4 for 40
Pinehurst. Ballyneal. Cabot Links. St. Andrews. A trip of a lifetime for a worthy cause.
Welcome to Husker Dunes Golf Club, my foray into fake golf course design.
The Ben Cox 108+
Photos and recap on a great day at Ballyneal, raising money for a great cause...
Never thought I'd see the day...
Can you guess how I fared on this U.S. Open test?
The Definitive Guide to Chicago's Best Public Golf Courses
Check out our ranking of the best Chicago public golf courses...
Jim connects with his roots during three days in beautiful Northern California...
The Ballynizzle Cup
Check out Part One of the Ryder Cup showdown between Team Coltrain and Team Jefe...
The Bucket List
The Triumvirate checks off one of the courses they've been dying to play in a truly once in a lifetime experience...
The Kingsley Club
Check out the triumvirates visit to Mike Devries incredible course in Northern Michigan...
Tang vs. Tang: One for the Ages
Check out the (extremely) detailed hole-by-hole action of the 2008 Shell's Wonderful World of Golf, a truly epic match between the brothers Tang...
CNBC recently ran a segment on Ballyneal. Check out the link below. Mike Hegedus, aka 'Mike on America', calls it 'one of the best golf courses on the planet.' I couldn't agree more. It's a shame they only showed Rupert's normal swing instead of his Happy Gilmore.
Ballyneal is one of those once in a lifetime courses. A once in a lifetime course that I somehow managed to visit twice in one year. I've gotta be the luckiest guy in the world.
When Jefe and I made it out there this past June, we felt awful about going without his brother Jimbo. Of course, that didn't stop us from having one of the all-time great golf experiences in our lifetime, but we did feel bad about it. Honest.
I knew I had to get Jimbo out to Holyoke. Ballyneal is a place that needs to be seen and experienced first hand to be believed. The pictures simply don't do it justice. So I scooped up the opportunity to head back out there last week, and it only took about 2 seconds for Jimbo to decide he was in. 6th grade Global Studies class would be getting a sub on Friday, because Mr. Tang is off to Ballynizzle!
One of the huge advantages of Ballyneal over some of the other remote destination courses like Sand Hills, Dismal River, Sutton Bay, Bandon Dunes, etc., is that it's not quite as remote as the others. For those of us who slum it by flying commercial, Ballyneal is a relatively hop, skip and a jump. There are tons of flights from Chicago to Denver, and the course is only 2 1/2 hours by car from the airport. Jimbo and I were on the 6 am flight Friday morning and were hitting off the first tee by 11:45 without any rush. To me, this is a huge advantage as it allows for 36 holes both on the day you get there and the day you leave. 6+ rounds over a 3-day weekend is easily doable. Head out to Bandon via Portland and you're spending a day on travel each way.
Of course, you can't drive to Holyoke from Denver without passing through Sterling, aka the home of Jimbo's future in-laws. I was very tempted to try to find out where Shayna's parents live so Jimbo could stop by and make a good first impression. However, Jimbo is still apprehensive about the 14-year age difference between he and his bethrothed. I have provided nothing but sound relationship advice to Jimbo over the years, but he never listens. So what if she's a senior in college (and now has a serious boyfriend), Shayna is perfect for him.
It didn't take long for Shayna to become a distant memory, because once we got to Ballyneal, Jimbo set his sights on another female employee. I've never seen the guy so smitten before. He was ready to drop down on one knee in the parking lot. Although the potential for free golf could've been a contributing factor.
But more on Jimbo's love at first sight in a second. We gotta talk about my true love...the golf course. It's safe to say that I've been thinking about Ballyneal every waking moment since I left back in June, to an unhealthy degree that probably adversely affected my work, marriage, etc. It's crazy to like a golf course this much. But as the months passed, I began to wonder if it was really as good as I first remembered. Maybe I was wrong about the whole place.
After heading back, I realized that I was wrong about Ballyneal. It was even better than I remembered. Ballyneal truly is one of those special courses that gets better with each round. You could play 1,000 rounds here and never get bored. We played 7 rounds in 3 days, and with varied wind conditions, a liberating lack of tee boxes, huge fairways and lots of interesting pin positions on each hole, it never felt like the same course twice.
Because I played so poorly the first time out, I don't think I got a full appreciation for some of the holes. The long par 4's, in particular, really stood out more in my mind than last time, probably because I actually got to experience them from the fairway instead of a yucca plant. What a world of difference.
I was interested to see if Jimbo felt the same way. Of course, if he didn't like the course for some reason, it would've meant the immediate end of our friendship. But both Jefe and I, knowing Jimbo's love for Tom Doak's Pacific Dunes (and home of Bernie, his beloved tufted puffin headcover), were confident that he'd enjoy another one one of Tommy D's growing list of masterpieces (to put it bluntly...Tommy D is the balls).
Sure enough, Jimbo was hooked. I put the over/under on him becoming totally head-over-heels by time he reached the 2nd fairway, but it might have occurred even before that. If not, he was certainly on board by the time he climbed up the ridge to the 4th tee. I didn't want to spoil it for him, so I just walked alongside and waited for his reaction. There's really only one suitable and universal reaction to seeing the 4th tee for the first time, and Jimbo nailed the Keanu Reeves perfectly: 'Whoa.'
I tried to let Jimbo discover the holes on his own, but I couldn't help myself from an offering a 'This next hole is awesome.'. After doing that for 5 holes in a row, eventually I just had to tell him, 'Alright. From now on just assume the next hole is awesome unless told otherwise.' He never had to be told otherwise.
Our golf games left a little to be desired. Jimbo had a tough time judging the greens, never quite getting the pace down until the very last round of the trip. He actually hit the ball as well as I've seen him hit it all year, but the diabolical Ballyneal greens were his demise. Take solace, Jimbo, you aren't the only one.
Amazingly, it had been exactly one month since I had even swung a golf club...hard to fathom, I know. Let's just say that working for one of the largest banks in the world during unprecedented financial turmoil doesn't leave much time to work on one's golf game. Also, a couple weeks ago I had to deal with the trauma of going to pick up my car at the train station parking lot only to find two dudes using my car as a canoe launch. Needless to say, it's been an interesting month. Golf has been on the backburner.
Despite the rust, I was determined to better my showing from last time, where I embarassingly never even finished a round with a score. Goal number one: finish a round. Goal number two: break 90. Goal number three: walk 6-7 rounds in 3 days without a stroke, heart attack or being attacked by a snake. Two out of three seemed like a reasonable goal. Thankfully, I had a number of stipulations for Jimbo in exchange for getting him on the course. Stipulation #1: he would have to carry my bag (he's a caddie in the summer, he could easily double loop it). Stipulation #2: he'd have to give me a foot rub after each round. Stipulation #3: no matter how poorly I played, he would have to let me beat him. You know...basic stuff. These would definitely help in my cause. Apparently, he never got the memo though. What a jerk!
Sans caddie, footrubs and footwedges, we burned around the first 18 in about 3 hours, 20 minutes and I somehow managed to shoot 84. Two down, one to go! We still had about 3-1/2 hours left of daylight, so 36 looked like a shoe-in. However, on the the 5th hole of round two, a storm started brewing just beyond the property. Our sunny, 85-degrees day with little wind now turned into dark, dreary and blustering by the time we reached the 6th tee. As we finished up the 7th hole, lightning struck in the distance. We're heading in boys! (Although my plan for a storybook ending is to drop dead on the 7th hole at Ballyneal, I hope it's when I'm 94 and not 34.) We hurriedly played the 8th and 9th (one positive: they were both now extremely downwind) and hustled into the pro shop to wait it out. Unfortunately, it never really did blow over (nor did it ever rain, strangely) until it was nearly dark. My dream of 36-54-36 was dead. My cost-per-round pro formas were now completely out of whack.
With little else to do and about 90 minutes to kill until our dinner reservation, the focus shifted to landing Jim his future wife. What followed was the saddest display of pick-up moves since A Night at the Roxbury. And you thought our golf games were bad.
Playing the role of Wing Man was yours truly. I think my singles antannae disintegrated about 15 years ago. I don't know much about the dating scene, but I do know this: when picking a Wing Man to help you out at the bar, you probably want to avoid the anti-social, married with three kids, 34-year old numbers cruncher who doesn't drink and can only talk intelligently about golf, fantasy basketball and pilates. Poor Jimbo didn't stand a chance.
Just as Jimbo was trying to get comfortable, one of the assistants (perhaps trying to make his own move) suggested that we head over to the restaurant early. That seemed like a far better alternative to me than hanging out at the bar for an hour, so I immediately decided, 'Alright. Let's go eat,' completely oblivious to what Jimbo was trying to accomplish. His look was priceless: 'You idiot!'
Later on at the restaurant, said female target came over to the restaurant to fetch a bottle of wine and asked if we were heading back to the bar after dinner. Again, I was completely clueless to the whole thing, so I responded with a non-committal 'We'll see.' Not surprisingly, Jimbo gave me that same look again, this time while shoveling in his rigatoni at break-neck speed. Had I ordered dessert (and trust me, I wanted to since Jimbo was graciously buying), Jimbo would've stuck a fork in my jugular.
Thankfully, we did make it back to the bar after dinner and she was still there. Unfortunately, Jim was still Jim and Jimbo was still Jimbo. Below is an actual transcript of some of Jimbo's pick-up conversation.
Target: 'I work here five days a week. The rest of the time I'm on call as an X-Ray Tech nearby'
Jimbo: 'So what do you do?'
Target: 'I give X-Rays.'
Jim: 'Cool. Did you know the RPI is deeply flawed?'
Okay, I threw in the last part. But I'll let you guess how this one turned out.
DAY TWO: PAM AND THE PUSH CARTS
Saturday morning brought back two pleasant memories from my first trip in June: Ballyneal bacon and Pam, the schoolteacher/caddie. First, there's bacon, and there's Ballyneal bacon. It's worth the trip to Colorado alone. Second, I requested my ol' buddy (and now facebook friend) Pam, the choir teacher and F.O.S. (friend of Shayna). With Jimbo's mind and heart elsewhere and Shayna off at school with some boy toy, it was up to Pam and me (I almost typed Jim and Pam) to keep any chance of the Jimbo/Shayna union alive. It was looking pretty grim. So grim, in fact, that Pam started trying to set Jimbo up with her 25-year old daughter in Boston. C'mon, Pam! You're killing me here!
Oh yeah, first and foremost, we were there to golf, not to shop for engagement rings. Saturday morning started overcast, breezy and cool, but soon the sun came out and it was the perfect day for golf. Man, there really is nothing better than being the first group off on a world-class golf course. I love this game! My round started well, including after a birdie on the 7th hole (still my favorite hole on the course and one of the best short par 4's in the world.) However, starting mid-way through the 8th hole, I started topping the ball uncontrollably. I couldn't stop. I tripled the 8th hole from the middle of the fairway, played the six-hole stretch from 8-13 10-over par, and completely blew any chance of breaking 80 on this course. It may never happen. Amazingly, I righted the ship and somehow managed to par the last 5 holes. But the damage was done.
Pam and I had our teary goodbyes, Jimbo and I had lunch then headed back out to the first tee for round two. The round was a pretty much a blur, but I know it contained a lot of bogeys. Fittingly, I finished the round +18. I've completely morphed into a 10-handicap. The putting madness finally got to Jimbo and I think he stopped keeping score (I've been there).
Most rational people who stop after 36, especially playing as poorly as we were. But we soldiered on. As I was about to head to the first tee, one of the club-provided pull-carts caught the corner of my eye. Now, it's been at least 20 years since I've taken a pull-cart. I was reluctant to even ask Jimbo if he wanted one, but he, too, saw the light. I felt like the biggest idiot pulling (pushing, actually) that thing around, but it did the trick. I couldn't help but keep thinking about my sister-in-law's pull cart with a little pull-down stool on the side. Now all I needed was a purple, paisley embroidered cart bag and the look would be complete. Equally embarrassed, Jimbo had a stipulation of his own, 'No one must ever know that we took these things.'
Of course, that didn't stop me from snapping the following picture of Jimbo on the 4th hole and sending it to Jefe.
The picture invoked the following response from Jeff:
'What...is...that...thing...on...three...wheels? What are you two DOING out there!!!'
I knew he would be shocked and appalled. But this is Jefe we're talking about here. The same guy with the claw grip and two gloves. A point that Jimbo had to make in a follow-up text message.
Jimbo: 'For the record, BOTH of us had pull carts. And it was only after 36 holes. Besides, don't you wear two gloves?'
Jefe: 'Yeah. But I'm quirky.'
It takes a big man to admit that. I'm glad to see Jefe making real progress.
To try to speed things up, Jimbo and I decided to play match-play. However, it didn't really help the pace of play as we both continuously had 4-5 foot testers to halve or win holes. I was all set to concede the first hole after Jimbo had a 15-footer for birdie and I had a 9-footer for bogey. But then I remembered it was Jimbo we were dealing with here. Predictably, he ran his birdie putt 5 feet past and missed it coming back. I curled my putt in for a halve. This happened three times in nine holes as I cruised to a 1-up win for nine holes (although Jimbo mistakenly thought his par on 9th squared it up.)
In one of the few signs of intelligence all weekend, Jimbo decided to call it quits after 45 holes. I took one look at the wide-open back nine, the blue skies and the late-afternoon sun and there was really no choice. I had to keep going. My dogs were barking, but it was the best decision I made all weekend. As the sun set, the course was magnificent. 12, 13 and 14 looked absolutely amazing. I tried taking pictures with my camera phone, but it was hopeless. Right then, I knew all I could do was stick these images into the memory banks. No picture could do it justice. No matter how I tried to describe it, no one would fully grasp it. All I could do was call my wife and tell her I wished she were right there with me.
Not surprisingly, when you're soaking in the view and just having a great time, your golf tends to improve as well. I was in auto-pilot and something resembling my regular golf game returned. Tap-in pars, a concept so unfamiliar to me after 8+ rounds at Ballyneal, now became the norm. (Tap-in pars at Ballyneal are an achievement here. They feel like half-birdies.) After doubling the 10th hole (I should just write down 6 on this hole and move on), I had good birdie chances and routine pars on 11-14. He's back!
On 15, I caught up to a twosome teeing off and joined up. A group ahead of them combined into a fivesome, so finishing 18 before dark was going to be a serious issue. Fortunately, the guys I joined had already given up trying to solve the Ballyneal greens, so it made for some quick holes. Their '20-foot gimme range, 35-feet if breaks less than three feet' rule made me want to reconsider my choice in golf buddies.
These guys got on to Ballyneal through some friends. Immediately after the round, they were all heading to Mullen, Nebraska to go play Sand Hills the following day. As we walked back up to the clubhouse, I half-jokingly asked if they had room for two more. What if they had said 'Yes'? How would Jeff reacted had Jimbo and I played Sand Hills without him? Do you think we'd ever heard from him again? Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending how you look at it), we didn't have to find out. [Note: my guess is Jefe would've immediately jumped in his car and drove all night to Nebraska had the opportunity presented itself. We're not normal. Especially not Jefe.]
DAY THREE: HAPPY LEARNED HOW TO PUTT
Saturday's late afternoon nine was the highlight of my trip, but man I was paying the price for those 54 holes the next day. Whereas Jimbo slept like a baby and was out cold by 8:45 pm, I was tossing and turning all night. My legs from the knees down throbbed, and I couldn't get comfortable. I guess this is why most people take Advil. I'm going to have to stock up next time. This just in...I'm getting old.
Not even an i.v. Of Ballyneal bacon could resuscitate me on this day. The good news was Sunday was beautifully sunny and calm. Perfect scoring conditions. The bad news was I had nothing left in the tank. And I was moving like a 95-year old man.
For some reason, we decided to eschew caddies on the final day. First off on the tee...two guys walking a combined 3.5 miles per hour. It was not a pretty sight. I couldn't feel the bottom half of my big toes (and now, two weeks later, they are still numb. Probably not a good sign.) But we soldiered on. This is what we do. Eat, Sleep, Golf. Or in my case…Golf. Lay in bed. Eat bacon. Golf some more.
Not surprisingly, my golf game suffered as well. After only two three putts in the first 81 holes, I promptly three-jacked the first two greens. I just didn't have it. On the front nine, I gave away six strokes on unforced errors. On #4, I was 80 yards from the green in two and ended up making triple. Miss on the wrong side on some of these greens and you’re toast.
I'm convinced Jimbo and I must've switched places. After two days of being completely baffled by the greens, he started to get the pace and slopes down. He conquered his personal nemesis, the first hole, by rolling in a long birdie putt. The flood gates were open.
As we walked up to the 11th green, somebody was there to greet us. Rupert O'Neal, one of the co-owners of the club (along with his brother Jim.) He got there just in time to see me skull my tee shot about half way to the hole (but then get up and down with a nifty chip that used the slopes to feed towards the cup.)
Rupert joined up with us from the 12th hole on. A farmer first, golfer distant second, Rup Doggy Dogg is the primary reason Ballyneal had the unpretentious, laid-back vibe that it does. You might think you need to be on your best behavior when playing with a proprietor of one of the best golf courses in the world, but Rupert immediately put us at ease and let us be ourselves, which is good because we don't know how to be anything other than golf-obsessed idiots. Over the last 7 holes, we learned a lot about the development of the course, the working relationship with Doak, and the process for getting the turf just right. We even talked about my blog...where Rupert openly applauded Jimbo going after Shayna.
On the 17th tee, after Jimbo had hit his drive, he asked us the following question:
'Have you guys ever tried the Happy Gilmore swing?'
'Yeah sure. Back when the movie came out like 12 years ago,' I replied. (by the way, Happy Gilmore is my wife's all-time favorite movie. And although he probably wouldn't admit it, I think it's my father-in- law's favorite movie as well.)
Then Rupert proceeded to walk-up to the ball and smash it right down the middle, a good 25 yards past Jimbo's normal drive! What a shot. It was immediately apparent that he must do this with every group he plays with. He should just stick with the Happy swing because it's better than his real one.
Of course, I had no choice but to give it a try. There was a 108% chance that I was going to throw my back out, but I reared back, walked up and...missed the ball by about a foot and a half. I did get bonus points for a Sandler-esque 'so long sucka!!!' during the swing though. I'm happy to report that I did make contact on the second try, but nowhere near as impressive as Rupert's drive.
Jimbo was next. (let the record show that he had to be goaded into giving it a shot.) Just then I had the brilliant idea of using the speed-frame on his camera to record the entire swing sequence. Take a look below.
Jimbo made solid contact on the first try, but blocked it well out to the right. In the pictures, you can see he is perfectly in the slot right before impact. Dare I say, he looks a lot better here than in his real swing.
We skipped lunch after the round and headed straight back out to the course (Again, because that's what we do. Now eat and sleep have been removed from the equation.) A large outing of guys from Cherry Hills had just arrived and were teeing off on #1, so we started on the back. It was smooth sailing, but more of the same from a golf perspective for me. Maybe someday I’ll break 80 on this course, but it ain’t happening in 2008.
As I mentioned, one of key strengths of Ballyneal is the number of different ways you can play each hole, and the number of different ways the course plays based on wind strength, wind direction, time of the year, pin positions, etc. After playing the par 5 16th hole a bunch of different ways, both good and bad, I found a new one during the final round. My third shot just missed clearing the deep front bunker, and plugged just under the top lip. Jimbo seized the opportunity to capitalize on my misery with a little swing-sequence payback. Check out the nine-picture sequence below, which Jimbo later described as a 'greek tragedy.'
There was a good chance that if I tried to hit the shot standing up, I would've either fallen over down into the bunker, or the ball would've shot straight up and hit me in the face.
Dorf on Golf!
The ball popped straight up in the air. What you don't see here is that while it was in the air, I took a second swipe at it but whiffed.
These last two are priceless. I love the 'what just happened?' look on my face. You'll notice that my club is gone. Where's my sand wedge?
There's my sand wedge.
I followed up my ‘Dorf on Golf’ shot by nearly holing out the next one, lipping out what would’ve been an all-world par (if you don’t count the penalty for tossing the club into the hazard and probably another one for attempting to hit the ball while it was still in motion.)
Jimbo kept his hot putter going in round two, looking like he had finally gotten the hang of the greens. Happy learned to putt! Lo and behold, not three-putting every other hole can have a dramatic positive impact on your golf score. Jimbo had the gall to beat me handily, shoot the low round of the trip (80), and match me in total birdies with 5 after his bird on #7 (with the pin all the way back nonetheless. In the morning round, Jimbo’s approach was on the front right portion of the green and he tried to chip it over the bunker and to the back pin. I strongly urged him to putt the ball around the bunker and use the giant banked slope to get it back there. Jimbo decided to chip, ended up chili-dipping the ball into the bunker and took a big chunk out of the green. The whole event seemed to happen in slow motion for me. ‘Nooooo!!!’ Four hours after defacing one of the great greensites in all of golf, he birdies the sucker.)
Despite the poor play, the hitch in my giddy-up, and the fact that I’ll probably have to have my big toes amputated at some point in the future, 117 holes at Ballyneal in 3 days was completely worth it. Golf just doesn’t get any better than this. There may be a handful of golf courses as good as this, but I’d be shocked if there are any that are materially better. Jimbo and I hit the road at 3:30 pm and headed back to the airport for our late-night flights home. And then it was back to the normal routine of thinking about Ballyneal to an unhealthy degree and pining for a return visit. The only difference is before I thought Ballyneal was ‘that’ good. Now I know it is.
Tiger versus Rocco. Padraig versus Sergio. And now Tang versus Tang.
2008 has seen its share of classic head-to-head golf battles. Arguably none quite as compelling as what went down at Arcadia Bluffs on August 13th. While some play for major championships, millions of dollars and a place in golf history, others play for family bragging rights and a stolen 10-inch tall aluminum candle holder. The level of the golf being played might not be the same (or anywhere close to the same), but the drama that unfolds can be just as good.
I've had the pleasure of seeing these two brothers battle it out over a number of years, and it's always been a good fight. I've learned two things about what to expect when the Tang brothers are duking it out: 1) No lead is ever safe and 2) the pressure is too much for both of them to handle. Victory is usually not defined by who plays the best, but by who manages to screw up less down the stretch. Usually, I'm the one sneaking in for the low score as the Tang's stumble all over each other. On this day, however, I'm just a man on the sidelines reporting and recording all of the action (and I do mean ALL of the action). My role was to provide play-by-play (with guest commentator Bernie the Tufted Puffin Headcover) of every stroke of the 2008 Shell's Wonderful World of Golf between Jefe and Jimbo at Arcadia Bluffs.
What unfolded at Arcadia was one for the ages, an epic battle between hermano y hermano. Maybe someday it will make its way to the Golf Channel at 2:30 in the morning. I'm not going to spoil it for you, the only details that I'll spill was that it was epic and it goes to the final hole. I invite you to come along for the ride. Below I will be posting links to follow the hole-by-hole action daily until we get to the 18th. Eventually, I'll put it all on a DVD with graphics and everything, making a perfect Christmas present for any golfer (named Jefe or Jimbo).
Hole by Hole:
Welcome to the 2008 Shell's Wonderful World of Golf live from Arcadia, Michigan. This year's contest pits two brothers against each other, Jefe and Jimbo in an attempt to answer once and for all who is the superior golfer. The venue is beautiful Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club on the banks high above Lake Michigan.
When this golf trip was in the planning stages months ago, I decided to focus only on the courses that I hadn't played before. So I took a pass on Arcadia Bluffs which was scheduled for the last day of the trip. Originally, Jefe and Jimbo were planning on doing a replay after the first round, so that left me with potentially 9 or more hours of free time on my hands. That was the big white elephant in the car during the first half of the trip. Finally, Jimbo asked, 'So...what are you going to do while we're playing Arcadia Bluffs?' I had a bunch of options. I could knuckle up and just play. I could beat range balls all day (I definitely needed it). I could work on the blog all day. Or I could just tag along. That was an easy decision for me. What if I missed something? Besides, who was going to give these guys the needle?
When we went to Arcadia for dinner the night before, we found out that the replay was going to be a no-go. The first opening for a potential replay (you can't book them in the advance), was 4:50 p.m. That's great news for Arcadia Bluffs, but not so great news for us. At least we'd be getting home around 5:00 pm instead of 1:00 am. So that left us with one round, Jefe versus Jimbo. The idea for the Shell's Wonderful World of Golf was born. Thankfully, I stocked up on video tapes at Best Buy in Traverse City.
Somewhere in the middle of day one of our trip, Bernie the Tufted Puffin Headcover became the rock star of the trip. 95% of the jokes during the trip revolved around Bernie. The Bernie voice was a comedic goldmine for whomever was doing the impersonation. At dinner, the night before, it was decided that Bernie would be my color commentator. And of course he would be very pro-Jimbo. I would provide the schmaltzy Jim Nantz-like play-by-play.
We found out that one other guy was paired up with us in the 7:30 am group (the first of the day) -- a guy by the name of Jim Bruner. (The fact that they had an opening for a fourth tested my will, but I was much more excited about the possibility of broadcasting than shooting 90 again.) Having a third guy was going to be a little awkward, mostly for Mr. Bruner. Can you imagine him coming home from his round and his wife asking how his round went? 'Fine, honey. Although I played with these two guys, one dude who videotaped the whole thing, and this dude's penguin puppet.' Is it any wonder why we can't find anybody willing to be our fourth?
Sometimes, the Golf Gods just smile upon you. 7:30 rolled around and Jim Bruner never showed up. I had creative license to ham-and-egg it up as much as I wanted. The Shell's Wonderful World of Golf was on!
The first hole at Arcadia is a relatively simple, short par 5. A very good chance to make birdie and get off to a good start.
Right off the bat, we see just how different Jefe and Jimbo are with respect to their golf games. Jimbo is a self-confessed dinker, but makes up for it with consistent ball-striking, keeping it in-play and a superb wedge game from 100 yards and in. Jefe is much longer off the tee, but much more erratic. His game is very volatile. He'll follow up an extremely poor shot with an amazing one, and he's a tremendous clutch putter, despite a very unconventional putting stroke.
Jimbo is in the middle of undergoing dramatic swing changes to get his swing more on-plane, with mixed results. His swing guru is none other than his brother and adversary, Jefe. That creates an interesting little twist to the match. Brother vs Brother. Student vs Teacher. Personally, I much rather have a flawed swing than let Jefe have anything to do with it. The only two things that could come out of that are a.) he sabotages my game completely, or b) he fixes it, in which case he takes the credit for my success. Neither one is a desirable outcome in my opinion.
Local rules for the Shell's Wonderful World of Golf allow for unlimited mulligans on the first tee. Both Jimbo and Jefe take advantage of the rules with a Breakfast Ball, but no one abuses the privelege by sticking around for Lunch and Dinner. The second drives provide a preview of what we'll probably see the rest of the match...Jimbo short but in the fairway; Jefe closer to the green but in the rough.
Jefe has about 250 yards into the green to reach it in two, and gets it close to the front of the green. Jimbo is forced to lay-up, and then puts his approach shot pin high put well left of the green. Jefe has a lot of green to work with for a good chance at getting up and down for birdie, but leaves his chip about 15 feet right of the pin and misses the birdie putt. Jimbo falls victim to the quick, sloping greens at Arcadia, misjudging the line and three-putting for bogey. Jefe with a one-shot advantage.
Jefe: During the speed round I had put my second shot just to the right of the green so I knew I could get it up there again if I could cut the corner a bit with my drive. I was in a good spot to get it close to the green but that large bunker in front was right in my way so I couldn't take a direct route at the flag. I left it in a good spot but it was a tricky chip, I managed to hit a decent shot and was happy to start out with a solid par.
Jimbo: I love Arcadia so I had good vibes on the first tee. I hit a pretty decent drive leaving me something like 280 yards in. I decided on my trusty hybrid but caught it skinny. I had about 140 yards left for the 3rd shot but caught that one thin too. The three wack on the first green did nothing for my temperment.
After One Hole: Jefe Even; Jimbo +1
An interesting subplot to all of our rounds together is the race for number two. After years of toiling away at this game with nary a hole-in-one amongst any of us, three years ago Jimbo broke through and made the first ace in the group. With the flood gates opened, Jefe made his first ace later that year. Last but not least, I joined the club a year later. Three aces in a span of 18 months.
The funny thing about a hole-in-one is if you don't have one, you wonder if you're ever going to get one. I thought for sure I'd be that guy who played golf for 60 years yet never tasted the glory. But once you make one, you think you can makes lots of 'em. One of us should have another one by now.
We've had our fair share of near misses this year. My first encounter with a par 3 at Ballyneal, the 3rd hole, was greeted by a shot dancing around the cup. Jefe nearly had one at the tail end of the same trip at the 5th hole. And Jimbo nearly had one here at the 2nd hole at Arcadia, firing one right at the stick and ending up less than a foot away. Wouldn't it have been great to get a hole-in-one on camera?
The consolation to not getting an ace is getting a kick-in birdie and gaining a stroke to Jefe in the match. Jefe hit a good shot that stayed below the hole, but left his birdie attempt short. After two holes, we're all square.
Jefe: I was aiming right at the flag with it being a green lighter but pushed it slightly. The slope kicked the ball towards the flag, and I actually thought it would be a lot closer than it ended up being. Jimbo hit an amazing shot, I thought it had a real chance of going in.
Jimbo: Jefe can be a tough front runner so I knew I couldn't afford to get way down early. Jefe hit a pretty decent shot below the hole. However, I noticed the ball didn't carry very well in the cool morning air, so I took one extra club and wacked a 6 iron. I caught it pure (for a change) and watched it stop about 3 inches from the cup. The race for ace #2 almost ended right there. Back to even for me.
After 2 Holes: Jefe Even; Jimbo Even
The third hole at Arcadia Bluffs is another birdie hole, a reachable par 5 at only 503 yards. It is also the site of one of my more famous epic meltdowns. All you have to do is avoid one of the two giant pot bunkers littered in the fairway. Well, on our last trip, I hit a good drive and had a chance to reach the green in two, until my 3-iron went screaming into the bank of the pot bunker and ended up right against the face with no chance of getting out. It took a long time to get out of there, not because of multiple shots, but because I had to pick-up the 14 clubs that mysteriously removed themselves from my bag.
Thankfully, Jefe and Jimbo managed to avoid the pot bunkers on their second holes, but neither golfer played the hole very well. Jefe missed his drive right, hit a fine second shot but air mailed the green. Jimbo hit a very thin lay-up shot and left himself way back for his third. Both players had 15-footers for par but couldn't convert. The match is still all-square after three.
Jefe: One of my favorite holes at AB but I hit one of my worst drives of the day and that's saying a lot given I only hit 3 fairways all day. I caught a decent lie in the rough but pushed my second shot also which luckily just avoided the bunker. I hit what I thought was a good 8 iron but it must have caught the slope on the back side of the green because it was way over the green. I hit a solid pitch up the hill but couldn't convert.
Jimbo: One of the great things about Arcadia is three of the first 5 holes are par 5's. You've got to beat those holes up because the course gets much tougher later on. I hit a solid drive down the right side while Jefe blew his way right. For the second shot I again went to my hybrid and again it let me down. I topped it and it traveled only 80 yards or so. I blew the third shot right of the green. I had a lot of room to work with for my 4th shot but my chip was not my best. I ran the 20 footer for par past the hole on the high side and could only manage a disappointing 6. Leaving the green I felt like I let one get away.
After 3 Holes: Jefe +1; Jimbo +1
How many courses do you have to wait until the 4th hole before you reach you first par 4? The 4th is one of the easier holes on the course. The landing area is pretty generous off the tee, and the green sits in a bowl.
Jefe took advantage of the green-light flagstick, firing right at it even out of the rough. Four holes in, and we've already had two kick-in birdies. The 2008 Shell's Wonderful World of Golf looks like it's going to be a shootout.
Jimbo played the hole just like you're supposed to, but left his approach shot a little shorter than he would've liked. A solid two-putt from 45 feet gave him a solid par, but cost him a stroke in the match. Jefe's up one after four.
Jefe: I hit a very average drive and again went through the fairway just like on the speed round the night before. My lie was pretty hairy but knowing how all sides of this green will funnel the ball towards the hole I knew I just had to get it up around the green and the result would be pretty good. I hit a wedge and it went up there about 1.5 feet away for an easy birdie.
Jimbo: I wacked my drive down the left side of the fairway and had a good look at the stick. Since everything funnels to the stick I tried to run a 6 iron into the green. Having caught everything thin to this point it wasn't surprising that I caught my second shot fat. The ball did creep up near the front of the green and I was able to two putt for par. Jefe did just what I was trying to do using the slopes to get it close for a quality birdie.
After 4 Holes: Jefe E; Jimbo +1
Five holes in, and we're already at our third par 5. How many courses can say that? I once dreamed of a course made up of 18 reachable par 5's...this course comes pretty close.
Three out of the first five is pretty peculiar, but this hole takes the cake for the sign that's posted on the left side of the fairway. Even though a good drive down the left will leave you within striking distance of reaching this bad-boy in two, they ask that you lay-up to the right and play it as a three-shot hole. Who needs the thrill of blasting away for a potential eagle when you can just hit driver-pitching wedge-pitching wedge and two putt for par instead?
The reason they ask you to play it as a three-shotter is so you don't hang back at 270 yards and wait for the green to clear, then top one into the abyss. One downfall with Arcadia is the pace of play can be brutally slow. A lot of non-golfers want to play the course because of the eye candy, and at $180 a pop they want to get the full Arcadia experience. You see the same thing to an even greater degree at Whistling Straits on the side of the pond. My advice to you...tee off early. You'll thank me later.
For the match, we'd be abandoning the local lay-up rule for two reasons: a) we were the first groups off the tee, and b) the rule is stupid. Unfortunately, neither player was able to take advantage as both hit down the right side (Jefe way right).
It never fails on this hole everytime I've been here...someone always skulls one over the green. I don't know if it's the Lake view or the wild dip in the green, but it always happens. Skully always shows up to the party. Usually, it's me doing the skulling, but Jefe had the honors this time. After airmailing the greens, Skully's friends Chili and Dip joined in on the fun. Lippy had the last dance and Jefe finished with the dreaded snowman. Jimbo bogeyed his third par 5 out of three, but managed to take a one stroke lead.
Jefe: A mirror image of my drive on #3 I pushed the drive way right. Luckily it stayed in play and I just wanted to get my ball in a decent position for my third. Jimbo and I were in just about identical spots after two shots and this is where the match really turned. I skinnied a 9 iron over the green into the junk long, couldn't get my fourth to the green, then chili'd another. My sixth wasn't bad, but I winnied my seventh to make a snowman in the middle of August, which is never a good thing.
Jimbo: An okay drive left me in the right center of the fairway. I hit a pretty solid second shot at the directional pole and Jefe and I had almost exactly the same shot for our third. Jefe airmailed the green and I caught an 8 iron thin. Luckily, my ball ended up just off the green and I should have been able two putt for par, but I didn't. Meanwhile, Jefe was butchering the hole so horrifically I began to feel queasy and had to look away. I didn't even know what he made on the hole, but I knew it wasn't good. I figured JC, Bernie and the camera had about 5 more minutes to live and then it would be lights out.
After 5 Holes: Jimbo +2; Jefe +3
Let's face it. My golf blog is mostly about Jefe. I'm far too uninteresting to write about myself. Jefe never fails to provide good blog fodder.
We've pretty much covered everything the man, the myth and the legend, ad naseum. But one thing I don't think we've ever talked about are the 'Jefe Bounces.' Over the years, I've seen this guy get a lifetime's share of lucky bounces of breaks. He's definitely playing with the house money. You know how Tiger uses the massive hysteria of fans and media around him to his advantage? Well, I think it's gotten to the point where Jefe's uses his good fortune as part of his playing strategy.
Here on the 6th hole, Jefe hits a very weak fade out to the right. Yet, his ball bounces of a mound and onto the green, 30 feet below the hole. On the video, you can even hear Jimbo say 'Oh Boy', as in 'Oh Boy, I've seen this one too many times.'
When timed right, the Jefe Bounce can be used as effective tool to demoralize your opponent. Is Jefe just really lucky to the extent that he's gotten so many good bounces over the years? Or maybe his swing is so loose and his shots so wild that over time, he's bound to get his share of good bounces? Or maybe the guy is so good that he times his misses and plans his bounces for just the moment? The fact that I honestly couldn't tell you the answer tells you everything you need to know. He might not look like much, but you don't want any part of this guy in a head-to-head match.
If there's one guy on the planet that might stand a chance, it's the guy who's seen these antics for his entire golfing life. Jimbo calmy hit his hybrid to 20 feet below the hole, then rolled in the birdie putt for his second deuce of the day. Who cares if he had to hit hybrid from 170 yards, when I'd hit 7-iron...the results speak for themselves. Jimbo takes a two-stroke lead.
Jefe: A lucky break after I was fuming after my 8 on 5. I pushed another shot right but the slopes again caught the shot and shot the ball left. I had a lengthy birdie putt but after the triple on 5 and a not so good tee shot I was happy to walk off with a par. At this point in the match I hadn't really hit the ball too well and I remember thinking that +3 thru 6 wasn't bad, if I could par the tough par 4 seventh I should be in good shape to shoot less than 40 on the front.
Jimbo: I was ticked off becasue I had made 6 at each of the three par 5's. This hole always plays longer so I took one extra club and finally hit my hybrid well. I knew it would be close when I saw it go over the slope on the green. The 20 foot birdie putt worked a bit left to right and I nailed it, right in the heart. My second 2 on the card momentarily soothed my frustrations.
After 6 Holes: Jimbo +1; Jefe +3
You know how every so often somebody will give David Feherty grief for helping out the golfers he covering by finding a lost ball (Tiger's), telling a guy (Tiger) how many strokes he up or down by (up by), or by kicking Tiger's ball back in the fairway? Well, I faced a similar dilemma on the 7th hole of this match.
After pushing nearly every drive up to this point, Jefe hit his patented draw (hook) on the 7th tee, which was moved back to a beastly 465-yard par 4 specifically for this match (and the other 150 golfers at Arcadia today). Jefe had a bead on his line and marched straight from the tee up and down the mounds and directly through the fescue, but we couldn't locate his ball. After a lengthy 4 minute, 59 second search (8-minutes plus), it looked like all hope was lost. That was when I had the Feherty-inspired idea of going back to the video. Based on where Jefe was looking on the tape, I quickly determined that we had been searching too far left the whole time. As Jefe was rifling through his bag to dig out a new NXT Tour, I said to the guys, 'It's more on this line here,' waving my outstretched arms back and forth to designate the path. Immediately after saying that, I looked down and the ball was at my feet. 'Here it is.' Technology 1, Penalty Strokes 0. Needless to say, Bernie did not help look for the ball.
Remember how I said I wouldn't want Jefe helping with my golf swing because it would allow him to take credit for my (limited) success? Well, after finding Jefe's ball at the 11th hour (minute), I was hero for the day. If Jefe ends up winning this thing by a stroke, you better believe who's taking half of the winnings (total purse: $0) and most of the credit (priceless). Who said you can't win if you don't play?
Jimbo's drive wasn't much better, but his ball was findable. It's funny to hear his disgust when he misses that one fairway per round. Jefe and I celebrate any wayward drive that ends up in the regular rough instead of the really tall stuff. 'It's not in fescue? Sweet!' Both golfers had to lay-up with their seconds and put their third shots on the correct tier of this back-hole location. However, neither player was able to convert on their par chances. Jefe keeps the deficit to two strokes, thanks in (large) part to my quick thinking.
Jefe: I was surprised to see the tees back on #7, I hadn't seen them back on the championship set before. The extra length coupled with my recent string of shots to the right probably contributed to me hitting my tee ball quick left, into the junk. Luckily we were able to find it due to Coltrain's quick thinking of video replay, and from that point I just wanted to have a decent shot into the green for my third and get out of there with a bogey. That's what I did and I made a decent putt for 5 from what only minutes earlier looked like a sure 6 or more.
Jimbo: My frustrations immediately returned when I saw the results of my drive; weak and right. My lie was burried in the deep cabbage and I hacked my second up the fairway. I hit a really good wedge for my third and gave myself a decent chance at par, but couldn't convert. However, I wasn't too upset at making bogey after the drive.
After 7 Holes: Jimbo +2; Jefe +4
It bears repeating. You simply cannot count this guy out.
Another wayward drive, another long search for the ball. Another review of the videotape, but it was to no avail this time. However, Jefe did find my pro-V1 from the previous night (although I never did see it again). Technology 1, Penalty Strokes 1.
Just when it looked like this match was going to start getting out of hand, Jefe pulled himself back into the match with some vintage Jefe. The 8th green is one of the wildest greens at Arcadia, a 3-putt waiting to happen. Jefe hit a great shot after his drop, but found himself some 55-feet from the hole, on the wrong side of the huge ridge that bisects the putting surface.
What happened next is the stuff of legend. Jefe swung back that ugly claw grip, whapped the ball so it just trickled over the ridge and let the ball feed the ball towards the hole. Jefe had asked me to tend the flag, and I obliged, but that left me with the tricky job of trying to play cameraman and caddy at the same time. I left the flag in and hung back, thinking to myself that there was very little chance that I'd really need to pull the stick. As the ball trundled over the ridge, about 6 feet out it looked really good. I had to hustle over and grab the flag, and made it there with about a foot to spare. 'It's looking good...it's looking good...ahhhh! It's looking great! What a par! (voice crackling) He's back in the match!' Easily one of the top 10 golf calls of all time. I'd like to see Verne Lundquist try to make it there in time.
Meanwhile, Jimbo was making a mess of the hole. After placing another drive in the fairway, he could've put a ton of pressure on Jefe by finding the green with his second shot. But he put the ball in the one spot where you can't miss on this hole, short and right into the deep bunker guarding the green. Two Hasselhoff's, one lackluster chip and a violent horseshoe lip-out was bad enough, but one of the most blatant mouth-on-ball violations ever recorded on film ('G'putt Jim') added insult to injury. Jimbo's triple-bogey now put him down by one stroke in the match. What happened to all those tap-in birdies from before?
Jefe: Again I flared a drive and now I was really starting to lose it. I was mad at myself for putting my drive down in the junk, and after a long look couldn't find it although I knew it had to be there somewhere. After a penalty shot I just wanted to get my six iron up around the green, and I did that but I left myself a very long putt on the wrong tier. I was just trying to get my ball to creep over the top of the hill on the green, and I did exactly that. Surprisingly the ball was on line and went in for an admittedly shocking par.
Jimbo: All things considered I was pretty happy at being only +2 standing on the tee. I figured a sub 40 front side was right there. I figured wrong. A pretty solid drive left me in the fairway with about 185 up the hill. The ONLY place I couldn't put the approach was low and right in the bunker. Low and left, long and left, long and right would all be okay BUT NOT THE BUNKER. I didn't listen to the voices raging in my head and toed (ed Note: Toey is in da house!) one in the bunker. I had a super fluffy lie and left my third in the bunker and my fourth barely made it out. Now it gets ugly. I leave my fifth some 12 feet short and then endure watching Jefe make a bomb in typical dramatic Jefe fashion for par. I knew I had the line for my sixth shot but when I lined up I could sense that I was not aiming left enough. Instead of stepping away and aiming further left, for some reason I thought it would be better to just hit the putt harder and take some of the break out. Similar to my hairstyle, bad choice. The putt lipped out violently for triple. I had just let Jefe back into the match. I knew the rest of the way would be a dogfight.
After 8 Holes: Jefe +4; Jimbo +5
8 holes down. 3 birdies. 2 triple bogeys. 3 lead changes. So far, only two holes where both contestants ended up with the same score. What a see-saw battle.
The 9th hole is a pretty benign par 3. Jefe and I both have had some near hole-in-ones on this hole when the pin is tucked behind the tree on the right. The only thing you need to do here is avoid coming up short, where there's a false front.
In a match that has been any other than routine, both players put their balls safely on the green, in near identical spots. And both players cozied their lag right to the hole for routine pars. The only thing non-routine is Jefe's putting stroke. Man, is that thing hard to look at.
Jefe makes the turn with a 40, one stroke ahead of Jimbo. It's going to be a dogfight. Championships are won on the back nine on Wednesday...or something like that.
Jefe: For some reason I forgot that this hole was playing longer as I came up well short during the speed round. I should have taken one more, didn't and came up 40 feet short. I hit a really good putt, and Jimbo did the same after being right in front of my ball. After 9 holes I was happy to get out of there with a 40, especially after my luck on 8 and awful ball striking.
Jimbo: I had every intention of lasering a hybrid at the hole and making a birdie to help blot out the events on 8. I caught it poorly and had a long birdie putt up the hill. Jefe expertly rolled his to kick in range for par and I followed suit. At the turn I was a bit deflated at having carded a 41. The front easily should have been 30 something.
After 9 Holes: Jefe +4; Jimbo +5
Holes 10-13 are probably the Amen Corner of Arcadia Bluffs. After a pretty ho-hum 9th, the course gets interesting to start the back.
The fairway is partially blind on the 10th...the correct line is over an aiming stick on top of the mound guarding the right 80% of the fairway. Jefe's needs a lot more than an aiming stick to find the fairway on this day...if golf only had an equivalent to bumper bowling. His drive started a little right of the stick, then drifted further right. Contrast that with Jimbo...who hit one right over the stick with a little fade.
Part of me thinks Jimbo expected that John Solheim would stumble across this match on YouTube and offer him a sponsorship deal. How many times can one golfer use a hybrid in one round? This has to be some kind of record. Jimbo hit it right at the flag (thanks to his Ping G10 hybrid) but left it a bit short (thanks to his 75 mph swing speed) and on the upslope fronting the green. All in all, it's not a bad place to leave it. You want nothing to do with the front left bunker. Unfortunately, Jimbo followed it up with a very pedestrian putt from the turf, leaving it six-feet long and left on what should've been a routine up and down.
Meanwhile, Jefe continued his trademark style of living on the edge (Titleist and Callaway disavowed any knowledge of manufacturing Jefe's clubs). His drive did come down off the mounds a little bit so he was only in the rough. Then he missed the green to the right, short-siding himself to the second worst place you want to be on this hole. Jefe hit a remarkable chip shot that landed on the fringe and trickled down, and he got the best that he could hope for from that spot, running it six feet past.
Dueling six footers can make or break a match. Jimbo was away and made a clutch par save. Jefe risked another MOB violation, but this one was center cut all the way. That put the pressure squarely of Jefe's shoulders, and we've seen what pressure can do to a putting stroke. Jefe yanked it a little bit and it slid by wide left. It's all tied up after 10!
Jefe: I hit a little bit of a better drive on 10, still right but in a position where I could go for the green. Knowing this was a very tough hole with a lot of trouble and a nasty bunker in front I just wanted to give myself a decent shot at par. I hit a good six iron but it drifted right a little and I was short sided. I hit a really good chip, landing it in the fringe like I was trying to and the ball scooted about 5 feet past. I was pretty surprised when the ball did not drop for a par but I did tug it a bit.
Jimbo: I faded a drive directly over the directional pole to start the back nine of Shell's Wonderful World of Golf. My ball was in the fairway but I still had something like 190 off a downhill lie, with the menacing 10th greenside bunker on the left, guarding the pin. I tried to run a shot up onto the green but didn't make it to the top of the false front. Jefe was in a similar position, just off to my right in two. I made a pretty decent chip but the ball wandered away just a bit from the hole. I made a solid putt for par and then watched Jefe shockingly miss his par putt of similar length.
After 10 Holes: Jefe +5; Jimbo +5
The 11th hole is probably the most photographed hole at Arcadia Bluffs, the long downhill par 5 that trundles down towards Lake Michigan. Even at 594 yards, the opportunity is there to reach it in two or come close with a big drive, thanks to the wild slopes and mounds in the fairway.
With the match all-square through 10 holes, the pressure is palpable. Neither player is able to take advantage of the fairway slopes...Jimbo hitting a weak fade into the right rough and well-back and Jefe continuing his misadventures with a wild hook way up into the faux-dunes. Jefe's fourth and Jimbo's third were from spots where you'd want to drive to be...never a good sign.
Both players hit very good long chip shots, utilizing the backboard behind the hole. However, Jimbo's 10-footer for par never had a chance, and after pulling one on the last hole, Jefe predictably pushed one here from similar length to end up with a disappointing seven. Hey, I never promised it was going to be pretty. Only compelling. Jimbo takes a one-stroke lead.
[Note: Contrary to what he told Bernie, Jimbo really did hit a giant crow with his car on the way to the course.]
Jefe: Another short left one that put me in a really bad spot. My lie was awful, the stance bad too. I barely could get a club on it and didn't get the ball off the ground. I was hitting 9 iron for my third to lay up, and luckily was able to get the ball back to the fairway. My fourth left myself a tough chip, but I was able to use the slope behind the hole to get the ball fairly close but like on the tenth I couldn't convert and made double. From this point I knew that if I was going to score at all that I would need to do it with my chipping and putting because I wasn't hitting it at all well.
Jimbo: I love the 11th at Arcadia, a par 5 playing down the hill toward the lake. I tried cutting a drive off the slope in the fairway, but pushed it instead. My ball ended up on the right side of the hole, while Jefe explored the fake dunes on the left. After several mishaps, I managed to get my ball on the green in 5 and made yet another bogey on a par 5, which I probably deserved for lying to Bernie about the crow.
--> After 11 Holes: Jimbo +6; Jefe +7
The 12th hole is easily the best hole on the golf course. The entire length of the hole plays high above the banks of Lake Michigan. You can be agressive and aim down the left side to shorten the approach, or bail out right and leave yourself a very long approach to a tough green. When the pin is tucked back left, you either need a short iron in your hand or you have to try to run one up with a low right-to-left approach shot.
The 12th hole is also the site of the time-honored tradition of blasting one into Lake Michigan. We've been doing this ever since we started playing the course 5-6 years ago. I can't imagine that we're the only ones. There's probably hundreds of balls sitting in the bottom of the lake about 275 yards from the shore. I love it because it's the only chance I get to match the hang time on one of Jefe's normal drives. I was sitting out this round but had to bring my driver along just for this tee shot.
By all accounts, Jimbo is a man's man, seemingly without fear. However, the 12th hole exposed a potential chink in his armor...an acute case of clubacopterphobia, or fear of your $350 driver flying out of your hands and into Lake Michigan. Whereas Jefe and I don't think twice before swinging from the heels (just like every other shot), Jimbo was a little apprehensive on his honorary tee ball.
The previous night, during our speed round, my hole was over before it started after hitting into the water (for real) off the tee, thus eliminating any chance for birdie. So I just zoomed up to the green and waited for the guys to catch up. It was about 8:55 pm so I could barely see Jefe and Jimbo back in the fairway, but I could definitely see their approach shots. Jefe hit a great shot about 12 feet left of the pin. Probably the best approach shot I've seen on this very difficult hole (although the pin was front right, the only spot you can really go at it). Then Jimbo proceeded to top that by rolling one up that nearly went in the hole, grazing the cup and ending up about 6 feet past. Unfortunately, neither player made birdie, but they were by far the shots of the evening.
Fast forward to the next day, and the good feelings must've carried over. How else can you explain Jefe actually hitting his first fairway? 1 out 9 and somehow he's still in this match. Jimbo (aka Bizzarro Jefe) continued his solid play with yet another ball in the short stuff.
The pin was placed back left for the championship, so there would likely be no near eagles today. Both players proved how tough it is to get to this pin with their approaches. Jefe hit it a little wide right and long (his post-shot reaction is priceless). Jimbo hit a very good run-up shot but it still ran through.
Jefe was faced with a far more difficult chip shot and executed it very well, ending up about six feet past the hole. Jimbo had what would be considered a routine chip, but hit a below-average chip that was just inside Jefe's. Now, both players faced similar 5-6 footers for par. With only one stroke separating the two, a make by one and miss by the other could definitely swing the match.
Jefe was up first, and after going wide left on the 10th and wide right on the 11th, he split the difference here with one center cut. That put the pressure squarely on Jimbo, and in one of the few instances of clutch, he responded by drilling his well. Two pars? Stop the presses! Jimbo maintains a one stroke lead.
Jefe: I was able to find my first fairway of the day on this hole. I was at a good angle and tried to sling a six iron from the right to get at the back left pin position. It didn't sling, and I went a little long. This was the first in a series of really good chips that kept me in the match and it allowed me to make par on a tough hole.
Jimbo: The 12th is also a tremendous hole, maybe Arcadia's best. A pretty good drive left me with my hybrid, yet again. I hit a solid approach but the ball ran just through the green to the back. The lie for my third was a bit hairy, and when I first hit it, I thought I hit it fat. However, my ball trickled down the hill giving me a 4 footer for par. It is a good thing I actually didn't hit the ball like I had originally planned, otherwise I might have gone through the green on the other side. Anyway, Jefe tried to apply the pressure by making his par putt first, but I countered with a par putt of my own.
--> After 12 Holes: Jimbo +6; Jefe +7
Six holes left. One stroke difference between them. The dramatic 13th hole at Arcadia Bluffs, a 193-yard par 3 over a canyon could be the difference in this match.
The 13th is probably the most oft-photographed par 3 on the course due to the giant canyon you have to hit over and Lake Michigan serving as the backdrop. I believe this hole wasn't quite as dramatic when they first designed it, but the canyon got a little deeper and little wider after about 7,000 tons of soil slid into Lake Michigan after a heavy rainfall during the course construction. Now it's the most intimidating tee shot on the course.
Undaunted, Jimbo fired right at the flag using his...quick, take a guess...his Ping G10 Hybrid. Somebody scroll through the videos and check how many times he's hit this thing? Even Dimaggio's 56-game hit streak will be broken before we see somebody hit hybrid this many times in one round. Just like on the last hole, his shot ran through the green, this time in the collection area behind the green.
Jefe, in complete search and rescue mode of his golf swing, smartly stayed as far away from that lake as possible. Every ball flight is a surprise. 'I can't hit it on the clubface,' he declares. I'm not exactly sure what this means, but no matter what part of the club the ball made contact with, it ended up pin high but well right of the hole.
If Jefe is going to have any chance in this match, either Rick Smith (course designer at Arcadia and former instructor for Philly Mick) needs to be helicoptered in or Jefe's going to have to make it happen with the short game. He had a strange lie on the slope above the hole, but had plenty of green to work with. All he had to do was plop it on the front of the green and let the slopes do the rest. He executed it well and the ball fed to near tap-in range.
Not to be outdone, Jimbo's chip from the collection area cozied up to within two feet. If you didn't know any better, you might think these guys were pretty good. Two pars in a row for both players. Jimbo heads to the 14th with a one-stroke lead.
Jefe: Another flare right and I was looking at a chip down the hill all the way. It was fairly straight though and once I got the ball started it just funneled down to the hole for a relatively short par putt. Jimbo hit a great chip from over the green to save his par.
Jimbo: Bernie told me to hit the hybrid, so I did. I knew it was too much club, but I figured long was better than short. Sure enough, my ball rolled through the green again down into a collection area. Jefe once again took advantage of playing first and applied pressure with a quality chip. My chip wasn't all that difficult, playing back into the wind. I knew I had to land it about half way to the stick and watch it run out. That is exactly what happened and I had two feet left for par, which I made.
After 13 Holes: Jimbo +6; Jefe +7
The 14th at Arcadia is a pretty ho-hum, short par 4. The fairway is super tight. And at 340 yards, it's not a hole that you can try to go at. It would probably be a better hole if it were 30-40 yards shorter, daring the long-hitter to go after the green.
Instead, we get Jefe hitting 3-wood way off to the right. He's definitely got the post-shot body english down pact. We've seen a little bit of everything. On the other hand, Jimbo continues lacing it right down the middle. How boring. Where's his sense of adventure?
It looked like Jimbo was in cruise control after hitting his short-iron approach on the green, only to be bamboozled by the false front. His ball rolled off the surface and a good 20-25 yards back down the fairway. A lackluster chip left him with 25 feet for remaining, and left the door open for Jefe.
It certainly didn't appear that Jefe was going to take advantage. From the side of the faux dunes off his drive, he left his approach about 25 yards short of the green. He took a drop (reason still unknown...David Fay couldn't make it for the match at the last minute), but that didn't help much since his next shot still didn't reach the putting surface. But staying true to his bad shot-bad shot-good shot routine that somehow seems to work for him, he followed it up with a chip to gimme range. Jimbo's par attempt never had a chance, and both players walked away with bogey. After a see-saw first 11 holes, we have three halves in a row.
Jefe: Historically a tough hole for me due to its tightness. I hit 3 wood for accuracy and put it in a mound, and with Jimbo in the fairway I was feeling the match get away from me. I had a horrendous lie and managed to get the ball short of the green, but with a hairy lie I flubbed another chip before getting my fourth close.
Jimbo: I hit a short but straight drive at the 14th, which is all you really need on this narrow hole. I had 8 iron up the hill and into the wind. I caught it thin, but watched the ball jump onto the front of the green and curl over the ridge. Or so I thought. Walking up to the green, I noticed my ball had come back off the false front some 30 yards and was now resting in the fairway. This entire episode was similar to watching Wego sing on Rockband; very unsettling and very, very wrong. I couldn't get comfortable over the ball and hit probably my weakest chip of the morning. My par putt from some 40 feet never got there and I walked away from 14 with a bogey, when I thought at worst I would make a par.
After 14 Holes: Jimbo +7; Jefe +8
Strangely, the 15th hole is playing shorter than the par 4 7th that sits right next to it and goes the same direction. I guess you can consider this a birdie hole. If the 2008 Shell's Wonderful World of Golf were a USGA-sanctioned event, this sucker would definitely be playing as a par 4.
If Jefe's going to make a move in this match, he's probably going to have to do it right here. A good drive and he should have no problem going after this one two. When you've hit 1 out of 10 fairways, a good drive is easier said than done, but Jefe manages to muscle one down the right side. Jimbo hits another one 235 and down the middle, good enough to average 143rd on the LPGA driving distance list. Advantage Jefe.
Jimbo was forced to lay-up on his second shot, and he pulled his shot further left than he probably wanted to. The flag location is far left and he'll have to go right over the giant bunker fronting the green. Jefe failed to reach the green in two, but was right of the green with nothing but short grass between him and the hole. Advantage Jefenator.
Well, i've been wrong before (at least once)...maybe the spot where Jimbo was is actually the better place to be. What do I know? I've never laid up successfully in my life, therefore I just don't do it. There's a backstop right behind the hole, any shot past the pin will roll right back. That's exactly what Jimbo did, sucking it back to about 10 feet. Jefe would have to come across the slope, therefore would have to judge his speed just right. He came in a little hot and it ran through to the collar of the green and the non-fringe. Maybe Jimbo knew what he was doing. Or maybe he just hit a good shot and Jefe didn't. You decide.
Jefe would have to putt back across the slope, a tough putt to begin with but even tougher from the collar. His putt was right from the start and never had a chance. All jimbo had to do was breathe on his putt in the right direction and it was going in. And that's just what he did. Center cut for his third birdie of the day (fourth if you count the crow), and more importantly a two-stroke lead with just three holes to play.
Jefe: I knew that if I was going to win this match that this could be a pivotal hole. I felt I could get at 15 in two and I hit my best drive of the day. Knowing that I could get at the pin if I hit the right center of the green I had 225 or so in but I pushed my 5 wood right and it didn't funnel. Jimbo hit a great shot, from my angle it looked tour quality as it went past the hole, spun, and ended up in makeable range. He made it, I made a routine par, and things were looking bleak as I was 2 down with 3 to go. I knew 16 was a long par four though and if I got a good drive down there I would have an advantage on that hole.
Jimbo: Jefe nuked his drive on the final par 5, and I followed suit by hitting my best one of the day, although I was still 30 yards behind him. I chose to play left of the fairway bunker on my second and pulled it just a little. I only had 85 yards or so for my third to a severly elevated green with a menacing bunker in front. I walked up to the green to get a peak at the pin, which was tucked maybe 10 feet behind the bunker. Behind the stick the green sloped upward, providing a natural backboard. I decided the one place I couldn't be was in the bunker. If I am trying to impress the ladies, I'll tell them I spun my 56* wedge off the backboard to set up birdie. If Bernie and I are rehashing the round over a cold one in the grill, I'll tell him the truth, which is I caught my third thin and somehow it spun off the backboard leaving me 10 feet for birdie. The putt was dead straight and I rolled it in for my third birdie on the day.
--> After 15 Holes: Jimbo +6; Jefe +8
The 16th tee sits right next to the clubhouse. There was a swarm of people around the carts, getting ready for their 5 1/2 hour adventure. One guy saw me riding on the back of the cart, and when I walked by, he asked, 'So you're not playing?' I immediately said, 'No', but the voice inside my head was telling me to say, 'Dude, I have a video camera in one hand and I'm wearing a headcover on the other...what does it look like I'm doing?'
While riding over to the tee, I realized that we needed to have some kind of trophy presentation on the 18th green. So I figured I would go into the pro shop and see if they had any hardware that would make a good Wannamaker wannabe. About half way up the stairs, I realized that trying to explain exactly why I needed to borrow a trophy would be difficult to do, and when I entered the pro shop and didn't see the guy who helped us out the night before, I knew right away that I would have to quickly figure out a Plan B. And that's when it hit me. I looked across the room and saw this stupid 10-inch aluminum candle holder that was a decorative item in the pro shop. It was perfect, albeit a little on the small side. Hey, every two years the Americans and Euros duke it out over a tiny little Ryder Cup for nothing more than bragging rights and nationalistic (or contentinalistic) pride. What's wrong with a little metal candle holder and family bragging rights?
It was at this point when I realized that explaining the trophy thing would've been a million times easier than trying to explain why I needed to borrow a decorative candle holder. So I did what any red-blooded, middle-aged American male would do in the situation...I shoved it in my pocket. And yes, Mom, I put it back where I found it after the round. After all, my iPhone had been sitting in the pro shop charging up all morning unnoticed...I don't think the candle holder would be missed over the next 45 minutes or so. And that's the story of how the Colton Cup was born.
Being the great friends that they are, Jefe and Jimbo waited for me to resurface from the clubhouse heist, so I wouldn't miss any of the action (plus, I had to change tapes so there was quite a delay). The 16th is one of the better par 4's on the course, a long, downhill par 4 with a huge fairway but well-protected green with nasty bunkers down the right side. The long wait didn't impact Jimbo, as he hit one down the right side of the fairway (but again well back.) And in an amazing turn of events, Jefe turned into Calvin Peete, finding his second fairway in a row, a good 20 yards past Jimbo.
Playing with the Tang brothers, you see and hear just about everything. They are perhaps best known for their post-shot moans and groans. Jimbo is best known for his patented 'God...Bless America' after an especially bad shot. Jefe's made a living on groans and body language, mixed in with an occasional club throw. Both players hit groaners for their second shot...Jimbo leaving it out to the left and well short of the green, and Jefe pushing another shot from the fairway right, this time into the greenside bunker.
Jimbo then hit what initially looked to be an excellent chip, starting it well short of the green and letting it roll up. However, it kept rolling and rolling past the hole, than rolled further down the slope to the next tier beyond the flag. A two-putt would be no bargain from there.
Jefe had a very delicate shot from the bunker, and if Lanny Wadkins were with me instead of Bernie, he definitely would've said, 'He'd tried to get too cute with that one, Jim' (just about the only thing Lanny ever said in his 3-4 years in the booth) after Jefe advanced his ball about half-way to the green. Instead, all we got was a 'Hah-Ha!' from Bernie. Remarkably, Jefe again followed up a horrible chip with an excellent one, nearly holing it out for par, but running it about 3 1/2 feet by. Dare I say that Jefe is one of the 10 best second-chip chippers in the game today, which is a backhanded compliment if there ever was one.
With a two-stroke lead, Jimbo didn't need to get cute with anything, so he cozied his lag putt up the ridge to about 2 feet short of the hole. Nothing wrong with bogey here. He shrewdly putted-in first to put the pressure on Jefe. Jefe made the crucial up-up-and-down to salvage bogey to still give himself a chance with two holes left.
Jefe: I did just what I wanted to do, hit a bomb down the left side that funneled right a little. With Jimbo way back and with not a good angle I thought that I could get a stroke back here. Of course, though, I pushed my second right, the one spot you can't go on this hole. Far below the green's level and in the sand I was just trying to get it on the green and make bogey. I chunked it, but the lie for my fourth was very good, the ball was sitting up and I was able to hit a chip that I thought for a second had a chance of going in. From here I knew I had to make every makeable putt or the match would be over, and I managed to get the bogey putt in.
Jimbo: Jefe bombed yet another drive down the left side of the fairway while my drive was further left. The second shot at 16 is one of the more intimidating shots at Arcadia. The one place you cannot be is short and right, as deep bunkers can be found there. I tried to fade a five wood into the green but pulled it left and found myself with a difficult chip down to the green. Two large humps just short of the green complicated matters. I actually executed my chip just like I wanted to, but watched the ball roll down the slope and to the back of the green. Good execution, bad plan. Two putts later and I had yet another bogey. Meanwhile, Jefe got stuck down underneath the bunker on the right and made a remarkable bogey.
--> After 16 Holes: Jimbo +7; Jefe +9
The 17th is the other strong one-shotter on the back, and with it's wild green and no man's land slope if you miss right, the match could swing dramatically. Jefe needed desperately to hit this green and hope for Jimbo to miss the green right.
But Jimbo was having none of that. He calmly hit his hybrid (again!) to the middle of the green, the perfect shot for the situation. All the pressure was now squarely on Jefe's shoulders. He had to hit this green, and he had to hit this close.
So, what did Jefe do? He flared out another shot to the right, in the exact spot you don't want to be on this hole. The huge slope repels balls, and Jefe was at good 10-12 feet below the putting surface. Jimbo had to be jotting down thoughts for his acceptance speech. Bernie was ready to pop the cork on the champagne.
Maybe I lied. Maybe this match didn't make it to the end. Maybe I just suckered you into watching all these videos and reading all the hole-by-holes. Sucker! A typical two-putt par by Jimbo and a chip-chip-putt by Jefe and Jimbo would have a three stroke lead with one left. This match is ov-a.
Or is it?
Remember when I said you can never count Jefe out? And remember how I said that no lead is safe when these two guys play? By all accounts, Jefe has played a pretty horrible round up to this point, yet somehow he's managed to keep it close. And while things looked bleak, I knew there was still some fight left in that old dog.
He was faced with a near impossible chip from the side of the slope, but had a little backstop behind the green. For once, he decided to try hitting his good chip shop the first time, plopping it right on the front edge of the green and running it about 5 feet past the hole. From that position, it was the best you could hope for. Still, a par was no bargain, and the guy with the two stroke lead was staring at a birdie putt.
Jimbo had to putt over a ridge and around a delicate left-to-right slope, but after seeing his lag putt on the last, I fully expected him to cozy one up to tap-in range. A two-putt here would've pretty much wrapped it up. But instead, Jimbo misplayed the break and the speed, blasting an awful putt that was never high enough and ended up 8 feet past. His next putt was also extra aggressive, just missing on the low side. His ball kept trickling down the slope to knee knocker range.
Jefe's 2-3 chili-dips in the round look even worse on camera than they did in real life. But there can be nothing worse than capturing a 4-jack on film. I was praying for Jimbo not to 4-putt. I know Jefe wanted to win this match, but I'm sure he didn't want to win on a Jimbo 4-putt. That would've made for a very long and very quiet ride home. Thankfully, Jimbo willed the ball into the hole, with a putt that looked like it was wide right but dove in. Had he missed, I'm sure he would've destroyed the camera with the midget wooden flagstick. A disappointing bogey 4, but a huge collective sigh of relief that it wasn't a 5.
Now, Jefe faced his five footer for an amazing up and down. There was no doubt that Jefe would make this putt. That's just what he does. And that's just what he did. What a man. What a par. 'Within one with one to play!'
Jefe: Jimbo went first and hit a shot that I thought would probably close out the match. Trying to get it back to the hole as soon as it got in the air I knew I should have hit one more. My five iron caught the slope short and right and I was way down the hill. I knew I had to give myself a chance at par if I was going to have any shot. I had a very difficult time finding the line on my chip as I was way below the green surface and was completely blind. I had to go up the hole three times I think before I could figure out the direction. I had a decent lie and was able to hit the ball high and land it just where I thought I needed to, and the ball funneled off a slight backstop to finish 3 feet, one of the better chips I've ever hit and at a great time. I was surprised to see Jimbo's first putt go so far past, I didn't realize he had to come over a mound. He made a tough third putt for his bogey, and I had a really difficult downhill, left to right breaker for par that was a must make and I was able to firm it in the hole. Only one down and with some momentum I knew anything could happen on 18.
Jimbo: I had good feelings standing on this hole, since the last time I played it in 2005, I lasered a 4 iron to 8 feet and made birdie. That was a different year and I am a different player. I hit a really good hybrid (surprise!) up the hill, into the wind and to a very narrow and dangerous green. I was well below the hole but very happy to be on the green. I watched as Jefe lost his iron to the right of the green. It appread as if the match was all but over. I should know better when it comes to these Tang vs. Tang Cage Golf Matches.. Jefe decides to be Jefe and pulls off a remarkable up and down for par. In all honesty, I wasn't that surprised as I've seen these type of antics before. My real problem was a large hump directly in my line for my first putt. I miscalculated the line badly and the ball shot off right violently and ended up something like 7 feet above the hole. The second putt was REALLY fast and I missed that one, leaving me about 5 feet to avoid a 4 putt! I shook that one in. Actually, I didn't feel like I was choking, but rather the first putt was really, really difficult. Several practice attempts on the lag putt after I had holed out produced only worse results. No matter, I still owned a one stroke lead.
After 17 Holes: Jimbo +8; Jefe +9
Well, this is it. I told you it would come down to the last hole. There's a lot more riding on this than just one match. These two have battled at everything over the years...ping-pong, hoops in the driveway, and especially golf. Jefe has probably had a slightly lower handicap index over the years, but when these two tee it up it's always an even match-up.
We are one 439-yard, uphill par 4 away from finding out once and for all who is the champion golfer of the Tang family. For two guys who will never slip on a green jacket or hoist the Claret Jug, this is their major. No matter how it ends up, it has been a privelege and an honor to follow these guys around for the last 3 1/2 hours, and to call these guys my golf buddies the last twenty years. And to think, at the beginning of the year I was planning to sit this trip out.
Although I won't be quitting my day job anytime soon, capturing the action on video and being Jim Nantz for a day was great fun. And it wouldn't be Nantz unless it included some of his vintage schmaltzy monologuing near the finish. And let me tell you...once you get started it's hard to stop. I could go on and on about the battles these two had out at Burr Hill growing up. And I probably would've kept going, except the batteries ran out on the video camera. Good thing Jimbo's new digital camera captured video, otherwise this whole thing would've been a waste of time (if it wasn't one already).
Of course, Jefe was down one after his unbelievable up-and-down on the 17th (and Jimbo's near four-putt). It's been all smoke and mirrors up until this point. He still needed to gain a stroke here, and on this hole, it would definitely require a good drive. They had us on the way back tees for this one, suitable for a championship finish. Jefe belted one down the right side. The ball tried to draw back left, but it stayed out in the right rough. All in all, not a bad shot as the aggressive line shortened the hole quite a bit.
Jimbo hit another solid, but short drive, again in the fairway and again well back of Jefe. I smell hybrid! Jimbo had at least 200 yards uphill to the flag. Anything on the green would likely guarantee victory (although we thought that on the last hole also), but his approach shot ended up well left and short of the green.
Hitting a blind shot up and over some giant dunes, Jefe needed to shake off the memory of the last 12 weak iron shots, trust his line, trust his club and trust his swing. Thankfully, he got all three right and hit a solid shot to the back of the green. He'd have a very fast downhill putt for birdie, but unless Jimbo managed to get up and down, it would be a birdie putt for the win.
As I alluded to at the outset, out of the hundreds of times I've seen these two duke it out, I don't think I've ever seen a round won on a birdie. It's always the guy that doesn't completely melt down at the end who comes out on top. And this round was no exception. Maybe secretly deep down inside, both guys love their brother so much that they just don't want to see the other guy lose. Or maybe they want to beat the other guy so badly that they end up choking like a dog. I'm going with the latter. In either case, the quality of golf took a major turn south. It was a scene I've seen many, many times over the years. But like passing by a 12-car pile up on the highway...you simply cannot turn your head away.
After 16 1/2 holes of pretty consistent golf, Jimbo suddenly forgot how to play the game. Especially the short game. Again, he had big problems with the ridges on the green. He stubbed his chip shot, running it up the ridge between him and the hole, only it was about 3 feet short of where he needed it to be. The ball was rejected by the front slope of the ridge, and rolled back down, getting worse and worse by the second, until it settled down to the far front left of the green, about 45 feet short of the flag. Worse yet, his next putt was no bargain two-putt either. He'd have to come over the same ridge, and get the speed down perfectly. Suddenly, it looked like after being in total control of this match for most of the back nine, he could potentially lose this thing outright in what would be a choke job of near-VandeVelvian proportions.
Unfortunately, Jimbo's next putt wasn't much better than his chip. Again, he fell victim of the slope, never playing it high enough or hitting it hard enough. He was lucky that the ball even stayed on top of the ridge, but it was at least 20 feet short. It now looked like Jimbo was going to lose!
Out of nowhere, Jefe had a birdie putt for the victory. But not to be outchoked, he hit his birdie putt way too hard down the slope, zipping past the hole and trickling about 16 feet past the cup. Bye-bye birdie. Bye-bye victory too?
Jimbo had a twenty-footer down the slope, a relatively straight forward putt. A bogey save here would put a ton of pressure on Jeff and make his comebacker seem a whole lot longer. But after hitting two very poor shots previously, dare I say, his next shot was even more dismal. He hit it on-line, but woefully short. Remember Chris DiMarco's putt at Whistling Straits to win the PGA Championship? This one was far worse. Double bogey wasn't even in the bag yet. This is getting ugly.
Just fifteen minutes ago, it looked like Jefe was dead in the water. Five minutes ago, it looked like he needed a birdie to have any chance. Now he faced an uphill sixteen footer for par to win the match. Jefe's the king of the comebackers, and this one looked very good...Jefe for the win! No! The hill killed it just inches short. A bogey five.
Now, Jimbo faced a slick left-to-right 3 1/2 footer for the double bogey and the tie. Can you imagine the emotional carnage that would occur if he misses this putt to lose this match with a triple-bogey on the last hole? We likely would've never seen him again. He'd probably take Bernie out to Montana and live in a shack without running water or electricity. So needless to say, there was a lot riding on this one putt. One man's sanity was at stake.
Jimbo exorcised his demons just long enough to put a confident stroke on the ball, although it started leaking right as it approached the hole. Thankfully, it dropped in the right side. We have a tie! After 3 1/2 hours on the golf course and 3 1/2 decades of battling it out, we've managed to prove absolutely nothing. But all in all, what an epic battle. I later kicked myself for missing the no-brainer call on Jimbo's putt...'A tie for the ages!' Too bad I expended all my Nantzism's back on the 18th fairway.
I suppose we could've gone right back to the 16th hole and had a sudden death playoff. But it didn't take long for us to realize that a tie was, in fact, the perfect ending of this match and a great way to end our 2008 golf trip. On the whole, the match perfectly encapsulated everything about this brother versus brother golfing rivalry. A tie was the only way (plus, Maypo would be happy). Even if it meant sharing the tiny Colton Cup (note to self: when asking two men to kiss a trophy, make sure it's a really big one. Wow, that was awkward. I now have that image burned into my brain.)
As we walked back to the car, there was a collective buzz. We knew we had just witnessed history. An epic battle that will rank right up there with Tiger's 2008 US Open win. Yes, we will be telling our grandkids about this one (I apologize well in advance). On our way back to the parking lot, we ran into a familiar face...Shelby, our waitress at the course from the night before after our speed round. She was working the beverage cart during the day.
'Shelby!' we yelled, grinning ear-to-ear like little schoolgirls from the excitement of the match.
Then Shelby responded with a question that best summed up the day and the trip. 'Are you guys brothers? Because only brothers can talk to each other like you guys do.'
Of course, we were just bursting at the seams to tell her about everything that just transpired. But (as I've shown), it would've taken about 3 weeks and 30,000 words to explain it fully. At that point, there was really one thing to say.
'Yes. Yes we are.'
Jefe: I hit probably my furthest drive of the day although it snuck into the right rough. I was just trying to get it far enough down the hole that I could have a reasonable iron in. Playing at 439 yards I knew I needed a good one. Jimbo hit a good drive but was further back, and the pin that morning was a really tough one, over the bunker on the far right side of the green. We were both blind coming in. I had eight iron from just over 150 and was aiming left of the flag with the hope that it would funnel back off one of the mounds. I hit a really good shot, I thought it would get up on the green which is all I was trying to do after seeing Jimbo short of the green in two. As Jimbo struggled to get his ball up to the hole it looked like I was actually going to have a putt to win the match, which is what happened. Of course, though, in typical Tang duel fashion, I ran the birdie putt well past the hole. It was actually a REALLY fast putt, much faster than I had anticipated and I left myself fifteen feet. I actually thought before Jimbo's long bogey putt that he was going to drain it and I would have to make my long putt just to tie. He didn't make it though, and I hit a decent par putt that didn't drop. Jimbo gave himself a tester for double and the tie and I really had no doubt that he'd drain it, which he did.
Overall it was a battle just to stay in the match. Jimbo played pretty steady and it looked like for a while that he would break 80. I gutted out a few tough pars down the stretch and felt that it was fitting that we end the trip at Arcadia, on one of our favorite courses, in a hard fought tie.
Jimbo: Bad feelings rushed over me on the 18th box. In 2005 I come to this tee at a respectable +6. After driving it in the fairway and leaving my second just off the putting surface I made a double to shoot 80.
My tee ball was weak and right. The second was left and almost in the bunker, just in the rough. Jefe stuck his approach behind the flag and I thought it would be just like Jefe to birdie the 18th and crush my very soul. The flag was tucked back right, behind a huge ridge bisecting the green. I said to myself, "just get the ball over the ridge, and at worse you'll make bogey". Unfortunately, I caught it fat and the ball just made it to the first tier of the green. Putter in hand, I said to myself, "just get the ball over the ridge and at worse you'll make double". Wrong again as my putt made it to the top of the ridge, but no further. I thought the next putt would be really fast, down the slope, but it ended up something like 3 feet below the cup. At this point I thought for sure I had blown my shot to win Shell's Wonderful World of Golf. All Jefe had to do was two whack, and the title would be his. But, he ran a very quick putt past the hole and ended up missing the par putt, one I thought he would certainly make. Suddenly, I had gone from thinking I would win SWW of G to thinking I would lose SWW of G to now having to make a three footer to halve SWW of G. Madness. For some odd reason, all the demons and inner dwarves seemed to go quiet and I knew I was going to make that putt. And I did.
--> After 18 Holes: Tang +10; Tang +10
Hundred Hole Hike
|The Hundred Hole Hike (HHH) is a national-network of golf marathons where participants plan to walk 100 or more holes of golf in one day in order to raise money for various worthwhile charitable causes. Please go to http://www.hundredholehike.com/ for more details.|
Chicago Public Course Rankings
My Course Rankings
2. National Golf Links of America
3. St. Andrews (Old)
4. Cypress Point
6. Shinnecock Hills
7. Royal Dornoch
9. Merion (East)
10. Pacific Dunes
11. Friars Head
12. Sand Hills
13. Tara Iti
14. Pinehurst No 2
15. Royal Melbourne (West)
16. Pebble Beach
17. Chicago Golf Club
19. Los Angeles CC (North)
20. North Berwick
One Divot at a Time...
My Blog List
[Note: Rankings have been updated September 12, 2011 with feedback from an expert panel of a dozen fellow Chicago golf addicts.] We've...
Last updated: February 5, 2011 Click links to find relevant blog posts. Rank JIM JEFE JIMBO 1. Ballyneal Pacific Dunes Royal County Do...
The only time "Jim Colton" and "Ivy League" have been used in the same sentence. A quick detour from My Summer of ...
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Golf Blog 100
The Ben Cox 108-Hole Golf Marathon
What: A 108-golf marathon to raise money for Ben Cox, a Ballyneal caddie who was paralyzed from a severe skiing accident in March.
When: June 22, 2011 (update)
Where: Ballyneal Golf & Hunt Club - Holyoke, CO
How to Give:
Send a check payable to: Prairie Home Baptist Church (memo: Ballyneal fundraiser)
P.O. Box 271
Haxtun, CO 80731
- Holyoke Enterprise: "Ballyneal member aims to help Cox family"
- Cybergolf: "Ballyneal Member Invites Others to Join 108-Hole Fundraiser"
- Omaha World Herald: Golf Notes (5/31)
- Radio interview on 104.3 The Fan in Denver (6/18)
- Colorado Avid Golfer: "Golfer's Charitable Marathon Could Get You on Riviera" (6/24)
- Golf Channel: "W18: Patience and Perspective" (6/27)
- Golf World Monday: "Marathon Man" (6/27)
- Holyoke Enterprise: "The Ben Cox 108 (give or take 47) climbs beyond $77,000" (6/30)
- Chicago Tribune: "All-day golf event raises more than $100,000 for paralyzed caddie" (7/8)