Having survived the wilds of Vermont and the planning genius of the “committee,” my partner and I decided to get the ball rolling on a golf trip that would set the standard for all future buddy trips.
Considering that this was pre-internet (how on earth did we manage our lives without it?), our research included magazines, fliers and word-of-mouth sources, one of which led us to the new development on Cape Cod called New Seabury. Three days of golf, luxury accommodations and a $50 food credit in the restaurant sounded like a bargain and it was, evidenced by the fact that today New Seabury is nearly inaccessible to rabble such as your faithful blogger.
We sent out invitations to a number of golf buddies and finally settled on 12 who would make the trip. Let me say that if two’s company and three’s a crowd, then 12 is like the “million man march.” Not exactly an out of control mob, but there were some similarities. Buddy trip tip No. 1. We’ve gone with two, three, four, eight and 12 guys on these trips and, believe me, four is best.
It was a very cool trip, not without some mishaps, but very cool overall. My partner and I put together “survival kits” for each of the golfers, little bags with a supply of tees, shoelaces, spikes, a golf ball, and other sundries including a nip of brandy in each. That way, no matter how poorly you played, you were assured of one good shot during the round. OK, not that funny, but it made you smile,right?
Each golfer received a white visor that our good friend at NLJHS, Sue Chojnacki, had embroidered with the name we had given the first buddy trip-the Zinc-Train Open. If you want to know the derivation of the name, let’s just say it’s a long story for another day.
The first day of play was on a windy April Friday, but we were so amped for this trip that nothing short of Irene could have dampened our enthusiasm and it was a happy group that assembled for dinner at the New Seabury Pub. The highlight — or lowlight if you prefer — was watching one of the fellows who had apparently had enough Stolichnaya to stun a small horse try to wrestle with a two-pound lobster, a dish he had never had before in his life.
Remember the scene from Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts sent a snail hurtling into the hands of the waiter? That was pretty much repeated as our boy accidentally launched a lobster claw into the ceiling fan giving new meaning to the phrase “that’s when it hit the fan.”
The second day was bright and breezy, a perfect day for 36 holes of inspiring golf. We had decided that day two and three would be under tournament conditions with each player competing for the first Zinc-Train plaque in a medal play format. This was a HUGE mistake. If you want to introduce fear and loathing to your buddy trip, if you want all the joy sucked out of the vacation, if you want people to hate you for eternity, merely play under medal play conditions on a really hard golf course. There isn’t much camaraderie to be had when Jack is agonizing over a three-footer for his third consecutive snowman. Buddy trip tip No. 2: Can medal play.
Day three turned up cold and windy, perfect for a golf trip that had become the moral equivalent of the Bataan Death March. The 54 previous holes had pretty much taken the starch out of the field but we trudged on in pursuit of the title. On the 16th hole, our foursome of Wayne, my father Andy, the estimable Joe Paskewich, and I stood on the green and waived for the group behind us to play their shots.
The hole is a very long par-three over a huge ravine, requiring a precise shot with a long iron. Our buddy Craig Sylvia was on the tee, looking like someone who was imploring the golf gods, “please just let me finish.” Craig hit a solid iron that had the flag all the way. He stared at his shot with eager anticipation, straining forward on his toes, awaiting a good outcome, when the ball hit a foot short of the green and tumbled back into the ravine. Craig’s body went limp, his shoulders sagged and head dropped. It will be known forever as the Sylvia Shoulder Slump, and many a good golfer has suffered the same fate. In the clubhouse later, Craig was heard to say, “a foot short. The story of my life.”
The tourney ended with my father grinding me and Wayne into the dust, both of us cracking like walnuts under the pressure. Until the day he died, my father kept the plaque on the wall in his den and frequently smiled when reminded that he still held sway over the kids.
The trip ended with a whimper instead of a bang but almost everyone wanted to know when the next one was scheduled and insisted that we please include them. We were onto something and we knew it would get better. And it did.
Jim O’Neill is a member of New London Country Club