I waited until I returned from Florida to post a blog about the Member Guest Tournament at Fiddlesticks. There was a lot going on between golf, a show, dinner’s out, etc. and I wanted to try and do the long weekend justice. John and I both played poorly, but showed moments of brilliance – isn’t that usually the case? We ended up 5th in the first flight, well out of the lead – but had a chance to win $1,000 in the final shootout – more about that later.
The size of the tournament boggled my mind. Over 200 players were spread across 17 flights consisting of 6 teams each. The field was so large that both courses, the new Loch Ness and the old Long Mean were used to accommodate all of us. John & I just slipped into the St. Andrews Flight (the first flight) with a 10.5 team index. All 12 players in the flight were single digit caps, with a low index of 1.4 and a high of 7.7.
The send-off for the first matches included the traditional bagpiper salute and we headed out to play the top seeded team.
Jim and Doug were solid, really SOLID players and Jim had won the first flight in 2018. I made a solid Hogan on the first (fairway and green in regulation) for a half, but hit my shot the the par 3 2nd hole into the water. Luckily John came through and we halved #2 with pars. I had a great chance on #3 with another drive in the fairway and 80 yards to the pin. Our opponents were in trouble with both of their balls, but I hit a mediocre shot to the green and 3-putted for bogey. Jim made a bomb from across the green – at least 60 feet – for par. I settled down playing the rest of the nine 1 over and John played steady, but we didn’t make any birdies. The result was as predictable as our putting – a 5 1/2 to 3 1/2 point loss.
We fared better in the afternoon playing the brother’s Fitzgerald. Mike and Dave were a joy to play with, but I left my partner John alone on the first four holes of the match, hitting a ball out of bounds and one in the water to card 2 double bogeys and 2 bogeys. Even with that, we were only 1 down with John’s steady play. I finally joined the party on our 5th hole with a par and then a birdie to win on #9 which was our 7th hole of the match.
It wasn’t good enough though, as we ended up losing the match 6 points to 4. We’d earned only 8 points for the day and were standing 4 points behind the leaders in the flight. We were playing them in the AM match the next day, so we had a chance to make up some ground.
My highlights of the first day included getting up and down for par twice from bunkers, a birdie on the par 5 18th hole which is lined by water all along the left side of the hole, and a 289 yard drive down the middle of the fairway on the final hole of the day. Of course, I promptly chunked a lob wedge from 70 yards and had to scramble to make par. John made a fantastic par on that hole anyway, hitting a beautiful cut 6 iron around a set of trees onto the green and 2 putting for par.
Friday (Day 2) began with beautiful weather that continued for the rest of the weekend. Temperatures were in the 80’s and there was only a bit of wind and virtually no clouds. We were both looking forward to playing better and getting back into the mix after a disappointing Day 1.
Joe and Ken were our opponents for the first match which began on #2 of the Long Mean. I’d spent extra time that morning on the putting greens because the Long’s greens were much faster than the relatively new greens on the Loch Ness where we’d played both matches on Thursday. It didn’t help. I managed 3 three putts over the 9 holes and limped in with a 41 even though I hit 7 of 9 greens. John tried his best and played well, but we were outclassed as both Joe and Ken shot right around par and made a couple of birdies each. We lost the match 5 1/2 to 3 1/2 as we continued to bumble our way through the tournament.
Our afternoon match was really do or die because of the hole we’d dug for ourselves. I decided to start strong by double bogeying #12 – our first hole of the match. Dave and Dave were our partners and I couldn’t tell them apart because they kept making pars, while John and I played like we’d just arrived on the golf course from a 24 hour bender. John tried, but even he could not seem to pull me out of my “stupor”. I hit 4 balls in the water and 1 out of bounds over the next 7 holes, not making a single par. In fact, it wasn’t until our final hole – a 510 year par 5 that I made a par. And that was only after missing a 8 foot uphill putt for birdie.
The final damage was a 7 point to 2 point vaporization on any misplaced hopes we had to do well in this thing. It was bad enough to lose 5 brand-new golf balls on a single 9 holes, but I’d only hit 2 greens and no fairways in the match. We headed to the practice tee for some much needed work.
On the practice tee, John introduced me to JC Snead who was the guest of Johnny Hall and who possess 8 professional tour wins. JC is now 78 years old and carries a 6 handicap, but he was out working on his partner’s swing. You see, they had the same problem as us – we were within 1/2 point of each other at the bottom of the flight. As they were our opponents the next day for the final match, we’d resigned ourselves to just have fun and see what happened.
John and I went to dinner at the club and, over a couple of bourbons, decided that we probably shouldn’t have been in the first flight. After a couple more, it was the unanimous conclusion that we probably shouldn’t even be playing golf. Of course, I’m kidding. Golf is unpredictable and you never really know when it will jump up and take a pice of your ass like it had over the last two days. Satisfied, we finished dinner and headed to a show at the local theatre – Tap Dawgs. Awesome show, high energy and it only lasted about 90 minutes.
The final day started on the range at 10AM. Things felt great and I was able to at least hit the ball fairly straight. After a good session on the putting green, we headed to #3 of the Long Mean to play the last match. Johnny and JC were waiting. Once again, I started off strong and bogeyed the first hole – a par 3. However, both of our opponents 3 putted and John’s par took the hole. I followed on the par 5, #4 with a birdie and we were 2 up after 2 holes. I was in shock, as we had not been up 2 in any of our previous matches. My par halved the next hole and then John and I ran off 3 pars in a row and got to 5 up in the match – shocking.
I must have been in shock literally because I hit water balls on the next 2 holes but John was solid and we only halved one of them. Getting back to reality, I played better on the final 2 holes, even hitting a 215 yard 3-hybrid into the back bunker on the par 5 #1. Made par, but John made birdie and we won another hole. The final tally was a blistering 8 point to 1 point win and we ended the tournament not DFL – our goal for the day.
It was fun playing with JC Snead even though his game is obviously just a shadow of his prime. Some of it was sad – a lot of approach shots short of the green and some poor putting – but it reminded me that we love golf not because we always play well. We love golf because of the challenge, the friendship, and the thrill of being in the game. Speaking of JC, the highlight of the tournament for me was hearing him say “great shot” a couple of times when I somehow managed to put the clubface on the ball. Small victories are sometimes all it takes to bring us back.
So we ended up earning 21 1/2 points finishing in 5th place in our flight, only (really?) 5 1/2 points behind our flight winners – Joe Marucci and Ken Stoddard. Joe and Ken went on to the shootout with our hopes, and the hopes of the other teams in our flight, on their shoulders. As I said earlier, if they won the shootout, each team in the flight would win $1,000.
Our boys were able to survive the first two shootout holes that whittled the field down to 4 remaining teams. The final hole was set-up as a 173 yard short to an island green. Each team hit a shot from a yardage appropriate for their flight, so Joe and Ken had the longest shot. Unfortunately, Ken’s 7 iron was yanked left into the water and our hopes were dashed 🙂
The 37th Men’s Invitational ended later that evening with dinner and dancing under tents out on the practice facility. The band was excellent, but the highlight was the helicopter ball drop on the practice range. Earlier, we had bought numbers golf balls and if our balls were within the 3 closest to the hole in the drop, there were cash prizes. The closest to the hole was worth $4,900.
I’m back in Delaware now. Need to work on my game.