There’s hope for us hackers yet!

22 03 2015
Stevie and his Magic Wand: call 10 - 3333

Stevie and his Magic Wand: call 10 – 3333

One of the hallowed traditions of Saturday Morning Men’s Club at Glacier Greens is the right to complain about how badly you’re playing right now and how your Saturday Morning handicap is consequently way too low. If Len Doyle had a dollar for every time he’s heard that complaint he could have retired as Men’s Director years ago. Oh, hang on a minute – it’s an unpaid position. Still and all, it’s something Len and the guys in the pro shop have got used to hearing from all the hackers (which would be 90% of us), and even the other 10% – the single digit handicap guys – are not averse to the odd whine. I’m surprised our pro, Bill Kelly, doesn’t keep a supply of cheese handy behind the counter.

But if I say that Steve Ellis has not quite been at his best recently, I’m not exaggerating. I always look after the scorecard for our group as well as entering everybody’s Saturday scores in the computer, and when L’il Stevie said on the first tee yesterday morning that he hadn’t broken 90 in months I knew he was telling the gospel truth. His handicap has crept up from 13 to 19 with absolutely no sign of him reaching a point where he might win something for low net. He may have had the very occasional snip for an unexpected birdie, but basically Steve’s been contributing to the Men’s Club prize fund each week with precious little in return – apart, of course, from the delightful company of Kiefer (Keith Allan), Irish (Wayne O’Gilvie) and myself.

There were one or two signs of life in Steve’s game early on in the round, but a triple bogey 8 at the tricky 6th hole besmirched the front nine and then a quintuple bogey 10 (yes, ten!) at the devilishly difficult 14th pretty much seemed to administer the last rites. Steve then missed the green on the par 3 15th by a mile, leaving himself a horribly hard shot over the greenside bunkers. Somehow he manufactured a lob that left him 20 feet from the hole and then curled a beautiful putt right in the heart. Nice par, Steve! His drive on #16 was, if truth be told, pretty sketchy but a friendly bounce off a tree left him with an opening to the green. An impressive approach shot left him about 15 feet from the pin and, once again, he rolled a tricky left to right putt into the centre of the cup. Nice birdie, Steve!

Steve’s tee shot on the short 17th wasn’t the best, but a good chip left him with about 8 feet for par. An anxious wait while Wayne sank a great birdie putt and then Steve followed it in with a putt of his own. Three threes in a row! But wait –  Steve wasn’t finished yet. A decent drive at the last still left him with a difficult approach shot, over trees on the left and across the pond. A lovely high trajectory got him to about 12 feet, this time a tricky right to left sidehill gouger. He couldn’t, could he? Darn tootin’, he could. The man who scored 10 on #14, finished 3,3,3,3! I do realise that a low handicap golfer might look at Steve’s finish as simply having played the last five holes in three over par, but true hackers will appreciate his achievement and share my excitement at having witnessed the most spectacular comeback from a quintuple bogey that I’m ever likely to see. L’il Stevie, on behalf of hackers everywhere – you are the man!

Dave B.

(P.S. Someone pointed out the other day that I haven’t published a blog for ages – over three months in fact. I told him that nothing worth writing about had happened really, but I would as soon as it did. And yesterday it did – thanks, Steve!)

(P.P.S. As usual, Len mailed out the results first thing this morning. Snips for Steve’s birdies on #16 and #18: $40. But finishing 10,3,3,3,3 and making a little bit of history: absolutely priceless!)

And then there's those other days...Someone in the group ahead of us is missing a ball on #2

And then there’s those other days. Someone in the group ahead of us on #2 is missing a ball.


Potlatch golf

7 05 2014

A couple of weeks ago the Sandbaggers embarked on the third edition of our Match Play championship. In the early rounds we just throw balls into the air to decide who gets to play whom and today the fickle finger of fate pointed at me and L’il Stevie Ellis. I’ve been on a relatively hot streak of late and my handicap has come down to ten. For Stevie, on the other hand, things have gone from bad to worse and as his confidence level has gone down so his scores have gone up and his handicap has risen from his usual 15 or so to 19. He wouldn’t have been feeling much better after the first hole when he three putted to put me one up. I promptly topped and skulled my way to a double on the relatively easy second hole to even things up, and so it went on: Steve would mess up a shot and then I’d follow suit. Rod Cobham, who was playing with us, would take great delight in announcing loudly to the (imaginary) fans that “the hole is halved in sixes. The match remains all square.” It was truly ugly golf but, as is the way in match play, a hole won is a hole won, whether you birdie it or make double bogey.

After nine holes of this horrible exhibition a thought occurred to me. “Stevie,” I said, “We’re playing Potlatch golf.” Stevie burst out laughing and nodded his head in agreement. For those of you (probably non-Canadians) who don’t get this cultural reference, let me digress for a moment and quote from Wikipedia:

In the Chinook culture, Potlatch refers to “the different ceremonies among the many nations of the Pacific Northwest that include feasting, dancing and giving gifts to all in attendance”. To the indigenous peoples, the Potlatch was a great institution. It encouraged people to give away their earnings and possessions in exchange, the giver would receive a great deal of respect and be seen as honourable to his tribe and others.

However, John A. Macdonald did not see this tradition as valuable or appropriate and, under the guise of unifying the Dominion of Canada, encouraged the government to lay “an iron hand on the shoulders of the native people” by restricting some of their non-essential, inappropriate rituals and leading them towards what he perceived as a more European mindset. In 1885 an amendment to the Indian Act of 1880, on the grounds of “health, morality and economics”, made it illegal for natives to give away all their possessions.

The way Stevie and I were giving holes away to each other could not have been more in keeping with the traditions of Potlatch, and on the back nine we took things to a whole new level. We halved the tenth hole with sevens. Steve shanked his tee shot on #12 but won the hole with a double bogey when I promptly hit mine against a hazard stake from where it rebounded into the pond. I three putted #14 from 15 feet to lose the hole; Steve returned the favour on #15. For Rod, who was having a pretty good round, it must have been painful to watch. Finally, we reached the penultimate hole with me clinging to a one up lead. Steve hit a fine tee shot, only twelve feet or so from the flag but just on the fringe. My tee shot finished on the green, but perhaps sixty feet away from the pin. In complete contrast to everything I’d done over the previous three hours, I drained the putt. Steve’s attempt grazed the hole but didn’t drop and the match – and the Potlatch – was over. As far as our scores are concerned, all I’m prepared to say is that I broke 90 (just) and Stevie broke 100. In match play it just goes down as 2 and 1. It wasn’t pretty but, in the best traditions of match play, it was a close game, played in a friendly spirit, despite how badly we felt about our respective performances. Just as well neither of us was playing Rod, though – he’d have waxed us both!

Bagger Dave (who placed 3rd) and Li'l Stevie Ellis (also 3rd. 3rd from last)

Stevie and me in happier, pre-potlatch, times.

All da best!


Dave B.

Fizzum and the Great Robinski* – RWB 2012

3 09 2012

Robin poses with the Big Club while in the background Adrian delves into his gift wrapped $15 prize. What horror has Vic Crisp come up with this year? Surely not the infamous gold lamé underpants again? Only Moira will know for sure…

The 12th annual Red, White and Blue tournament is in the books and we have another first time winner. Step forward Mr Robin Houlgrave, aka the Great Robinski, who destroyed the field on Saturday with a ridiculously low net 62 in the first round to lead by seven shots and then clung on during a sphincter-tightening stretch over the last few holes in round 3. “And how did Robin fare in round 2?”, I hear you ask. Well, thereby hangs a tale: the asterisk after Robin’s name in the title – check now, if you weren’t paying attention earlier – is to signify the fact that the RWB has, for the first time, a winner who only played two of the three designated rounds. “But how could this be allowed to happen?”, I hear you ask again. All but one of the 16 competitors were gathered around the first tee on Sunday morning, psyching themselves up to do battle with the daunting Blue/White tee combo at Glacier Greens, when the news came in from the pro shop that Robin would not be playing Round 2 due to “a family problem”, but he’d try to make it for round 3. Obviously everybody was sympathetic, until someone pointed out that if he was going to be there in the afternoon it couldn’t exactly be an emergency. At this point there was a bit of muttering concerning Robin’s motives: could it be that he was deliberately trying to throw the tournament and thus avoid having the Big Club on display in the family room for the next 12 months? Some were shocked at the very idea, a couple of past winners wished they’d thought of the same strategy but absolutely no-one thought that such a scheme was that far fetched. Bruce felt Robin should be named the winner there and then, no questions asked, but an unusual spirit of generosity prevailed and it was decided that Robin should be given the average score of the rest of the field for round 2. A net 75 was the result – thus retaining the overall lead – and the rest, despite a pretty blatant attempt by Robinski to get himself DQ’d in round 3 by playing the wrong ball on the 13th fairway, is history.

On the right – Adrian (2nd place in the tournament and big winner in the skins game); on the left – Bud (Not even close. In either).

Bagger Dave (who placed 3rd) and Li’l Stevie Ellis (also 3rd. Unfortunately, 3rd from last).

4th place finisher Wayne Mabee alongside Al Pasanen. Wayne shot a net 60 off the red tees. Sandbagging? It’s what the RWB is all about. Al shot over 100 (gross) in each of the first two rounds. That’s also what the RWB is all about.

Rod Cobham, who finished 5th, deep in conversation with Mike Worley. Or should that be ‘shallow in conversation’? Mike finished outside the top ten yet again. Smart man, that Mike. Never any chance of the Big Club ending up on HIS mantel.

On the right, 2010 winner Sir Stanley Mills. On the left, many time loser Dave Buckley-Jones. (Ouch). Also featured, in an unsuccessful attempt to at least win the hide and go seek competition, Bruce Coulter.

Bill O’Neill and Vic Crisp. Neither were really in the running for the trophy (which was exactly as they planned it), but they did win dinner off Bud and Bruce in a 3rd round side bet.

Liz Stirrett and Dave Wacowich, who played all three rounds together and were STILL on speaking terms at the end of the weekend. Probably a tournament record.

It is fitting that the final word should go to Liz. After all, some misgivings were expressed about having a woman play in the Red, White and Blue (yes, Bud – don’t even attempt to deny it), but in the year that women were finally accepted as members of Augusta National it seemed only right and proper for the RWB to do the same. Liz may not be a multi millionairess like the two ladies down in Georgia, but she certainly enriched the competition. She declared Bill O’Neill ‘a perfect gentleman’ (Billy’s still blushing) and also enriched my vocabulary: in round 2, her hubby Dave, Rod and myself were all lying two on the 7th green, with shortish putts for par, when Liz blasted her first putt some way past the hole. She muttered something I didn’t quite catch, but which sounded like ‘fizzum’. After she’d putted out, I asked her what she’d said, thinking it was some Canadianism that I hadn’t learnt yet. ‘Oh. Don’t you know that one, Dave? It’s actually FISM – and it stands for “Fuck. It’s Still Me”.

Welcome to the Red, White and Blue, Liz, and thanks for the language lesson!

All da best.

Dave B.

Stupid is as stupid does…

15 07 2012

And then the wheels REALLY came off…

OK. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t had the best of weekends golf wise. Things started badly when Bruce invited me to join his Saturday morning group. I was happy to play with him, Bud and Li’l Stevie Ellis, but I explained to Bruce that, even though it only cost $4:50 to enter, I preferred not to take part in their Skins game as it would mean having to play him even up. Bruce then explained to me that seeing as he was fixing my van at the moment my bill would go up by an awful lot more than $4:50 if I didn’t join in. I could see his point, joined in the game and – somewhat predictably – lost the lot. Even worse, Bud beat me for the third time running. Bud must have been away from school the day they did ‘how to win gracefully’, because he gave me the gears from the first shot of the day to the last.

I’m normally pretty chirpy on the golf course, and etiquette is my middle name, but when I missed a two foot putt for double bogey on #14 I have to confess that my standards slipped for a moment. I’d prefer to say that I tossed my putter lightly towards my bag, but Bruce and Bud were in no doubt that what they had witnessed constituted club abuse and that I’d be getting a phone call later from Bruce’s wife Joanne. (Joanne is, apparently, the keeper of the sacred flame of good golf course etiquette). A couple of holes later I hit an utterly miserable tee shot and wound up to give my driver a seriously good throw. At the very last second I remembered the no club throwing rule and managed instead to thwack Bud’s head cover, which was lying on the ground. It’s one of those furry animal head covers (in the form of a skunk – Pepé le Pew, actually) and it gave a very satisfying thunk as it rolled along the tee box. There was also a click, which I realised to my horror was Pepé’s glass eye, and which was now lying on the ground next to its owner. Oops! There was no getting out of this one, so it was a very quiet, very contrite Bagger Dave who completed his round in eighty flippin’ seven ugly blows.

As it happened, I was paired with Bud and Bruce again on Sunday, along with Henry Bondé. It’s always great playing with Henry – a man whose decibel level on the golf course makes me appear to have taken a vow of silence – and Henry was in especially fine fettle as he played lights out. My game also took a turn for the better and I was particularly pleased when I hit a good drive on #14 to give myself a chance to avenge the ugly snowman of the previous day. I should have known better: my second shot, a three wood, was horrible and headed straight for the ditch that crosses the fairway, 160 yards or so short of the green. The others all hit good second shots (Bruce actually hit driver off the fairway to the fringe of this 500 yard Par 5 monster) and joined me in the search for my ball. Disconsolate, I was reaching into my bag to find a ball to drop when Henry bellowed in my ear that he could see a ball up past the ditch, in the middle of the fairway. Was it mine? It was indeed! I’d got the luckiest of bounces and my ball had ricocheted off the bridge up to near the 100 yard marker. I’m not really into over exuberant celebration, but this huge stroke of fortune demanded a high five with my playing partner. This obviously meant letting go of my pull cart and it was at this point that Newton’s law of gravity took over. The cart rolled down the slope – slowly, yet just fast enough to evade my desperate grasp – and fell into the ditch. Somehow the bag and all the clubs were catapulted onto a dry patch in the middle of the creek, but the cart itself sank up to its wheels in water. Just as I was clambering down to retrieve all my belongings, Doug the greenkeeper came by on his mower. He switched off the engine. “Hey, Dave. For future reference, next time you play this hole you don’t have to carry all your belongings across the creek with you.” He gestured behind him. “That’s why we built the bridge.”

Thanks for that, Doug. Thanks a lot.

So the record is as follows: Saturday on #14 – one club thrown. Sunday – an entire bagful dispatched into the ditch. I can hardly wait to see what lies in store for me next time out.

All da best!

Dave B.

The Kitsap Kid

12 05 2012

The picturesque 15th at Port Ludlow – an idyllic scene, apart from the fact that my tee shot finished up in the bloody pond.

Back in February, in the murky depths of a typical Vancouver Island winter, a group of us from Glacier Greens decided to cheer ourselves up by planning a short golf trip to Washington State in May. The usual suspects were involved: myself, Glennie, the Great Robinski, Chief, Smokin’ Joe, the Budmeister and Li’l Stevie Ellis. A little later, to add some credibility to a group that had enthusiasm by the bucket load but also plenty of loft (Lack Of Fu#%ing Talent), we added Rod Cobham who plays off a handicap of 7 on a good day. As we were to discover, these good days do not apparently take place in May. Not that it would be fair to single Rod out for underachieving. Half the group had days when they failed to break 100. Obviously it would be unethical to name names, but Robin, Glennie, Li’l Stevie and the Chief know who they are. Anyway, here are the eight of us, pictured with our roomies and with faces that surely only a mother could love:

Adrian and Bud share the love – an unusual moment in a week of feuding for the dynamic duo.

Steve and Glen look forward to mastering McCormick Woods. Things didn’t work out quite as planned…

Dave puts on a brave smirk, in the desperate hope that things will go better this time. Rod hopes that his $10 cigar will make him look like a pro. Both are going to be disappointed.

Robin tells Joe about his many wins on tour. Joe nods and smiles – he’s seen Robin’s golf swing.

Anyway, it was my responsibility to arrange an itinerary for five days of golf. We had decided that the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State would be a great place to play, so I began by looking up a bunch of courses on the map and emailing them to find out about availability, green fees etc. Somehow my mass email reached a nice lady at the tourist office in Silverdale who informed me that nearly all the courses I’d picked weren’t actually on the Olympic Peninsula at all, but the Kitsap Peninsula, of which I had to admit I had never heard. After a phone conversation with her that included a free geography lesson, I was able to narrow our choices down to six courses to be played in five days: the Peninsula course, just ten minutes from the ferry in Port Angeles: McCormick Woods, Trophy Lake and the two Gold Mountain courses, all within a fifteen minute drive of Bremerton, where our hotel was; and Port Ludlow, handily placed on the road back to Port Angeles and the Friday afternoon ferry to Victoria.

If you’re eagerly anticipating a blow by blow account of all six rounds then I’m afraid you are to be disappointed. Overall the scores make too painful reading and the sensitive ones in our group will already have sought professional help to erase the catalogue of disasters from their memory banks. The Chief will be taking lessons to avoid the onset of banana ball syndrome that suddenly afflicted his game; Robin will hopefully make a full recovery from tee shots that were little slicey things on some holes and then, unaccountably, turned into big hooky things on others; Rod, who admittedly hit some truly prodigious drives, also fell prey to a severe attack of the Ravi Shankers and hit several what he brilliantly termed ‘unguided missiles’; li’l Stevie smiled manfully throughout but unwise choices on the off course beverage consumption front rendered him incapable of making wise decisions on course; Bud put so much energy into feuds with the Chief and yours truly that he had nothing left for the actual golf; Glennie’s opportunities to utter his signature phrase – “God, I LOVE this game” – were few and far between; and as for myself, the fact that my scores got worse EVERY SINGLE FLIPPIN’ DAY until Friday will give you some insight into my state of mind by the time we were packing to leave for home.

Not that it was all bad. We were very happy with the quality of the courses we played, and by Vancouver Island standards prices were really good. I mean, two rounds of golf at Gold Mountain, including a cart all day, for $58? Seriously? Despite being a little out of the way, our hotel – the Baymont Inn in Bremerton – was clean and comfortable and fairly priced. The lack of a bar and restaurant caused some early concerns, but a great pub down the road and a nearby liquor store meant that we neither died of hunger or thirst. The weather, courtesy of Bud, was decent every day too. But for seven of us – the not-so-magnificent seven – our golf games had apparently disappeared somewhere on the ferry crossing between Canada and the States.

The proud exception was Smokin’ Joe. Despite being dealt an early psychological blow by the news that other members of the group had snuck pull carts into the trucks and were thus going to save themselves $20 or so in rental fees, Joe pulled himself together and shot a series of outstanding rounds, recouping all that money and considerably more from the prize fund we had hastily arranged during the ferry crossing. If we played as individuals, Joe won. If we played as pairs, Joe won. When we tried groups of four, Joe still won. It would be tempting to say that some kind of doubtful handicapping was going on, but the truth was that Joe managed to play to his handicap, while the rest of us – not to put too fine a point on it – basically sucked. We all had our moments though: Adrian had two birdies in our last round and scooped up a bunch of skins; Bud had FOUR birdies in one of the early rounds; Steve found a new swing that would seem to indicate a bright future; Rod came within an inch of a hole in one; Glen shot a superb 38 on the front nine at Gold Mountain; I didn’t throw any clubs at all for the first four rounds; and Robin got to sleep with Joe, although not in the biblical sense of course.

So we all had plenty to smile about on the ferry ride home as we made our excuses, blamed outside agencies for poor shots, swapped lies and hard luck stories and got Adrian to divvy up the prize fund. But the man with the biggest smile of all, the runaway winner of the inaugural Washington Whackf@#% Turkey Neck Invitational Tour of 2012, is the Kitsap Kid himself – Joe Dunham. Many congrats on a great week’s golf, Joe, as well as putting up with unrelenting abuse from the rest of us. A worthy recipient indeed!

You know you’re in trouble when… A fairly typical approach shot at Trophy Lake finishes up in a fairly typical lie. Another triple bogey coming up.

All da best!

Dave B.