The Rose Factor - Hangin' at Jack's Place

The Rose Factor - Hangin' at Jack's Place It’s Friday October 5th and I’m enjoying a leisurely round of golf with friends at Commonwealth National. I think I’ve found my swing, again, and am on my way to a solid 73 from the back tees. I’ve got a couple of tournaments left on my schedule – the North Hills Inv. on Oct 11, followed by the Bud Lewis Inv. at Manufacturers the 12th and 13th – and am hoping to finish a disappointing season on a high note.

While on the back nine, my cell phone rings, and on the line is long-time friend Larry Harrison from Atlantic City. It seems that his regular better-ball partner Billy Care is not available to play in an event the next week. Am I available to play with him Sunday October 7 to Wednesday the 10th, in the Jack Nicklaus Cup at Muirfield Village?

It didn’t take me very long to respond. “Are you kidding, count me in!!” I’d have to see if I could get a flight to Columbus on Sunday. No problem. How about a place to stay? No problem again, as Larry had already booked rooms for us at the luxurious Lodge at Muirfield, just off the first fairway, a short walk from the clubhouse. It was time to get ready for seven rounds in seven days, bad back and all. 

SUNDAY OCTOBER 7
My wife, Sally, drops me off at Philly International for my 9:30a.m. flight to Columbus, and I meet Larry at the gate. I’ve known Larry for 40 years, having met him at my sister’s wedding in February 1967. Larry met his wife Ruthie at that wedding and were married eight months later(my sister’s marriage lasted about a year). Their names may be familiar to you, as Larry and Ruthie started and ran for over 20 years, the Shoprite LPGA Classic in Atlantic City. Larry’s been a top amateur and senior amateur in our area for a long time. The plane is on time and we arrive at 11a.m., get our car and we arrive at beautiful Muirfield Village before noon. The valet greets us at the front door, takes the clubs and our bags and escorts us to the locker room, where we get a locker, our tournament info and a beautiful Muirfield rain jacket. The weather is a hot 92 degrees, a record high temperature. We grab a quick lunch in the Captain’s Grille and head to the range to hit a few balls before our 2:20 practice round.

The course is pure, gorgeous tees, fairways and greens, all very firm and fast. It doesn’t matter where they put the pins, it’s very tough to get into birdie range. The homes around the course are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, most in the $3 to$5 million dollar range. Jack’s house is near the 9th tee, and there’s also this house on #15 where the 20-year-old blonde triplets live.(I digress) I start out sloppy, normal for me in practice rounds, then play the last 15 holes in 3-under. Larry’s game looks solid, so we’re hopefel that we can compete well against a strong field of 25 senior teams (there are 35 mid-amateur teams). We finish our round around 6:30, the sun is setting, how majestic. Our rooms at the Lodge are now ready and what rooms there are. A huge bed in a gorgeous room, with double ended bathroom, with jacuzzi and large sit-in shower. With a fully stocked fridge and plenty of liquid refreshment, I may never want to leave. We go to a nearby Dublin, Ohio steak house for a good dinner. Larry orders the veal chop, but they’ve just run out, so they offer him a steak dinner for free. The Rose Factor is at work again, a good omen going into the tournament.

The Rose Factor - Hangin' at Jack's Place


MONDAY OCTOBER 8

What’s better than our 10:30 tee time, sleep late, have the good buffet breakfast, then get in a little practice. The weather is again perfect, 88 degrees and sunny. We start out slow, with four bogeys and Larry’s birdie on No. 3 in the first eight holes. We rally on holes nine through 14, with three birdies from me and one from Larry. We finish with a respectable even par 72, good for 6th place, most scores being high, 69 is the low. After a relaxed afternoon meeting and talking with the players in the grille, we get ready for dinner. At 6:30 we go to the nearby Palmer Villa, where Doug Fraser, Spike Smith and their wives are staying. You can’t imagine what the villas are like. We walk into a monster-sized living room with 60-inch plasma TV. There is a big kitchen and four huge bedrooms, with bathrooms to match. We walk upstairs to the pool room, where Debbie Smith and I play a tough game of straight pool. We’re joined for dinner by Doug’s friend and Muirfield member Perry Pipes and his girfriend Elizabeth. They’re delightful people and we chat about our mutual friends Harry Hurley and Gary Daniels from Aronimink and Applebrook. Lots of good food, fine wine and conversation, lights out at 10:30.

TUESDAY OCTOBER 9
A cooler weather front has now moved in, but by 11a.m., it’s sunny and breezy with temps moving up to 75 degrees. We start out well, Larry birdies No. 2 and we add eight more pars on the front. We both 3-putt No. 11, but hit it stiff on No. 12 and 13 for birdies. A final bogey gets us in at 71, tying low round for the day and putting us tied for 2nd, two shots back as the afternoon scores get higher as the wind picks up. We again head to the grille room, where we chat for hours with more new friends we’ve met. You can’t beat the networking opportunities that golf offers, as Larry gets an invite to play at East Lake (site of the PGA Tour Championship) in early November. The tournament dinner starts at 7p.m. and we’re hoping that Jack Nicklaus may be in attendance. Unfortunately, he’s out of town designing a new course, but his sons Steve and Michael are there. I had just met Steve in September at the Crump Cup at Pine Valley. The dinner was held in the Pavillion, where on the walls you see the paintings of all the Memorial Tournament winners and honorees; a who’s who of golf’s greatest players. I’m experiencing the total Muirfield Village package.

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 19
Larry is pumped for the final round and I was too, except for the fact that I ate too much food the night before. My game was fading on Tuesday’s final holes, and a cold, windy fall day of 48 degrees was waiting for us at the 8:30 shotgun. We start out slowly, four bogeys in the first six holes. I have no game at all, hitting left, right, thin and fat. Larry steadies the ship, with a birdie and I help out with several good pars. We finish with a 75, good enough to finish 5th. Everyone meets for lunch in the Pavillion to exhange business cards and say our farewells. It’s an experience I’ll remember and probably not do again. Billy Care will get back his rightful place with Larry when the tournament returns to Muirfi eld in 2009. But at least I played there one time, that’s all one can ever hope for.

The Rose Factor - Hangin' at Jack's Place

THURSDAY OCTOBER 11
The cold and windy weather from Muirfield has followed us to North Hills, this time with accompaning heavy rain. My partner Brian Rothaus and I struggle around in 72, just out of the money. We were pretty awful, in spite of my three birdies and Brian’s 60-foot bomb on our last hole. As always, the lunch, dinner and cameroderie were tops. My body is now a little beat, my back getting stiffer with the cold weather. I hope I have something left for “The Bud.”

FRIDAY OCTOBER 12
The sun has returned for our 12:30 shot gun at the Bud Lewis Inv. at Manufacturers. It’s a breezy and beautiful 60 degrees at one of my very favorite courses and event. My partner is 70-year-old Dick Smith from Phila CC, the 2007 PA. Super Senior champ. He looks 55, plays like 45 and shoots his age regularly. Will he be able to carry my heavy load?. After two pars, the answer is NO!! We double bogey No.3, add more bogeys, and with my lone birdie on the 16th, limp in with a 74(+3). Hard to believe, other teams also suffer from the back tees, and we’re tied for 2nd, four shots back of Carl Everett and Jim Decker. At the evenings dinner, it’s great to talk with a great friend and local legend, 99-year-old PGA pro Bud Lewis, still sharp and with all his great stories of Hogan, Sarazan and all the greats. Father Bob Breen was there too, a legend at LaSalle and a friend of golf. Tournament Chair Biff Keidel presided and everyone enjoyed being with Bud. He’s really something. We should all strive to lead the great life Bud has led.

SATURDAY OCTOBER 13
With my 1-under par for the last five holes from Friday as inspiration, I’m hopeful for today’s round. Needless to say, I pull my first drive into the trees and pick up after my second shot ends up in the nook of a tree. Dick and I bumble around the first eight holes in 2-over par, we’re now six shots back. But fear not, the Rose Factor strikes back. On the 9th, from 100 yards out, I hole out wedge shot for eagle 3. On the tough 10th, Dick makes a birdie. We have some more good birdie chances on 14, 15 and 16 but just miss. Dick hits it stiff on 17 for another birdie, and finish our comback with a closing birdie on 18. We wind up at 69, even for the tournament, and a VICTORY!! We also earn 3 SKINS for some extra cash. How about that!! My game is back and I’m psyched for more golf, but not tomorrow. seven rounds in seven days. It’s been quite a ride, from Jack’s place at Muirfi eld Village, all the way to “the Bud”. I’ll remember this trip for quite a while.

 

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