Wow!!! Those who know me will assure you that it is a rare occasion when I’m left speechless. Chip Nelson created one of those instants Wednesday when I was handed his group’s scorecard. Chip had just obliterated the existing course record for the Ambiente course by shooting a 60 from the Verde tees.
It was a warm day. Winds occasionally gusted to ten knots. The course was in good shape. The stage was set for an 11:10 a.m. tee off in a group with Dr. Jack Summers and Captain Lee Mitchell. The opening hole on the Ambiente course sets the tone. It’s a challenging dogleg with both fairway and green guarded with cavernous sand traps. Chip carded a birdie three.
Chip birdied the second hole and stood on the tee box of the 504 yard par 5 third hole. He was already two under par. He carded an eagle on the third to go four under after three. After another birdie on the fourth hole, Chip just missed the green with his drive on the par 4 fifth. That didn’t appear to hurt him because he chipped it in for another eagle. After five holes, Chip was seven under par!
For the first time in three years, The Camel Cup has been brought home. With sixteen spirited and competitive individual matches and eight tough team matches, the team from Camelback Golf Club defeated Gainey Ranch 15-9 on the Padre course. Camelback golfers had the edge 9-7 in the individual matches. They also prevailed 6-2 in the team matches.
Gainey’s Sam Engel took home low gross honors with a strong 67 from the White tees. Sam’s opponent, Chip Nelson, threw four birdies at him, but he couldn’t quite overcome Sam’s six birdies and fell to Sam one down.
With an understanding of and an abiding faith in the USGA Handicap System, we have permitted participants in our games to play from any rated set of tees. We have adjusted handicaps accordingly as stipulated by the USGA Handicap System. With literally thousands of rounds of golf to analyze, I can say the Handicap System works. It has its flaws, but by-and-large, it does the job of leveling the playing field as it was intended.
I pen this missive to encourage today’s competitors to not commit suicide. Yes, it was horrible. Yes, you looked like someone that isn’t ready to play on the big course, like someone who should be sticking to the course where putting through the witch’s mouth is nirvana, where you’re a hero if your first shot gets past the blades of the windmill. Most of you (like I played well) should have been putting with a white cane rather than a $300 putter. But sometimes, that’s the way the cookie bounces. And besides, the way you played today, even if you tried to shoot yourself, you’d most likely miss anyway.
It defied explanation. Fifteen Camelback golfers decided to bring their “A” games to the course all on the same day. Scores averaged more than three strokes below what would have normally been expected. Forty percent of the field posted scores in the 70s on the Ambiente course. Some golfers played very well; others played better than that.
Ron Dobkin rode his well-earned 21 handicap in route to a gross 79, net 58. He was eleven strokes under his handicap. It was his best round in two years. Interestingly enough, the competition was so tough that Dobkin’s net 58 only got his team a tie for second place. Regardless, it was a spectacular effort.
Dr. Jack Summers took medalist honors with a fine one-under-par 71. Bob Ewing was another competitor carding a super round five strokes under his handicap. Seven of fifteen golfers shot below handicap. Statistically, a golfer normally shoots three strokes over handicap. I’m not sure what virus had infected the field, but if it could be bottled and sold, there would be an insatiable market.
It was indeed an unusual day. With only fifteen golfers, it’s notable there were twenty gross birdies. Every single hole on the front side yielded at least one birdie. The third hole gave up four of them. There were eleven net eagles and one net double-eagle. Ron Dobkin had a net one on the challenging ninth hole. More than eighty percent of the scores recorded were net pars or better. The average gross score was 82! If I were to pick one word to describe Wednesday’s play … Wow!
Despite the enjoyable competition, there was something missing. Was it the missed putts? The missed fairways? No, this time it was something bigger – much bigger. We were missing the omnipresent smile of course ranger Big Joe Baldo. Joe died last Tuesday and will be missed by everyone who knew him. To honor Joe, the players in Monday’s group kicked in nearly $500 to be given to Joe’s favorite charity, Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix. We’ve got a great bunch of golfers in our group and their generosity is a welcome sign of their big hearts. Even though he was unable to play golf Monday, Pat Collins made a special trip to the course to make sure he contributed to honor Joe. We’re paying it forward in Joe’s name.
Alright – Let’s not kid around. It was an odd round of golf. Someone had rented the Lakeview Lodge building for a Bar Mitzvah. Apparently the proud father included a round of golf for a dozen or so young men who were in attendance. All would have been well had not these young men been in front of our group on the course. Most of them were horrible golfers and even if they could have found their errant shots, they would have taken forever to get around the eighteen hole course. One man was so bad, he hit his tee shot into the backyard of a house fronting the course. In of itself, that’s not that big a deal; I’ve done it myself. However, in this case, the house was immediately adjacent to the tee box. These guys were so bad, the validity of the Bar Mitzvah itself was in jeopardy. They’re supposed to begin when a Jewish boy reaches the age of accountability, thirteen. However, they’re supposed to end while the boy is still thirteen. There were times we wondered if the celebration was going to turn into his fourteenth birthday party. After nearly five hours, we finally finished the round.
I say “finished the round”, but that’s not entirely true. Bill Yarbrough had to leave after seventeen holes in order to make a dinner engagement. That leads me to the “moral dilemma”. Bill left his twenty dollar entry fee as he departed the course, but somehow, it just doesn’t seem right that I accept the fee. After all, he was deprived of the joy of playing the full five hour round and finishing in the near darkness. Don’t you agree that I should return his twenty dollars to him? Never mind the fact that his team prevailed and captured $160 in first place money. Pay no heed to the fact that Dr. Yarbrough also won thirty dollars’ worth of skins. What’s right is right. I’ll return his twenty dollars the next time I see him. I’ll take it out of the seventy dollars I have in my pocket.
No doubt in large part due to the interminably slow play, few golfers performed well. With but one exception, no one shot his handicap. However, John Raines clearly didn’t get the memo. He finished his round with a bogey and still shot six strokes below his handicap with a gross 77.
The course played tough with the average scores falling more than seven strokes over handicap. Of the birdies that were cards, nearly half of them fell on either the seventh or thirteenth holes. There were no birdies on the eighteenth hole and only five pars. I’m sure that had nothing to do with the fact that the photographer working the Bar Mitzvah kept running out onto the eighteenth green trying to take pictures while members of our group had the audacity to try to play the hole.