They Sacrificed for You

Peñasco Golf Trip (5 of 55)As the caravan approached the border, armed guards braced for its arrival. The disparate group of refugees was hopeful they could talk their way through the barrier. As Hans Birkholz dutifully scanned the wall for breaks in the concertina wire, David Harbour and Mike Forde rehearsed the plan. “If Jones pisses them off, we tell them he’s a hired driver and we had no idea that trying to cross the border with a loose-cannon violated Mexican laws against arms importation.” The last car in the caravan carried Dave and Lauri Allen poised to retreat at the first sign of discord on the frontera.

The crossing went as planned as Jones’ charm instantly disarmed all the guards at the border. Their AR-15s remained lowered and they waved us through with smiles on their faces. We were in!

Peñasco Golf Trip (1 of 55)We quickly checked into our barracks at the Puesta del Sol Hotel and immediately went to a secret location five miles southeast of town. Restaurante El Barco was a wooden shack on a beach a couple miles off the road. They promptly provided our team of commandos with eleven dozen oysters on the half-shell and twenty Xs. With two Xs on each bottle, that amounted to ten beers. The oysters were positively delectable and the entire eleven dozen cost less than two dozen had they been purchased in Scottsdale. The image to the right is of Commandante Jones and Commandante Allen reviewing the plans for the next four days.

Peñasco Golf Trip (2 of 55)The team relaxed until the following morning when they convened at a German restaurant for breakfast. If that doesn’t sound suspicious enough, check out the expression on Lauri Allen’s face while she previews the plan for the day while doing everything possible to appear that she’s reading a menu.

After a great breakfast, it was time to head onto the field of battle, Vidanta Golf Course, a spectacular layout designed by Jack Nicklaus and his son.  The picture was taken upon our arrival. Jones, Harbour and Forde are all smiles at this point, but they didn’t know the intensity with which they were about to be attacked. They teed off and the assault was Peñasco Golf Trip (9 of 55)on. The battle had been joined. Frankly, we were flogged. The course laid siege from the beaches, the air, the under-brush, the hillsides and from the many traps that had been placed in our path. Nicklaus’ approach was obviously, “Let there be no survivors.” There weren’t. The campo-de-golf slaughtered us after repulsing each advance we offered.

We returned to the barracks after losing our balls one at a time all across the field of battle. Some of us medicated, others (such as Dave and Lauri) indulged in various forms of physical rehabilitation. Later that evening, we reconvened our strategic planning Peñasco Golf Trip (8 of 55)committee meeting, this time at La Curva, Peñascos finest for traditional Sonoran Mexican food. We recharged and did what we could to prepare to launch our counter attack the following morning.

Again on Saturday, the course emerged victorious. We fared better than we had the previous day, but in the end, we were still forced to raise the white flag of surrender. Vidanta was better than we were and still stands like the summit of K-2, all but invincible. But being a hard-headed bunch of upstarts, we intend on trying again. It’s one of the most beautiful courses on the planet and it will give any and every golfer, regardless of ability, all he or she can handle. Each hole is unique with its own character. We were merely its victims.

All in all, even though the course won every battle, it was a great four days. We had great golf, great food (and a little bit of crappy food), great weather, great scenery and fantastic oysters. We’ll be back. Here are a few pictures from the front.

 

Camelback Golf History is Made

Chip smilesWow!!! 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!

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All Hail! The Cup is Home

The CupFor 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.

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Diabolical Plan Rattles the Group!

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.

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Don’t Jump! Life Is Worth Living!

hangmans-nooseI 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.

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Cooler Weather – Hotter Golf

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Ron Dobkin – eleven below handicap

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.

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Dr. Jack Summer – gross 71

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.

Low Net

  1. 58 – Ron Dobkin
  2. 64 – Bob Ewing
  3. 65 – Jack Summers

Low Gross

  1. 71 – Jack Summer
  2. 72 – Matt Flores
  3. 76 – Mike Smothermon

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!

Monday’s Match – Something was Missing

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Joe Baldo – R.I.P.

We were on the Ambiente course for the first time in three weeks. We were reminded once again what a great layout it is and what a fabulous job the grounds crew does in maintaining the course. Mike Allison, John Raines and Howard Jones teamed extremely well together and ran away from the field to capture first place. Allison carded his finest round in two years, a net 62. Given his handicap, the course rating and slope, he put the dressing on a round of golf with a nearly 600 to 1 probability. Raines and Jones did their fair share, but Allison was the rock.

Low Net

  1. 62 – Mike Allison
  2. 66 – Howard Jones
  3. 70 – Jack Summers

Low Gross

  1. 77 – Jack Summers
  2. 79 – Howard Jones
  3. 82 – Mike Allison

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.