My Cup Run Ith Over!

The Champions
The Champions

The final match of the 2013 Inferno Cup series promised to be an intense and exciting event. It did not disappoint. The suspense level was elevated given the fact that seven players vied for six money positions and the money was non-trivial. Each of the seven was paired with a player that had been eliminated from the hunt and the twosomes selected their best net ball on all holes except the par threes where both balls counted. There was only one strategy to claim the money – play your best golf and hope your partner’s wheels didn’t wobble. To add even more intrigue to the format, one of the seven, Mike Nichols, would require a blind draw for a partner. If he was to claim a victory, he’d have to play great golf and then turn in his best effort in drawing a small piece of paper from a hat.

Nichols was the first in the clubhouse and turned in a great score of a gross 73. As the other teams arrived, the suspense grew higher and higher. When the second team walked into the Member’s Grill, Jim Stamatis revealed a most respectable net 67. Jim Gabriel matched him with a net 67 of his own. As it happened, Stamatis’ playing partner beat Gabriel’s playing partner and Stamatis now sat in first place with Nichols still waiting for a blind draw.

As teams trickled in, Stamatis hung on to the top spot by the narrowest of margins. Commissioner Kildare’s team reported – honorable but not good enough. Dave Inman turned in his card – respectable, but not respectable enough. Stamatis held on.

With a growing and animated crowd, the anticipation filled the room like pollen in a spring breeze. Kildare brought the hat over to Nichols. He reached into the Panama and pulled out a folded piece of paper. As the final team with Jim Woods on board climbed the stairs leading to the Member’s Grill, Nichols unfolded the paper and found his blind draw was to be Jim Gabriel. A button was pressed on the computer and the new standings were generated. Someone grabbed the computer and turned the screen to see the standings while someone else pulled the computer in the opposite direction. Fortunately the computer didn’t break from the hands pulling in multiple directions, but only because Bruce Partridge’s wine glass flew through the air and covered the computer with cheap chardonnay. Everyone ducked for cover, especially those who didn’t like cheap chardonnay.

After running a towel over the machine, it was good to see it was still functioning. It was good, that is, for everyone but Jim Stamatis. Nichol’s draw of Gabriel shot him into first place on the day, two strokes in front of Stamatis’ team. A celebration was beginning to unfold, but one card remained. Woodsy’s scorecard was handed to the official scorekeeper who had so many people huddled around him, he entered the scores in an oxygen starved environment.

The last score was input. A button press revealed the final standings for the day. Jim Woods had fired a 250-to-1 odds score of net 63. Woods and Ken Vlah combined for a 68 and beat the second place team of Mike Nichols and his blind draw by a full seven strokes. The celebration began in earnest (well actually in the Member’s Grill) and it was Woodsy that partied hardy. He had moved into a tie for first place in the Inferno Cup standings along with Jim Stamatis and Dennis Kildare. It was a dramatic end to an exciting, fun and spectacular race for the Cup. After 618 rounds of golf, 11,124 holes, 753 lost balls, 16,822 rules violations, 2,388 hours of golf, 3,184 cart miles driven, 9 eagles, 608 birdies and 492 triple-bogeys (or worse), the Cup came down to one match, seven players and one blind draw. What more can be said other than “Wow”?

Congratulations to all 34 participants for making it a spectacular and most memorable event. And the biggest thanks go to Commissioner Dennis Kildare for sharing his creation with all of us. See you at the awards presentation after the big skins match October 2nd in the Member’s Grill.

Friday’s Gross and Net Scores.

Cue the Music – Crescendo Please!

Jim Gabriel - His fate will be determined Friday the 27th
Jim Gabriel – His fate will be determined Friday the 27th

The 34th Inferno Cup match was quite the performance, not unlike an old Charlie Chaplin movie. When the match began, a dozen players were in the hunt for the six money positions. When the day ended, only seven remained. Friday’s match is the culmination of a lot of divots, lost balls, lucky breaks and some not so lucky breaks.

The Wednesday match mathematically eliminated Tom Hansen, George Stelmach, Mike Wentrup, Steve King and in an outrageous act of fate, Howard Jones. With only the Lakes nine open for play, the teams had to loop the nine twice to finish the round. The team of Tom Hansen, Joel Temple and Howard Jones, all fast players, went off first. They played the front nine so quickly, they actually looped around and came upon themselves. They played through their own team, but were then held up by a twosome from Nashville who were fiddling around behind one of our slower groups. When the last cart pulled up to the Yarns barn, Dennis Kildare, Bruce Partridge and Scott Thompson had captured first place. That moved Kildare into a tie for first position in the Cup standings. It also secured Partridge’s position in the money list. Seven skins were paid on the day, one each to Scott Thompson, Phil Graham, Mike Nichols, Sandy Wiener, Mike Miller, Ron Dobkin and Bruce Partridge.

Low Gross

  1. Dave Inman – 71
  2. Joel Temple – 77
  3. Scott Thompson – 78

Low Net

  1. Jim Woods – 63
  2. Dave Inman – 65
  3. Sandy Wiener – 67

In Friday’s contest, the possibilities are limited, but very interesting. Mike Nichols currently sits in seventh place, ten points out of the money. With a win tomorrow, Nichols will split the money for a five way tie for third place. If Kildare or Stamatis wins, it means sole possession of the first place prize. Second place goes to the other while Inman, Woods, Partridge and Gabriel split third place. If Inman, Woods or Partridge win tomorrow, he moves into a three way tie for first place. The most interesting possibility involves Jim Gabriel. If he doesn’t win, he splits the last money position with three or four other golfers. However, he is the only player in contention that can still capture twenty points with a victory. If he pulls off a win, he leapfrogs the entire field and takes outright possession of first place with 470 Inferno Cup points. All eyes (and ears) will be on Gabriel. For him, the match will be worth about a thousand dollars.

Reports of My Death are Exaggerated (but not by much)

Noose“It’s an outrage!” “How can you do that?” “Thanks to you, we don’t stand a ghost’s chance in hell of winning today.”

These are some of the greetings I received upon my arrival at the driving range prior to the Friday Inferno Cup match. I felt like Obama ordering a cup of tea at the Scottsdale Republican Women’s Club. I started becoming “weapon conscious” keeping a keen eye out for anyone reaching into his golf bag. Others limbering up for what apparently was to be a futile competition kept shanking balls in my direction. Surely, it was only coincidence.

The cause of the unbridled wrath seemed to be the pairings for the day. With three man teams and the Inferno Cup on the line, all teams were balanced with a jeweler’s precision… except for one. The average team handicap totaled 42.2 strokes. However, Commissioner Kildare had contacted me and said that good friends, club champion Bryan Noonan and Drew Price, rarely got to play together and for today’s match, they’d like that chance. The problem was soon obvious. Their combined indices totaled less than the average number of three foot putts I miss in any given round. To make matters worse, the game for the day was one best gross ball added to one best net ball. To add a third person to this group that would bring their combined handicap even close to the average, I would have to comb the bowels of every assisted living center in Scottsdale and then convince Jim Murphy to allow a wheelchair on the greens for just one round. It wasn’t going to happen. I had to place one of our regulars in that group and hope the club’s snipers were out of practice. The honor went to Dan Hourihan. Their team handicap was 17. The next lowest team handicap was 40.

I tried to convince the boys that the pairings were not as unfair as they seemed to believe. I was singing in a vacuum and nobody could hear the music. I thought I heard someone say, “Get a rope.” I ran to the putting green.

The match began and a fierce competition ensued with each golfer knowing that it was one of the last three chances to climb in the Inferno Cup Standings. If someone dropped a ten foot putt, you could hear the cheers three holes distant. With the possible exception of the guys on my team, everyone was really trying. Partridge was especially trying.

Nonetheless, the first team finished and turned in a 136 total – the leaders in the clubhouse. The second team reported – 137. Then the third – 137. The fourth team turned in the card – 136. The fifth and sixth teams signed cards with totals of 138 and 136. Six teams were separated by a total of two strokes with three teams tied for the lead at 136. But even with such a tight grouping, a sense of gloom seemed to permeate the Member’s Grill. The seventh and final team, Noonan, Price and Hourihan remained on the course. As we waited, I noticed furtive glances cast my way. A noose lay coiled under Woodsy’s chair. The Spotted Gabriel made curious hand signals at the other end of the room and threw them in my direction. The glares of the assembled masses warmed my wine, the anesthetic of choice for my impending doom. Someone’s statement that Noonan, Price and Hourihan would probably come in any minute somewhere around 120 actually froze in mid-air and fell to the table and shattered.

More hand signals from more golfers. More furtive glares. The natives were getting restless.

Then it happened. Hourihan rounded the corner first. His ever present grin intensified my fear. My lower lip began to tremble. Then Price arrived. Finally, Noonan walked in and handed me the card. I entered the scores into the computer as best I could while looking through the tears. I hit the button and sobbed. How bad would the slaughter be? Would they win by 10, 20, more? Would my death be quick or slow and painful?

I wiped away the tears and looked at the screen . . . Noonan, Price and Hourihan . . . total score . . . 137! All seven teams were separated by two strokes. When the dust settled, when the tears dried and scorecard playoffs were analyzed, the “unfair” team, finished in fourth place, exactly in the middle of the pack, one stroke behind first place and one stroke ahead of last place. I looked up at the crowd of golfers with their torches still held high and the rope in Woodsy’s hand, but they all had wide eyes and dropped chins.

“I told you it was fair” I said. “Would I ever do anything that wasn’t completely just and equitable?” (Unless it was to my benefit.) I survived another day. The Commissioner grinned. Gabriel gloated; he got first place and moved up in the standings thanks to his teammate, Gary Graham, posting a gross eagle on the last hole and winning the playoff.

Here are the complete match results and the latest Inferno Cup standings. I submit them to you smugly for your golfing enjoyment.

Low Gross

  1. Drew Price – 73
  2. Mike Nichols – 75
  3. Gary Graham – 76

Low Net

  1. Gary Graham – 63
  2. Dennis Kildare and Ken Vlah – 66

There were nine skins split between seven golfers and for the first time, I am delighted to report that one of the skins wasn’t mine.

In Defense of the Common Partridge

The common partridge
The common partridge

The partridge (phasianidae perdicinae) is a bird native to Asia, but with an established population in the United States. It is a member of the pheasant family. It is normally found in areas where rainfall is sparse and humidity is low. It is a rather fat bird. It is commonly called a “chukar”. Chukars frequently have bad taste. According to one scholarly source, In summer, Chukars form pairs to breed. During this time, the cocks are very pugnacious calling and fighting.”  It is the national bird of Pakistan. In India, it is believed to be in love with the moon and to gaze at it constantly.

Another common partridge indigenous to the Arizona desert is the “bruce partridge” (golfironeous mochukar). Like the chukar, it has been known to have bad taste, gaze at the moon and become pugnacious. There are those that believe it is a devious bird and allege that it wins golf events with a far greater frequency than ornithologists can

The uncommon partridge ("golfironeous mochukar") in its natural habitat
The uncommon partridge (“golfironeous mochukar”) in its natural habitat

explain. For example, in Wednesday’s 32nd Inferno Cup match of the year, the bruce partridge turned in a net 64 to win the individual net match by two strokes over another unusual desert bird, the Spotted Gabriel. There were those who suggested a net 64 was far too unusual to be a legitimate score. Clearly that is not true. It is actually two strokes worse than his net 62 from Monday’s match where he skinned the field by a much wider margin.

To those of you who would impugn the reputation of the Arizona Partridge, I assure you, your criticism is poppycock (I believe this is another rare bird indigenous to the British Isles). I have played with the Arizona Chukar many times and he stinks. Further proof can be gleaned from the current standings in the race for the Inferno Cup. The first six places finish in the money and the bruce partridge is not currently in that range. I have been present when he was given two additional strokes on the eighteenth hole of the Dunes course for a twenty dollar bet. He laid more eggs than a house-fly and lost the hole by three strokes to Sandy Wiener. Unfortunately, he was my partner that day and the double-sawbuck came out of my pocket. Yes, he goes low sometimes, but like the common buzzard, he can soar to unimaginable heights especially when he’s my partner.

Low Net

  1. Bruce Partridge – 64
  2. Jim Gabriel – 66
  3. Ron Dobkin – 67

Low Gross

  1. Mike Nichols, Scott Thompson and Dave Inman – 76

Skins were split nine ways with Mike Nichols and Jim Woods claiming two each, Howard Jones, Brian Laks, Steve King, George Stelmach and Jim “the spotted” Gabriel getting one each. Note the Arizona Partridge did not escape with a skin. He was too busy staring at the moon.

Wentrup’s Best Shot was in the Member’s Grill

Mike Wentrup captures the prize
Mike Wentrup captures the prize

The top six names on the Inferno Cup leader list remain the same, albeit, slightly rearranged. With now only four matches to go, Jim Stamatis clings to a ten point lead while nine others remain within sixty points.

In the team match on Friday the 13th, Mike Wentrup showed great skill in finding a blind draw and ended up in first place as a result. Mike Miller’s scorecard lined up like the key to the vault and Wentrup beat the combo of Dave Inman and Tom Hansen by two strokes. Mike Miller and Bruce Partridge took third place by edging out George Stelmach and Sandy Wiener on a scorecard playoff. Partridge’s net birdie on 18 proved to be good enough to win the hole.

Low Gross

  1. Anthony Arvidson – 70
  2. Dave Inman – 77
  3. Mike Miller – 78

Low Net

  1. George Stelmach – 65
  2. Mike Miller – 70
  3. Dave Inman, Tom Hansen and Scott Hull -71

Skins money was split seven ways with one each going to George Stelmach, Mike Miller, Sandy Wiener, Tom Swan, Anthony Arvidson, Tom Hansen and Dan Hourihan. The course played tough (for everyone but Stelmach).

The Commissioner, Dennis Kildare, is expected back after a week of lobster eating in Maine and will shepherd the group to the finish line. It promises to be a competitive ride all the way to the end.

T Minus 5 – Wednesday, September 11th

Jones in 1983. That's Prescott Lakes' current pro, John Gunby behind him.
Jones in 1983. That’s Prescott Lakes’ current pro, John Gunby behind him.

From a statistical perspective, the Modified Stableford format (with negatives) is one of the fairest and most equitable formats in handicap golf. Take away the negatives and the statistical balance leans toward the high handicappers. As it is, the format rewards good play and punishes bad play. With fairness assured, naturally Howard Jones and Bruce Partridge took home first place in Wednesday’s match. They topped the field with twenty points. Mike Nichols and George Stelmach were four points back and Gary Anzalone and Loren Molever landed the third spot.

With these match results, it tightened at the top of the Inferno Cup standings. Mike Nichols moved into a tie with Dennis Kildare for third place (440 points) well within striking distance of the leader Jim Stamatis (460 points). Jim Woods remains right on Stamatis’ heels in second place with 450 points. A total of eleven golfers have 400 or more points and there are five matches remaining to play. Katie, bar the door.

Partridge grins
“I won because I had a great partner!”

Low Net

  1. Gary Anzalone – 69
  2. Howard Jones, Mike Nichols and Jim Stamatis – 70

Low Gross

  1. Gary Anzalone and Mike Nichols – 76
  2. Howard Jones – SWAGR

There were only five paid out so the skins were lucrative. Jones grabbed a pair with birdies on #4 Arroyo and #3 Lakes. Anzalone won one with a birdie on #5 Arroyo. Nichols took one after a birdie on #3 Arroyo and Dan Hourihan ran with the last one with a birdie on #6 Lakes.

Following the rains, the course is greening up and starting to look very good. There was enough rain on Monday to get the arroyos flowing like rivers. Here’s a shot of #7 Arroyo. Wear your mukluks.

Arroyo #7 after the rains
Arroyo #7 after the rains

And Then There Were Ten

Steve King was on fire
Steve King was on fire

Friday September 6th found “Team Mars” playing against “Team Moon”. In a particularly tough format where all three of a team’s balls counted on six of the eighteen holes, “Team Moon” (Mike Forde, George Stelmach and Bryan Noonan) edged out the last place “Team Mars” (Gary Anzalone, Ron Dobkin and Dan Hourihan) by a mere twenty-six strokes. On the “count-all-three” holes, one team was ten under par while the other was seven over par. All other teams were neatly bunched near the middle of those extremes. None even got close to the Moonies or the Martians on either side. Complete match results.

Eight skins were won, one each by Mike Nichols, Sandy Wiener, Bryan Noonan, George Stelmach, Mike Miller, Dennis Kildare, Bruce Partridge and Mike Forde.

It seems odd that no skins went to Steve King who turned in a career round of 74. His handicap is falling faster than Sandy Wiener’s bankroll in a fifty dollar match play tournament.

Low Net

  1. Steve King – 62
  2. Pat Collins – 65
  3. George Stelmach – 66

Low Gross

  1. Bryan Noonan – 71
  2. Steve King – 74
  3. Mike Nichols and Pat Collins – 79

There are now only six matches left in the chase for the Inferno Cup. Some of the field has been mathematically eliminated, but that certainly doesn’t mean they shouldn’t come out, win some skins and ruin the days of some of those still in the hunt. They can talk in Partridge’s backswing, walk in Gabriel’s putting line, stand behind the pin as Hansen putts, call rule violations on Miller, yell “Hurry” as any of a half dozen guys take their fifth practice swing, drive over Forde’s balls in the rough and crepitate as King cracks his drive. There is still a lot of fun that can be had by all – not to mention the challenge of developing new ways to cheat undetected.

These players are out of the hunt because there aren’t enough matches left to reach the requisite fifteen rounds – Hickey, Molever, Nielsen, Wiener, Saulnier, Castro, and Noonan. Skyler Irvine, Rick May, Evan Carr and Nate Sanders have to play all remaining matching to be eligible for the Cup.

Assuming it will take 450 points to end up in the money, Harold Hoeg is mathematically eliminated. Six first place finishes leaves him with 430 points. Ron Dobkin could sweep the next six rounds and still finish with 440 points. If Rick May plays and wins all of the last six matches, he could theoretically snatch the last money position, but the odds of that happening are about the same as me getting a call from the Dodgers wanting me to pitch in the World Series. The same can be said about Skyler Irvine. Evan Carr needs a bonafide miracle and frankly, it ain’t gonna happen.

Scott Thompson, Joel Temple, Pat Collins and Nate Sanders hold slim hopes, but they’re going to have to shoot “lights-out” in the final three weeks. Realistically, out of the thirty-four original competitors, only eighteen remain in the hunt. Many of them are in desperate need of some good golf rounds. If I were a betting man (my ten dollar Nassau with Sandy Wiener technically isn’t “gambling”; it’s a sure bet), I’d say that the money is going to go to six of those that are in the top ten as of this writing.

I guess I should offer one caveat. I’m currently hovering in thirteenth place and need about ninety points in the last six matches to crawl into the money. I’d have to finish first or second probably four out of the remaining six competitions. The odds of that happening aren’t great. But, if I knew the programmer, I’d probably stand a better chance. Let’s see how things roll.

Feathers, Feathers Everywhere – September 4th

Hull - Right where he wants them
Hull – Right where he wants them

Oh sure! Now that his membership check has cleared the bank. Now that the majority of the Gainey Ranch golfers have unofficially deemed him “Mr. Nice Guy”, the cat starts munching on the canary. Scott Hull (shown here attempting to hide his glee) has racked up twenty two rounds at Gainey Ranch since he started playing with us in early June. In his first ten rounds he averaged 87.3. In the next ten – 87.2. In his last eight rounds, the average has fallen to about 84.6. He has magically shaved nearly three strokes off his average. Yesterday, he entered the bird cage, latched the door behind him and ate the field. He finished in first place (by three strokes) in the net competition. He landed in second place in the gross competition. His team finished in second place in the race for the Inferno Cup. And he ran to the bank with not one, but two skins. He looked odd sitting in the Member’s Grill with all those feathers around his mouth. It appears the honeymoon is over.

Forde 76Mike Forde played like he was young again and took second place in the net division. Mike Miller won the low gross honor with a 77.

Low Net

  1. Scott Hull – 65
  2. Mike Forde and Steve King – 68

Low Gross

  1. Mike Miller – 77
  2. Scott Hull and Steve King – 80

After the Commissioner’s team captured first place in the team competition, Dennis Kildare moved from fifth into third place in the Inferno Cup standings. The other big mover was Steve King who climbed from ninth into seventh place. Jim Stamatis still clings to a slim lead and Dave Inman holds on to a tie for third place. Based upon the photo from the competition in Barton Creek, Texas, they’re not too worried and are putting Gainey Stamatis and Inman Barton CreekRanch golfers best collective foot forward in Texas. The picture is a touch blurry; you be the judge.

The real money in yesterday’s match at Gainey went to the skins winners. In addition to Scott Hull’s pair, Mike Nichols, George Stelmach, Steve King, Bruce Partridge, Lee Barclay, Ron Dobkin, Pat Collins and Tom Hansen each escaped with one. If Howard Jones would have removed his putter cover prior to putting, there would have been three fewer.