Well, here I am, aboard US-Air flight 909 out of Buffalo NY headed for Charlotte NC, with a final destination of Myrtle Beach South Carolina.
We tee-off an hour after we land on Barefoot/Fazio at 1:30 pm which will be the first of 8 rounds in the next 8 days. We, being me, my friend and neighbour Ross, and 7 other of Ross’ closest buddies who have been doing this trip every year at this time for the past 12+ years.
Heather is home with the kids, and working. Yes, I feel a little guilty, but I’m also a little focused.
I’m one of this years rookies. Like frosh week, I’m told – more like I have been threatened – there are rookie duties ahead. No problem, so long as by next Friday I am the one wearing green. Yes, these clowns actually bought a green jacket 12 years ago for $5 from the salvation army. Ross, last year’s champ, and the champ the year before that, is seated 8 rows ahead proudly wearing his shrine. Enjoy it pal, while you still can.
For me this trip has special meaning. It’s a trip back to a place where, 20 years ago, I lived for a period of 3 months trying to figure out life the year before I turned 30. Ironic, isn’t it, I’m heading back only few months before I turn 50.
The vision, or rather the fantasy, I had back in 1987 was to get good enough to compete professionally. I arrived in South Carolina that April as a 14 handicap. By the middle of June I was a 5. The improvement in my level of play came mostly at the hands of a teaching pro, Aubrey Apple, who at the time was head pro at Arcadian Shores.
The 9 point improvement in 3 months was pretty remarkable, but I ran out of what it would take to allow me to keep working at getting as good as I would need to get, or thought that I could get – a flush bank account.
I came home in late June and a few months later bolted from Stats-Can. I then spent 5 years at Decima learning from Allan Gregg that paved the road to where I am today. But for the next 8 days I will revisit a dream, but entirely more comfortable about its conclusion than I was some 20 years ago.
So what do I hope to accomplish in the next 8 days? Surprisingly, not winning the green jacket. The title of sandbagger doesn’t appeal to me which, if somehow I manage to beat Ross who plays 3 times per week versus my current pace of about that many rounds per year, I will never live it down.
My best round ever is a one-under-par 71. I have never shot in the 60’s despite Terry Miskolczy (Canada’s Golf Doctor) taking me from where Aubrey left off. Given that I have barely broken 80 in the past 5 years, and not under 85 this year, 69 somehow seems a little surreal, I know.
My brain knows how to do it, and then some. Strategy, know how, and ability isn’t the problem. It’s whether or not this unconditioned shell can do its part.
Update – October 1, 2007
A few days into it and my game still isn’t where it needs to be, but today we switch from team – Ryder Cup – format, to individual play. For the next four days we play a PGA style tournament. Four days of individual play with the lowest cumulative (net) score winning the green jacket.
Ryder Cup Champs
Manny Andrade – Randy “from Pickering” Palleschi – Chris Hynes
My Ryder Cup team, led by Captain Van Marineau finished in second place, a half point behind Captain “Randy from Pickering” and his motley crew pictured above.
The golf is great, the weather is great, but perhaps even greater is this fine group of guys, every one of them, even Ross. The only thing flowing stronger than the bravado, the tall tails, and the booze is the methane … the latter gas-like prize going to Jim Oake, a delightful newf I’ll be playing with for the first time today.
The shot of the week, so far, goes to John Cowan, captured here.
Okay, enough of all that being nice and stuff. Today is day one of individual play and the elusive objective (69) is still on my mind. Maybe that’s the problem 🙂
Update – October 4, 2007
It’s day 3 of the individual scores tournament. After day one, yours truly was in the lead by one stroke over Ross and Randy who were one stroke behind. After day two Ross managed to squeak ahead by 4 strokes, and after today (Thursday) Randy has catapulted into the lead.
Here is the leader board to date:
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Day 4||Total|
The tournament is likely to come down to tomorrow so long as it does not rain. The weather today was just okay, but the forecast for tomorrow (Friday) is not great.
Update – October 5, 2007 – Player Profiles
Randy “from Pickering” Palleschi – Handicap 11, age 48. I’ve always imagined if I ever went on a reality TV show like Survivor that I’d try and identify a fellow contestant I could trust. Randy is just such a person. Yeah sure, he’s a gamer, but he’s also a gentle giant with a very warming personality. He’s a burly Italian hockey dad, and someone who’d give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. Randy does not waste time on a golf course. He plays fast and man-o-man can he putt. Anything under 10 feet may as well be a gimme. Same applies to his rescue club, no need to wonder what club Randy hits from 190 or so out, and it’s always tight.
Van Marineau – Handicap 15, age 44. If Randy plays fast, then Van is lighting fast. From the time Van puts his tee in the ground to full contact, barely 3 seconds elapses and the ball quite literally explodes off the tee in a low trajectory draw that rolls and rolls. Van likes the psychological side of the game. That is, he likes to tease – or rather torment – his opponents. The one thing I noticed about Van is how incredibly observant he is. He does not miss a trick and is aware of everything going on for 3 holes around him, and I mean everything. Van’s other quality is his ability to go from being completely sound asleep anywhere in public to being fully awake in the time it takes to say … $5 a point.
Jim Oake – Handicap 22, age 37. Jim is the only “newf” that does not know a joke, not even a Newfie joke. I’m not kidding. But in keeping with an earlier post, Jim’s contribution to the funnies was of the methane variety, which even in the picture above you can see it can get to him too. I gotta hand it to Jim however, on a trip with 8 other guys doing what guys do, he took time out to go check out a few potential locations for his wedding next April. On Thursday night, our last supper, Jim was also a tremendous help to me with rookie dinner duties. I never got to thank Jim properly, so Jim … thank you.
Chris Hynes – Handicap 23, age 35. Chris is the softer spoken side of his older brother Ross. He gets teased endlessly being the younger sibling and is a hell of a sport about it. But he knows how to dish it back too. On a couple of occasions Chris never hesitated to be the designated driver – making up for it when we got home however, and Chris also introduced me (and a few others) to the new breakfast of champions … 200mg of Aleve. Chris and Jim are really good friends. The respect they have for each other is noticeable.
Manny Andrade – Handicap 14, age 43. Manny (or Pork Chop as he was referred to most of the week) is another “shirt-off-your-back” type of person. A sensible guy whose definition of right, wrong, and all things in between is not far off from mine. Manny may not have won the tournament, but without question wins the best-dressed award. I didn’t know one could buy golf attire at Harry Rosen. Manny set the “rookie” stage our first night out at Greg Norman’s picking up the dinner tab. It was a class act from a class act guy.
John Cowan – Handicap 24, age, 41. John wins the energizer bunny award, always ready to party more. New to the game of golf, John is built for punishment. According to Ross, he’s a hell of a hockey player and not one to mess with in the corners. I was fascinated by John’s knowledge of people in all professional sports. It didn’t matter what sport or what team, in any city in the US or Canada, the guy is a walking encyclopedia of sports knowledge and trivia.
John Caterina – Handicap 18, age 48. I met John last year playing golf with Ross at Glen Cairn and was the one to nudge Ross into inviting me. John, or “Johnny Cat” as I became fond of calling him cracks me up. No surprise whatsoever, Johnny won the joke telling competition. But there’s a side to John I didn’t know about when I met him last year or when he greeted us at the airport on the 28th. John was the “mom” of the group. There wasn’t a morning John wasn’t the first one up and the coffee pot was always full. John took care of all the other details too, like making sure the Internet worked, the fridge was always full of groceries, and as manager of group finances, John was always glad to “hold your money for you” if you were foolish enough to bite. John plays one hand of poker only, all-in.
Ross Ruprecht – Handicap 5, age 44. Ross being my neighbour and chiefly responsible for the invite I received, I first and foremost owe Ross a big-big thank you. Ross isn’t just a hell-of-a-golfer, Ross is good at all sports. To say that he is intense and competitive would be an understatement, not unlike me. It’s why I like challenging Ross in whatever we play. He’s fierce and has a “take no prisoners” approach to everything he does. Having the lowest handicap means Ross walks around with a huge target on his back and is subjected to the most amount of teasing and abuse, especially from Van. Ross shoulders it well, very well. It’s also why on Thursday night after he played a terrible round earlier in the day,I predicted Ross would shoot the lights out on Friday. And he did.
Update – October 6, 2007
And the repeat winner is…
2007 Champ – Ross Ruprecht
Well, so much for putting an end to the streak. The little bugger did it again … managing to squeak out an amazing comeback. Firing a near flawless 73 (net 68), Mr. Ruprecht has earned the right to have his name re-embroidered on the infamous Green jacket.
It was a heck of a start to the day. Following our gala dinner the night previous, which included making sure no bottle of wine remained unopened, we took to the course with the skies overhead always looking a little threatening.
Alas, I had visions of making a charge of my own from only 6 strokes back in 3rd place. After making a double on the opening hole, thanks to an errant tee shot, I bounced back with a perfectly placed tee-shot on 2. My swing felt good. It would be, finally, a good day. But my ball on 2 was nowhere to be found notwithstanding the fact Randy, Van, and I saw it fly down the middle of the fairway. We searched for my ball for the allowable 5 minutes, perhaps more, but to no avail. After invoking the local “all lateral hazard” rule, I placed my 3rd shot to within 3 feet and made the put. But instead of recouping one stroke, I was still 2 over. The events on #2 haunted me for several more holes. I was 7 over after 5, and 9 over after 8. Standing on the 9th, a par 5, I decided to “go all out” and a la Tin Cup, I promptly put 3 balls in the water. I finished the front 16 over. I was out of it.
On #13, the heavens opened up, literally, with a downpour that chased everyone off the course. You couldn’t see 20 feet ahead the wall of rain was so thick. As it turns out Ross was on the green ahead of us putting for eagle, and he was already even par for the day. We left our balls in play and headed for shelter.
The tournament rules call for doubling the score on the last day, with any 9 uncompleted not counting. As scores stood, and had we ended the tournament then and there only counting the front (times 4), Van would win by a stroke over Ross and four strokes over Randy. You can just imagine the conversation back at the clubhouse as we waited to see what the weather would do. Van was ready to pack it in, whereas Ross was wearing a scuba suit and ready to go.
20 or so minutes later the rain had stopped and the weather actually cleared somewhat. Out we went as a foursome, as the other 5 players out of it decided not to play on. As for me, I couldn’t bear the thought of my 16 over on the front counting for times four. I joined the 3 still in it.
For the next 5 and a half holes it was a battle, and as fate would properly have things, it came down to hole #18, a par 3 playing uphill at 194 yards and with a slight breeze in our face. Ross needed to win the hole outright to win. Van or Randy needed to tie to win, or force a playoff.
Randy’s tee shot was directly on line just on the front fringe, as was Ross’. Mine was pin high, just on the left fringe. We three had birdie puts of about 30+ feet.
Van, unfortunately for him, hit his one and only errant tee shot of the day. A pushed slice that found its way in the water. I watched a calm exterior that must have been feeling agony on the interior. I know I would have.
I made 3 and Randy made 4, as Van made one of those dreaded others.
And Champ, yes I suppose we have to call Ross champ for yet another year, made his par to win outright by a score of 377 over Randy 380, Van 384, and yours truly in 4th at 400.
Here therefore is the final tally:
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Day 4||Day 4||Total|
Closing Comments – October 9, 2007
Not sure if it was because it was my rookie year or if it will always feel this way, but the withdrawal is noticeable. I keep reliving some of the week’s special moments.
It seems 8 straight days of golf wasn’t enough, I just had to get out again yesterday. Ross was going to play with me yesterday, but the email quote went something like this “Sharon says if I would like to sleep in the garage I should go play.”
Lo and behold I shot an 82, (net 69) based on the 13 handicap I was assigned down south. Not the gross 69 I had hoped for. That will have to come next year after I get this near 50 year old shell in the shape it used to be, or at least, that it needs to be. I still firmly believe my best rounds of golf are in the years ahead, not behind.
It was a very special week of golf. One I will always remember having not just to do with the golf, but the people. A great bunch of guys. Can’t wait until next year.
Now back to work!