Fore!

Mounting frustration at my lack of improvement led me to give up the game of golf many years ago, but as a former country club caddy I still enjoy walking a course and watching others enjoy a good round. And I still know my way around a green, and remember all the rules of caddy etiquette and pin-pulling. Throw in a beautiful day and a great cause, and you’ve got the annual Caps Care Classic, held last week at Springfield Golf and Country Club.

With the Caps’ busy early season schedule, it took me a while to get around to writing my account of the Caps Care Classic. But with a lull in the schedule and the help of some mostly illegible notes, here goes.

The entire Caps team turned out a day after playing their final preseason game against the Ottawa Senators, and the weather more than cooperated. I decided to accompany Caps goaltender Brent Johnson and his foursome of Brad Mont, Mark Rodgers and John Walls on its round last Monday.

As I hopped aboard the cart for the ride out to our starting point at the 14th tee, I couldn’t help notice that Mont had a New York Mets towel dangling from his bag. I delicately mentioned the Mets’ collapse and how my wife, a lifelong Mets fan, had cried herself to sleep the night before over the whole affair.

Mont was philosophical, and kept his chin up. He lamented the fact that the Mets had an aging rotation, and hoped that the collapse would not cause manager Willie Randolph to lose his job.

In the scramble format, all players in the group hit their drives, and then they collectively choose which of those they want to play. The other three drives are picked up, and each player hits a second shot from the spot where the preferred drive landed. This format lends itself to a team approach and continues in this fashion until the ball is in the hole. And longest is not always best; sometimes lie, break, bend and hazards will come into play.

The first hole – the 14th – was a par five. The group got off to a strong start, and nearly birdied the hole when Johnson almost dropped a 35-40 foot downhill putt. It narrowly missed, and they settled for a par.

On the par four 15th, the boys have a shorter putt for birdie, but again settle for a par. The 16th hole is the longest drive hole. Jakub Klepis and Milan Jurcina are at the tees to greet golfers. They tell us that Matt Bradley has the longest drive of the day so far. We later learn that he holds that distinction until Matt Pettinger comes along to outdrive him.

Mont’s second shot on the 15th is a beauty; it’s just a few feet from the hole and about pin high. The group has four shots at the tap-in birdie and makes good to go one under par on the day.

A native of West Virginia, Walls has a background in sports broadcasting. He was a sportscaster in Tulsa (a place where both Glen Hanlon and George McPhee toiled for the CHL’s Tulsa Oilers during their respective playing careers) and is well-acquainted with the game and many of its players. Walls regaled the group with some funny Phil Esposito stories during the round.

On the par four 17th hole, the boys were on the carpet in two and were left with about 20 feet of green for a birdie. None of the foursome was able to sink it however, so they settled for par and remained four under. This was soon to become a pattern.

Mont’s strong drive on the 18th left only about 135 yards to the green, but no one was able to chip the green. The best second shot left the group sitting on the fringe just off the green, and Walls’ 40-foot bid for bird was close. It left a two-foot tap in, and the guys were still one under par after five holes.

I was asked to drive tournament organizer Steve Hyjek – a guy who deserves mega kudos for organizing this event for the last seven years – out to the 16th hole at this point. I returned to the first green in time to see the guys par another hole.

While they waited to tee off on the second hole, we discussed the shootout and how the Caps should be much improved in that area this season. I’d be just as happy to think that, but to never need to find out. Johnson also told us the sad story of his Andy Moog poster. His grandfather (Hockey Hall of Famer Sid Abel) had taken him to The Joe in Detroit to get his Moog poster signed by the Edmonton goaltender. It was a prized possession for a few years, until he did something to irritate his sister. Johnson’s sister defaced his Moog poster in retaliation, hitting the goaltender where it hurt.

The second hole is another par five, and Walls’ birdie putt bid narrowly misses. Once again, the guys settle for par and are still at minus-1 on the day. On the par four third hole, the story is the same. No one is able to sink the birdie put of about 20 feet, and the group again settles for par.

Rodgers has kids who play hockey in the area, and one of them plays for ex-Cap Nelson Burton’s team. Rodgers himself does some coaching. Originally a New York Rangers fan, he latched onto the Caps during their inaugural season of 1974-75 and has been following them ever since.

The fourth hole is the Olie Hole. Kolzig stands at the par three No. 4 tee all day and “bets” the members of each foursome that he can outdrive them. It’s win-win for the players though; if Kolzig does outdrive them, they get to play his ball. None of Johnson’s group is able to drive the green, but they salvage par, as their string of “even” holes continues.

The fifth hole brings another par, although I forget to note any details. Johnson drives the green and is just above pin high on the par three No. 6, the hole on which Matt Pettinger narrowly (like, six inches narrowly) missed a hole-in-one when I was out with his group at this same event two years ago. Once again however, all four bids at what is about a 20-foot putt for birdie fail. Eleven holes into the round, they’ve got one birdie and 10 pars for a cumulative minus-1.

The seventh hole brings another par with no notes. On the eighth, Walls’ drive and Johnson’s strong chip put the boys within six to eight feet of a birdie. Rodgers drops the putt, and the long string of pars is broken. They’re two under now.

The momentum swings now. A drive and a chip puts them about 30 feet from the hole on nine. Walls sinks the putt for birdie.

“What was that,” I say, pulling out my notebook. “about 30 feet?”

“Looked like 90 to me, easy,” Walls deadpans.

With four holes to go, they’re now at minus-3 on the day.

The tenth hole starts poorly, but Johnson’s strong chip on the third shot leaves a one-foot “gimme” for par. None of the four is able to sink a 12-footer for a birdie on the par three 11th hole, so the boys are still three under par with two holes remaining.

On the 12th hole, Mont drops a 30-footer for birdie to bring the group down to minus-4. The boys finish the day there after logging a par on No. 13. Fourteen pars and four birdies add up to a respectable minus-4, but it’s not enough to get these guys into the “crystal” on this day.

Pettinger’s group of Mark Callihan, Garland Faist and Steve Movius (KPMG) took first place gross honors. Bradley’s bunch of Bill Fallon, John Moloney and Michael Quiello (the Boeing Co.) earned the first place net win. And Chris Clark’s group of Mark Ehudin, Skip Gaskill and Jim Grury (AAI Corp.) finished second place in the net category.

Biggest winners of the day were Children’s National Medical Center, Washington Capitals Charities and Athletes Against Autism. Those groups shared in the $171,486.90 that the event raised. Sponsorship accounted for $153,500.00, event day activities (special holes and prize wheel) raised an additional $10,322.00 and the online auction brought in $7,664.90.

Hope to see a bunch of you all out there on the links next year.

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One Comment on “Fore!”

  1. Matt Says:

    WOW – I thought the Golf Outing I just ran was big. 40k is alot but certainly not 171k!


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