drive down the middle, then a long, high hybrid at the right edge of the green; I was thinking a par was a distinct possibility. But the ball took a huge rightward bounce and wound up in the bushes behind a big sewer pipe. But I hung in there and stayed positive; even though I wound up with a double bogey, I hit pretty good shots and my mind was still into it.

Thor relaxes on the clubhouse
deck and waits for our other
group to finish.

Mark hits his approach shot
to the 18th green. It is a
narrow, 3-tier green. And
you have to reach it by
climbing all the way from
I-70 at the bottom of the hill.

Two holes later, another great drive right down the middle. For some reason (erosion? definitely not design) there was a depression running down the middle of the fairway, and my ball was in it. It was a shallow grassy gully about a foot wide and 2-3 inches deep. Very hard to get a 3-wood on the ball, and I just scuffed it into the rough with little forward progress. At that point, I lost interest in the hole, and wound up with a triple bogey.

But I was proud of how I came back after that. I played the last three holes bogey-birdie-bogey. Sixteen and eighteen are brutal, uphill par-fours, and my bogeys were as well as I can play them without a very good break. Seventeen is relatively short, downhill, but easy to find trouble. I kept the ball in a good direction -- a mid-fairway drive and a six-iron to the green below the hole -- and made a 15-footer for the birdie.

I think that Fred birdied the eighteenth hole, a significant feat if he did. He hit a great drive, and seemed pleased with his iron shot from there. When I got near the green, Fred's ball was about 3 feet from the hole. I was too busy scrambling for my own bogey to pay special note, but I assume that the ball near the hole was his second shot and he made the putt.

The restaurant at Cedarbrook has changed management and staff. The change is not for the better. The waitress was cute, but rather helpless. She was not able to recommend anything as either good or bad. "I'm new here, just started." And Coops couldn't go off-menu because there was barely a menu to depart from. She just put down a stack of Xeroxed sheets in front of us. We each took one, and wondered why they didn't have any sadwiches. Fred and I had already ordered before someone discovered that the sheets on the bottom of the stack were page 2 -- which had a few sandwiches. Another strike against the waitress.

Anyway, we ate and were on the road by 2pm. Made very good time, and I was back at the Jersey shore before 8.

Mark, thanks again for a great RSG Pittsburgh!