On Monday Erik decided to fly to the States and join the fun known as the Myrtle Beach Classic. Betsy picked him up at the Charlotte airport Tuesday afternoon, and I fed them both tacos and Rioja when they arrived in Morganton. On Wednesday morning, Erik and Betsy went to Grace Ridge so Erik could visit with his Grandfather, and a little before noon on Wednesday, Erik and I climbed into the well-loaded van and headed for Myrtle Beach. On the way, we picked up Jeff in Hickory, along with his clubs, his suitcase, his guitar, his sleep machine, a case of beer, and his bongo drums. Jeff took his normal position in the van’s driver’s seat, I moved over to shotgun position, and with Erik in the back, we had a pleasant and uneventful trip to the ocean.
We collected four keys for side A and four keys for side B of the Diamond Dunes Beach House at the Condolux Office, and then drove the last two blocks to the home I had rented for 5 days and nights. Al was already there, lounging out back, watching the ocean. I checked out all the rooms, but the marketing of the Diamond Dunes on the internet had been pretty comprehensive, and I didn’t see very much that surprised me. Just two things really – both negative. The two rooms which were advertised as having two double beds each actually had bunk double-beds, and to get into the Diamond Dunes house required traveling up quite a few steps, as the house was up on stilts, with parking underneath. I determined the finest of the four master suites on the South side of the house, and moved my suitcase into my room. My bathroom was large, with two sinks, and both a shower and a tub. I opened the sliding glass door which led to the balcony I shared with Jeff who was in the master suite next to me, and enjoyed the sounds, smells and views of the Atlantic.
Dennis showed up, having flown from Detroit to Myrtle Beach, rented a car, and golfed a few holes at River Hills. It is always a treat to spend time with Dennis. His large heart and acerbic wit combine to make him a good friend. It wasn’t long before we both pulled out our harmonicas and began playing. Mike Masterson flew from Detroit to Florence, where Merle and John picked him up, and the three of them soon arrived and moved into their rooms. Colorado Keith had shipped his clubs to Phil in Morganton, and Phil had put Keith’s clubs in my van along with his own. This allowed Phil to pick up Keith at the Charlotte airport in Phil’s bright red 2003 Corvette. Soon after they arrived, Tom and David drove in. Tom had brought quite a bit of food and drinks with him, so we all went down to help carry it up. Ryan appeared, having driven himself from Raleigh. Steve arrived, after playing a round of golf at Tidewater that day, followed by Danny, who had driven himself to Myrtle Beach from Morganton. Jon Smedley and Jacob had flown from Houston to Wilmington and rented a car, and shortly after they arrived, Clint drove up, having driven himself and Tom’s grill from Morganton after working a full day.
Both sides of the house had a third floor game room, and each game room had a pinball machine, a foosball table, an air hockey table, and a pool table. It didn’t take long for the game rooms to
fill with laughter that could be heard on the second floor as we all explored our recreational opportunities. Sometime around 8:00 those of us who were there enjoyed a late dinner of ham, Cole slaw and baked beans, prepared by Tom and David. Later there was more music making, and a game of poker. Around 10:30 I climbed the stairs to my fine bedroom, opened the sliding glass door halfway to let in the sound of the breaking waves and lots of cool air, and went to bed.
On Thursday I dressed for a morning of golf and left my room a little before 7 in search of coffee. I found that Dennis and John were already up, and the coffee was made. Later I found my way over to the kitchen on the North side where Tom was making sausage biscuits. I took a sausage biscuit and another cup of coffee and went up to the balcony outside my bedroom. The biscuit was great, and the morning promised a day of some sun and no rain. I was down to the last piece of biscuit when I noticed a sea gull flying towards me from 100 yards away. It seemed to be looking at me, and as it got closer I decided it must want my last bite of biscuit. When it was still 20 yards away (too far!), I threw the biscuit towards the gull. I immediately felt like a fool as I realized I was throwing it into the swimming pool two stories below me. Sure enough, there it was, floating in the pool. Then something amazing happened. When the lone gull circled back to check me out again, he must have sent out ant-like communication signals to his fellow gulls. Although I was now without food, first 5, then 10, then 20, then 40 gulls circled around me. One noticed the biscuit floating in the pool, and dove down to get it. He failed, but the next one that tried succeeded. I sat and watched them for 10 minutes while slowly they all disappeared to wherever they had come from.
Thursday was our practice round at River Hills. A little before 8:30, the 12 of us who had signed up to play a practice round got into our respective vehicles and drove to the course. Erik and I would be playing with Phil and Keith. Jacob, Steve, Jon and Ryan would play together, and Jeff, John, Merle and Dennis would make up the third foursome. On the tee Keith pulled some chips out of his pocket and talked us into playing a money game. Some of the chips were bad chips – Scored an 8, Three-putt, Water ball, Sand, Hit a tree. Two of the chips were good chips – One Putt, and Birdie. Each time a person hit a ball in the water, or the sand, or hit a tree, or shot a birdie, for example, they would be given the appropriate chip. At the end of the round, the person with any of the 5 bad chips would have to give a dollar to the other 3 guys. If a golfer had one of the two good chips, he would get $2 from every other golfer. In the end, the game added some fun to the day without changing very much. The only strategy I could detect was to make sure you got the shortest one putt opportunity on the last hole, even if it meant leaving your next to the last shot right on the fringe of the green.
None of the four of us played particularly well, but we all had a good time. We enjoyed a sandwich and a beer in the clubhouse and then drove back to the Diamond Dunes. There I sampled the outdoor hot tub along with John. Unlike John, however, I did not periodically get out of the hot tub and dive into the unheated swimming pool before climbing back into the tub. When I did get out of the hot tub, it was a more relaxed and substantially cleaner me that enjoyed the rest of the afternoon watching the ocean, playing an occasional game of pinball, and determining the handicaps that would be assigned to the 15 players for the tournament that would begin Friday. I traveled to both sides of the house to make sure that all the players knew I had not yet (hint hint) posted the handicaps, but even this blatant appeal for bribes netted me only another $10 from Dennis. I finally posted the handicaps, which resulted in a bit of surly silence from one or two competitors who had been hoping for more strokes.
Michael Heller, our final participant, arrived, and soon Tom and David served up a fine dinner consisting of Tom’s Italian Grandmother’s meat sauce, manicotti, garlic bread, salad, and Chianti. The food all tasted great, and was well received by all in attendance. After dinner I joined a game of Dealer’s Choice. I started off well, but when one or two players joined who had drunk a little too much were having a hard time making decisions, I got bored and decided to drop out. My boredom disappeared, however, when I got a hand with four eights, but when my four eights were beaten by a straight flush, I took the bad beat as an opportunity to go do something else.
Clint, Phil and Dennis were making some good music on the other side of the house, and I got my harps and joined them for a while. Erik, Ryan, John, Jeff and others joined in, and time
slipped by pleasurably. Eventually I hauled myself off to bed. Like last night, I slept with the sliding glass door open, and listened to the waves.
Rain was forecast for Friday, but nobody was sure when it would start. I was hoping to get in most of our first tournament round before it started, and in fact we did. The Meadowlands course was almost 20 minutes away, but we all arrived in good shape, and we started on time. I played with the group that had traveled with me to Scotland to compete in the Kingdom of Fife Championship in 2005, and that had promised to go to Ireland with me in June of 2011 for the Ring of Kerry Championship – Jeff, Erik, and Jacob. My play was OK, but nothing great. Jeff beat me, and Erik beat Jeff. Jacob had a very good day, and his net 67 put him in first place amongst all 15 golfers on Friday.
When I returned to the Diamond Dunes Friday I enjoyed a long hot bath in my bathtub, and then posted the pairings for the following day’s golf. The rain was coming down in torrents now, and it was good to be in our beach house with nowhere we needed to go.
Dinner Friday night was a starter of boiled shrimp, followed by fillet mignon, along with Basmati rice and Caesar salad. David had brought and grilled the meat, and it was delicious. I would have had two pieces if I hadn’t eaten so many shrimp. Once again the chef (Tom) and his assistants (David, Danny and Clint) were given a rousing ovation. Once again, the evening was filled with comradeship, laughter, pool, poker, and music.
The sausage biscuits on Saturday morning were just as good as they had been on Thursday morning and Friday morning. I also grabbed an apple and a banana for consumption later in my round, and soon we were off to the course. On Saturday we played Farmstead, which featured a par 6 hole which teed off in North Carolina and finished in South Carolina. I played with Dennis and Mike Masterson, the weather was fine, and the three of us had a very good time. I suspect there were some good golf shots along the way, but all I really remember was when a big black crow rifled through Mike’s cart while he was on the green, and flew off with a full pack of cheese crackers.
Dennis drove me back to the Diamond Dunes after our round Saturday. Along the way we stopped at Rockefeller’s Oyster Bar. There Dennis bought us some steamed oysters, raw oysters, and fried oysters, along with a beer. The fried oysters in particular were very good. We were a little surprised when Merle, John, and Michael Heller walked in, and also later when Jeff entered the bar. Soon, however, I was back at the Diamond Dunes soaking in my tub, and getting ready for the evening.
My immediate task was to take the scores of the 15 golfers, subtract their handicaps to determine their net score, add their Friday score and their Saturday score together, rank-order all the players, and determine who would play in the Championship Flight, the First Flight, the Second Flight, and the Third Flight. Then the deficits of the non-leaders was halved, and the Johnny Cochran Rule (“If it’s over 10, halve it again”) applied. Finally, I wrote out the flights and pairings and posted the information downstairs on the counter for all to see. I would be competing with John, Dennis and Ryan in the Second Flight. The Championship Flight would be fought between Steve, Erik, and Mike Masterson.
Dinner Saturday night consisted of Warren Wilson College organic bratwurst, along with sauerkraut, left-over manicotti, and bean soup that had been cooked with the ham bone all day. It was all very good.
Saturday, after dinner, it was time for the story-telling competition. Each year at the Myrtle Beach Classic, for as long as anybody can remember, the Monkey’s Uncle Trophy has been awarded to the person who tells the best story about something that happened at this year’s Myrtle Beach Classic. I told a story about how Mike was on the fringe lying 7, and since a 9 is the highest score anybody can take on a given hole at the Myrtle Beach Classic, I reminded him to get his putt to the hole. I turned away briefly and when I turned back Mike was picking up his ball. It seemed that somehow he had hit it and it had gone less than 2 inches. Dennis told a story about a shot he saw me take where I went around a tree and onto the green. Tom told a story about how his briefcase was stolen from his car in New York and returned to him by the police. He might not have understood the part about the story being an event that occurred at the Myrtle Beach Classic. Ryan won with a story about how his game was going all to hell, and he decided it was time to drink some beer. Al was going by him in his cart, and he asked Al if he had a spare beer he could have. He watched as Al carefully swallowed all the beer in his can and then popped the top on another. “You want first chug?” he said. It doesn’t sound funny now, but the way Ryan told the story it was hilarious.
I don’t remember much about Saturday night. I suppose I made music with the music-makers, and played pool with the pool-players. It was fun to have a house full of friends, and there always seemed to be something going on somewhere. It was also very nice just sitting outside and watching the waves roll in. The wide expanse of ocean revealed the curvature of the earth, and offered a mighty contrast to my own puniness.
Sunday morning brought more sausage biscuits from Tom, and before long all the golfers were all off to Tidewater for the final round of the Myrtle Beach Classic. When we arrived, we found that there was a frost delay, and everybody would be starting one hour late. We sat around the clubhouse and chatted. I bought a hat. Around 9:30 they announced that we could hit balls from the driving range, and we all did so, as the balls were free. At 10:00 sharp our group got going. I started inauspiciously, with a triple bogey 7 on the first hole. I followed that up with a good bogey, but my confidence on the tee dwindled away to almost nothing, and I ended up shooting a 105. John easily won the 2nd flight, shooting something in the low 90s.
Back at the Diamond Dunes, I double checked all the scorecards, and calculated the places for each of the four flights. Around 5:00, I joined a group of fellows who walked down to the Irish Pub. There I bought a shot and a beer for Dennis, John, Jeff, Danny and myself, and an appetizer to tide us over until dinner. Danny, John, and I walked back to the Diamond Dunes along the beach. The sun had gone down, and the horizon was pink with the afterglow.
At the house, it was almost time for the Super Bowl to start. Just before it did, Tom brought in a half dozen pizzas and several dozen wings. I snarfed up a few slices of pizza while they were still hot, and settled into a good spot in front of the television set, ready for the game. The Super Bowl was exciting right from the start, as Peyton Manning moved the Colts in for a touchdown. Then Drew Brees showed that the Saints offense could move the ball too. The commercials were funny, and everyone seemed to enjoy watching the game in the company of friends.
At the half-time break, Dennis awarded the trophies. Phil Shirley had won the 3rd Flight. John White won the 2nd Flight. Jacob Pittman won the First Flight, and Steve Hemphill won the Championship Flight. Our group moved around, and when the second half began most of us were in different seats. The second half proved to be even more exciting than the first half, at least until the New Orleans Saints intercepted a Peyton Manning pass in the fourth quarter and ran it in for a touchdown. I slipped away from the group about then, and went up to my room to take a bath. I listened to the final few minutes of the game as I soaked contentedly in my tub. After my bath, I sat out on the balcony for a while before I went to bed, and listened to the beach sounds.
I woke up early Monday morning and started packing. We had to be out of the Diamond Dunes house before 10:00 am. Jeff and I had talked about playing 18 holes at River Hills before driving back to Morganton, but Erik’s last minute attendance at the event meant that we would need to drop him off at the Charlotte airport no later than 4:00 pm, so it wouldn’t really be possible to play more than 9 holes. Further discussion revealed that neither Jeff nor I was particularly interested in playing 9 holes, as we were both pretty exhausted from our long weekend. In the end, we just hung around the beach house a little longer and then, along with Danny, we headed out to find a breakfast restaurant. There I enjoyed eggs, bacon, and a waffle before getting back in the van. We drove directly to the Charlotte airport, hugged Erik goodbye, and headed for home. The twelfth Annual Myrtle Beach Classic had been another Myrtle Beach Classic success.
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