Always read the small print…

5 08 2013

Last weekend we held our annual qualifier at Glacier Greens for the Canadian Pairs tournament. 28 pairs were involved, all hoping to make it to the final, which is contested at Crown Isle Golf and Country Club every September. I’ve been running the qualifier for the past three years and although, like every event, the organisation is not without its stresses and strains, it generally runs pretty smoothly. For the princely sum of $15 per player teams have the opportunity to win their way to the two day event at Crown Isle at which some 40 or so pairs from all over western Canada will compete for the right to play in a tournament at Pebble Beach in mid December. For those who don’t win the qualifier, there are consolation prizes in the form of KP’s, generously donated by the Men’s Club, prizes for 2nd and 3rd place teams (provided by our pro, Bill Kelly) and as many draw prizes as we have money for once the entry fee has been paid. There is also, of course, the opportunity to accuse the winners of being sandbaggers, as we have traditionally granted full handicap allowance to all players to give hackers such as myself a genuine chance of success.  Curiously, despite having three different partners in the last three years, my pair has yet to mount any kind of a challenge. In fact, friends seem to have gone out of their way to avoid me in the weeks leading up to the qualifier when they know I’m looking for a partner. Funny that.

The 2012 winners, Dave Wacowich and Liz Stirrett, hardly come into the sandbagger category. Dave’s a solid 6 handicap, Liz a 14, and anyone accusing them of skulduggery would be foolish in the extreme. They won with 49 Stableford points last year and when they equalled that total this year it looked as though they were in with a chance of being back to back winners. Ten minutes later, however, a team reported in with 50 points and ten minutes after that another pair had amassed 52. The very next scorecard, however, had such a high total that I had to get my sidekick Lennie to double check the scoring and then call over the foursome involved to ensure they weren’t playing some kind of practical joke. 57 points! I’ve no idea what the Guinness Book of Records has to say on the topic of Stableford scores, but this one had to be up there. We went through the scores hole by hole and there was absolutely no doubt. ” I know what you’re thinking, Dave”, said Ted, one of the winning pair, “but I had a good day and Tim was just on fire!”. Sure enough, Tim had contributed the vast majority of the team’s points. It wasn’t his best round ever, he told me, but it was pretty darn close.

We quickly went through the remaining scorecards but, having checked with their playing partners and knowing both gentlemen on the winning team to be of impeccable character, it wasn’t long before we were announcing the results to the assembled throng on the Glacier Greens patio. I quickly handed out the KP and runner up prizes before turning to the winning pair and saying “Well, guys, you’ve won by a street and all the best when you represent the club at Crown Isle on September 28th and 29th. Many congratulations!” Tim beamed with delight – he’s not exactly a permanent fixture in the winners’ circle at Glacier Greens – but Ted’s reaction was a little different. He turned an interesting shade of red and stammered “When?” “You know when, Ted”, I said, “the dates have been on every poster and every email we’ve sent out”. “Er. The missus and I are on a cruise, starting September 26th. There’s no way…”. His voice tailed off as some of his fellow competitors chanted ‘DQ! DQ!’

Well, of course Tim was not disqualified. He and Ted had won our competition fair and square. The following day I explained the situation to Deb at Inside Golf (the Canadian Pairs organisers) and she was less than impressed when I suggested that Tim might play by himself at Crown Isle.”But it’s a Pairs event, Dave”, she protested, “he can’t play by himself”. “Well, actually, Deb, he can. Rule 31-2 states that an individual may represent a pair for all or part of a stipulated round and both partners need not be present”. Sometimes it’s handy being a rules geek. “Er, I’ll get back to you, Dave”, she said. The next day Deb phoned to say that they had found a section in the Pairs rule book to say that a player can be replaced by a substitute who had also played in the qualifying competition. I phoned Tim with the good news and suggested he pick a friend to partner him. “I’ll get back to you, Dave”, he said.

A few days later Tim phoned to tell me what he had decided to do – and his decision showed what a class act he is. Rather than pick a friend, he had felt that everybody in the field should have a chance so he put everyone’s name into a hat. He drew a winner and a spare, just in case the first pick was scheduled to go on a cruise or something. As luck would have it, the name Tim drew was Liz, one of last year’s winning pair, who declined the offer, partly on the grounds that she’d already had her chance at fame and fortune (well, Crown Isle anyway). Next pick was Wayne Hay who, in Tim’s words, ‘graciously accepted’ the opportunity and will partner Tim as Glacier Greens’ representatives at Crown Isle at the end of next month. And Ted? Well, mate, at least you won a sleeve of balls. Have a great cruise, and next time – read the small print, eh?

Hay and HautzingerMr Wayne Hay and Mr Tim Hautzinger, Glacier Greens’ representatives at the Canadian Pairs Finals, Crown Isle, 2013

All da best!

Dave B.





International Pairs 2011

10 10 2011

Wayne Wood and Dave Sheppard, winners of the International Pairs qualifying tournament at Glacier Greens, June 11th 2011 (plus some ugly bloke in the middle, holding the trophy)

For the past three years I’ve worked as a volunteer rules official at the International Pairs tournament in Courtenay in late September or early October. It’s a great tournament, wonderfully run by the organiser – Jeff Sutherland of Inside Golf magazine – and the host club, Crown Isle. Amateur teams from all over Western Canada are eligible to enter and this year 66 pairs (men, women and mixed) from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. qualified for the finals. The prize? An all-expenses paid trip for the winning pair to Scotland next year to represent Canada at the World Finals.

Two years ago I came back to Glacier Greens full of enthusiasm for the idea of hosting our own qualifying tournament, only to be greeted with numerous reasons as to why it wouldn’t work. Twelve months ago I was equally enthusiastic and this time, armed with with all the facts and figures from Deb Westover at Inside Golf, I received a warmer reception. Len Doyle, supremo of the hugely successful Saturday morning Men’s competition at Glacier Greens here in the sunny Comox Valley, lent his support and following a quick presentation at the club’s AGM, permission was granted to give it a go. With the help of some inventive ‘Special Pricing’ from Deb (as airfare to Courtenay and accommodation at Crown Isle were obviously not required) we were able to reduce the cost of the qualifying competition at Glacier Greens to just $15 per player, KP and draw prizes included. We managed to get the 30 pairs needed to break even signed up in time and held our qualifying tournament on June 11th. Of course I played in it myself and for a while my partner Gary Macgregor’s play was so good that I started to harbour thoughts of being on the winning team. Perhaps fortunately – imagine the abuse if we’d won! – my putter went so cold that even Gary couldn’t carry such a dead weight and we finished one of no fewer than seventeen teams within five shots of the leaders. The winners, on a countback from the stoical Stan Mills and Jim Larocque, were Dave Sheppard and Wayne Wood with a total of 48 Stableford points.

June 11th had been a beautiful, warm, windless day – a perfect day for golf. It was pretty nice on October 2nd too, the day of the practice round for the finals at Crown Isle. Unfortunately, the tournament day itself, October 3rd, was not so blessed. Play began at 9:30 with a shotgun start, and the rain began at 9:31. By 10:00 pretty much everyone in the field must have been soaked, and by then it was blowing a gale too. From my exposed position between the 2nd and 5th greens I could see players on five different holes battling with the elements. Most of my rules decisions were pretty straight forward: ‘Am I in casual water?’ (Very quickly the answer became ‘yes’ without me having to examine the situation too closely) and ‘ Can I get relief from this puddle in the bunker?’ (Answer again ‘yes’ as long as the player could find a dryish spot in the bunker, no nearer the hole).

After an hour or so my two Glacier Green colleagues, Wayne and Dave, trudged by. ‘How’s it going, lads?’ I asked. ‘Well, we’re not going to flipping Scotland’, replied Wayne, ‘but it looks like Scotland’s flipping well come to us’. (Actually, I don’t think he used the word ‘flipping’, but I’m sure you get the picture).

Talking of pictures, I asked one of the official photographers to take a picture of me when the weather was at its worst so that I could put it in my blog. It never arrived, so I assume that the email address I scrawled down for him on a piece of paper must have disintegrated entirely. Just picture the ugly guy in the awards photo above looking extremely wet and possibly quite miserable as well and you’ll get the idea.

Actually, virtually all the players were extremely cheerful and uncomplaining. I amused myself by greeting all the out of province players with the same line: ‘We put this weather on especially for you. We thought you’d appreciate the true Wet (sic) Coast experience’. In fact, after a couple of hours the sun came out and the wind died down and conditions were comparatively benign for the last nine holes or so. By then, though, the damage had been done to most people’s scorecards. Dave and Wayne scored a total of 26 Stableford points to finish somewhere near the back of the pack while our other local entrants, from Sunnydale and Crown Isle, totalled 36 and 33 point respectively to finish inside the top half of the field. The winners, Brad Chudiak and Craig Delwisch from Quesnel, amassed 45 points (amazing, really, given the conditions) to win by four clear points from the pairs representing Royal Regina and Golden). Congratulations to Brad and Craig, who I’m sure will now feel well acclimatised to whatever weather Scotland has in store for them next year, and thanks again to Inside Golf and Crown Isle for putting on such a terrific event. I don’t think we’ll have any problem at Glacier Greens in finding enough pairs for another qualifying event in 2012!

All da best.

Dave B.





A day in the life of a high school rules official

11 05 2011

Be honest now! If you’re a member of a golf club and you find out that there are no tee times available on Tuesday morning because the course is hosting a high school tournament, what is your first reaction?

a) Excellent! It’s great to get the youngsters out there, honing their skills in a competition!

b) Terrific! I’ve heard some of these kids can really play. Maybe I’ll come out and see what it’s like to swing without a bad back and putt without fear!

c) Oh boy. There’s gonna be pitch marks left on every green, F bombs flying through the air and garbage left all over the place. They don’t even pay full rate! What’s the manager thinking, letting these young hoodlums loose on our course?

If you answered a) or b) – congratulations! I can see your halo shining from here. Or maybe you didn’t read the question properly…

So let me tell you about the North Vancouver Island high school championships, held at Crown Isle Golf and Country Club yesterday, here in sunny Comox:

I should start by admitting that I haven’t always been a fan of Crown Isle.  The members are, shall we say, better heeled than those at the other courses in the Comox Valley, the club used to have a reputation for not being welcoming to juniors, and the gold fire hydrants dotted around the complex are, to my eye at least, in somewhat dubious taste. However, a few years ago the club changed its policy towards local schools and began to actively encourage them to send players there to practise and play at very reasonable cost. The result has been a flourishing junior programme and, I have to say, a much enhanced reputation in the local community.

So yesterday nine high school teams – 45 players in all – competed for the North Island trophy, with the top five teams qualifying for the Islands to be held at Royal Colwood in Victoria next week. The scores were as varied as the swings that went with them. A few players – ranging from Grade 8 to Grade 12 – broke par and several more failed to break 100. One of the later group managed a sextuple bogey 11 on the par 5 15th hole – and then made a hole in one on the 16th! Now there’s a story to tell his grandkids…

My own role was tournament rules official, which basically involved reminding all the players before the shotgun start of the need to play fast, follow the rules and play two balls if in any doubt as to how to proceed and not do or say anything which might upset the members. I would play the course with a group of coaches and be there at the end to resolve any potential rules disputes. We started on the tenth tee and all went well until we reached the 150 yard marker in the middle of the fifth fairway. The black and white pole had been smashed in half and bits of plastic lay all around as evidence of someone’s misdeeds. My first reaction was shock – how could anyone do such a thing? – and my second reaction was fury. Whichever kid it was – and surely there could be no doubt that a student had caused the damage – would be hanged, drawn and quartered. Oh, this is 2011 and we don’t do that anymore. Alright, they’d be DQ’d, publicly humiliated and…oh. Well, at the very least they would pay for the damage and write a letter of apology to Crown Isle.

An hour later, the players’ rounds had been completed, scorecards were being checked and the coaches were asking their teams how the 150 yard marker on #5 was looking as they had passed by. Sure enough it was only a couple of minutes before a coach made his way through the crowd, accompanied by a tall, skinny, very nervous-looking Grade 10. “I believe this is the young man you’re looking for, Mr Brooker” said the teacher. “Is it indeed?’ I replied, my voice intended to convey a threat of  terrible retribution to come. “And would you like to explain how you came to destroy a piece of Crown Isle property, after they’ve been so kind as to let us hold this event on their wonderful course?” I have to admit that I was making no attempt whatsoever to keep sarcasm out of my voice – the guilty party was going to get his just desserts.

“Well, I hit a good tee shot…”. “Yes. Get on with it.” ” And then I kind of thinned my next shot. And the ball hit the 150 yard marker. Which kind of disintegrated. I still made par though.”

So there we have it. 32 years of being a teacher and I still made the rookie mistake of assuming, well, what most middle aged golfers would assume: if there’s kids on a golf course and the golf course is damaged, then obviously it must have been a kid who did it, right? It’s a well known fact that we grown up golfers never throw clubs, never drop litter, never swear, always replace divots and repair pitch marks, correct?

So shame on me. I think the lad involved was a little embarrassed when I shook his hand so heartily in front of all the other players and he certainly retreated a step or two when it looked as though I was going to hug him. Instead, I made my way to the pro shop, told them the whole story and begged them to pass on the news to any members out on the course who might be wondering about the reconfigured 150 yard marker on #5 fairway and who were possibly making the same assumptions that I did.

Many thanks to Crown Isle for hosting the North Islands. They did a terrific job, and BC High Schools are going to be delighted with what’s on offer when the Provincial Championships come here next year. And many apologies to the youngster whose second shot on #5 hit the distance marker and set off all the kerfuffle. I’m glad you made par, I hope your team qualified for the Islands and I promise to do a bit better in the not-making-assumptions-department in future. I’m certainly old enough to know better. And as for the lad who made an 11 followed by an ace – welcome to the wonderful world of golf, young man!

All da best,

Dave B.