John arrived Wednesday morning and loaded his stuff into my Odyssey. I had hurt my back three days earlier doing side-to-side squat jumps in front of my television set, so John loaded most of my stuff into the van too. I wasn’t sure I would be able to compete in the thirteenth Myrtle Beach Classic, but I thought I might try. John drove us to David’s lovely new house and David and Amy gave us a quick tour, but soon we had David’s stuff loaded and were back on the road. Except for discovering that I had left my iPhone home, the drive to Myrtle Beach went smoothly. Time just seems to slip by unnoticed when friends are telling stories to each other. I still had my iPad, and I checked my email every half-hour, answering some questions from work. The highlight was an email from the Director asking if it was OK for him to accept the invitation of an old friend and join Facebook. After considering possible answers for several miles, I wrote back that he could, but only on his own time.
We stopped and picked up keys for the four Barefoot Resort condos we would be renting for four nights. The condos turned out to be several miles away. The whole Barefoot area was huge, with hundreds of condo buildings, most containing twelve two-bedroom, two-bathroom condos on three floors. Perhaps they all rent out in July, but in February the occupancy rate was probably less than 10%. I was mildly disappointed with our four condos. They were all adequate, but the beds were just single beds instead of double beds, and the bedrooms were a little smaller than other places we have stayed. No matter though – the attraction this year was the golf. The Barefoot Resort is home to four of the finest golf courses at Myrtle Beach, and in our previous twelve years of golfing in Myrtle Beach, we had not played any of them. The surrounding area has many good restaurants, and keeping driving to a minimum has always been a consideration when planning golf outings.
Our condos were 514, 913, 1014, and 1112, each in a different building. I told John thanks for driving, and let him take his pick, and he chose 514 for himself, Dennis, Dave Wells and Dave Mursch. I selected 913 (building 9, room 13) for myself, Danny Cook, Phil and Keith. I assigned Jacob, Steve, Jon and Mike Caputo condo 1014, and put the four guys who were not competing in the golf tournament – Jeff, Mike Masterson, Danny Scott and Al – in condo 1112. Soon Jeff and Danny Scott showed up, and not long after that Steve, Jon and Mike Caputo showed up. They had flown into Wilmington on Tuesday and played a course there on Wednesday before driving down to Myrtle Beach. Six-foot five-inch Mike Masterson mysteriously appeared out of nowhere. Jeff drove to the airport around 5:30 to pick up Jacob, and Phil and Danny Cook arrived around 8:00, along with Colorado Keith, who they had picked up at the Raleigh airport on their way from Morganton to Myrtle Beach. Dennis and Dave Wells would be arriving the next day, just barely not in time for their Thursday practice round. Al’s schedule was pretty much unknown.
Around 7:00 most of us drove five minutes to Logan’s Roadhouse, where we threw peanut shells on the floor and ate mostly fried things, although I had a salad. Later, back at the condos, I walked from condo to condo, and enjoyed reacquainting myself with old friends. Around 10:00 I wandered into the bedroom I would be sharing with Danny Cook, took my evening pills, and went to bed. Sometime later Danny came in, did his thing in the bathroom, and grumbled and snorted his way into bed. I lay quietly for the next few minutes as he tossed and turned, obviously not able to get comfortable. In less than 5 minutes he had given up, grabbed his pillows and blanket, and made himself a bed on the couch. The next morning I asked him about it, and he said the bed wasn’t comfortable, but the couch was.
Sometime between 7 and 8 in the morning we drove to the Barefoot Resort Clubhouse for our breakfast. I was expecting a breakfast buffet, but instead we were allowed to order from their breakfast menu. I had an omelet, along with juice and coffee. Thursday’s practice round was the “free round” of the pay for 3 and play 4 deal at Barefoot, which meant that we weren’t allowed to start until after noon. Around 10:30, however, word reached us from the clubhouse that there were very few people playing that day, and we could essentially play whenever we wished. As a result, we all teed off a little early. I played with David Mursch and John White. My aching back kept me from swinging with any confidence, so I scored badly. John played very well, consistently hitting his drives over 200 yards into the fairway. David, who had not played 18 consecutive holes of golf in more than 20 years, turned out to be a fairly skilled golfer, with a good swing, and a long drive. His short game lacked control, as would be expected after such a long layoff, but he seemed to enjoy all 120 or so strokes.
After Thursday’s practice round, we returned to the condos, where I found that Alan had arrived. Al, along with Jeff, Danny Scott and Mike Masterson, would not be competing in the golf tournament this year. The four of them, staying in what came to be known as the “Ne’re-do-well” condo, would have their own golf skills competition, organized by Jeff.
When darkness fell, our last two competitors arrived. Dennis and Dave Wells had flown in from Michigan that afternoon, and had only had time to play 12 holes before they had to stop. Dennis has probably been to all thirteen Myrtle Beach Classic tournaments, but this was the first year for Dave Wells, his co-worker and bass player.
As stated on the itinerary left in each condo, the handicaps and first-round pairings for the Myrtle Beach Classic were posted in The Committee’s condo at Happy Hour on Thursday evening. For the first time ever, we had three golfers with single digit handicaps – Mike Caputo, Jon Smedley, and returning champion Steve Hemphill. Each of these golfers was assigned a handicap of 8 by The Committee. The average handicap for our group was 24.
Some of us had dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack, and some of us went to Sticky Fingers. Eventually we all ended up back at the Barefoot condos, where some people played Texas Hold-em, and others gathered in Dennis (Little Walter) and Dave’s (Fingers) condo where they were joined by Morganton’s best blues guitarist, the original Bluesman himself, Phil Shirley. I joined in with my harp on several songs, but mostly I was content to listen to Dennis’ harp riffs. Sometime around 10:00 I found my way back to my condo. I joined another Texas Hold-em game, but the going was slow, and I was quick to bluff my way out of the game and into my bed. I guess when you are used to on-line poker on a fast internet connection, playing at the dining room table with a bunch of half-drunk friends can seem a little slow.
We were all up fairly early on Friday. The weather was supposed to be good, but it was cloudy, and threatening to be a cold and dank day. Now that it was Friday, breakfast at the clubhouse was set up buffet-style instead of ordering off the menu. I tried a few pieces of bacon and same clumpy scrambled eggs, but my back was hurting quite a bit.
Jon, Mike Caputo, Dennis and Dave Wells were the first group off. I was in the second group, with Keith, Phil, and John White. I played better than I thought I would, despite dribbling at least three drives towards the lady’s tee. I shot 104, John had 108, Keith shot 94, and Phil shot 101. When I returned to the condo, my back really started to hurt. I took John’s advice and lay down on the floor with my feet up on a chair. Before he left to go work out at the gym, he told me how to get up from the ground when the time came. “Roll to your side, and then get on your knees” he said. Forty-five minutes later I decided that I would rise, but it was at least 10 minutes later before I made it to my feet. I could move painfully from one side to the other, but there was no way I could fight through the back pain that would result from getting on my knees. As time wore on, though, I realized I would have to make the move, and eventually I did. I developed and posted the pairings and tee times for the next morning’s round. Later, when Phil, Keith and Danny brought me a chicken dinner, I gobbled it down. Gin helped dull my pain and lift my spirits, and I managed to walk to each of the condos, but it wasn’t long before I was back in my bed, suffering each time I moved. All night long.
When I rose Saturday morning, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be attempting to golf. Every movement hurt. After breakfast I returned to the condo and moped around for a bit before throwing my lot in with the Ne’re-do-wells. Danny and Mike had gone golfing at Waterway Hills. I joined Jeff and Al in a midday trip to Martin’s Golf Superstore where I walked around slowly for 20 minutes, contemplating purchase after purchase, and leaving empty-handed. Then we went to Good Fella’s Seafood Hut and Bar for lunch before returning to the condos.
As the men returned from their rounds, they dropped their scorecards off at my condo. The score ranged from the 82s shot by Mike Caputo and Steve to Danny’s 123. Rookie David Mursch had improved by eleven strokes, shooting 113, his best score in 20 years. It was John White, however, who would win the Most Improved Award (the Pre-Nike Contract Tiger Woods Bobble-Head Doll). He shot a 95, improving by 13 strokes.
Saturday night was our last night together, and we had a lot to do. I had to group the eleven remaining competitors into four flights, and post the next day’s pairings and tee times. We were scheduled to go out to eat at Rockefeller’s Oyster Bar. It was almost Happy Hour. This would be our last chance to make music together. Mainly though, Saturday evening is our story telling time. For the last decade, the carved wooden chimpanzee holding a golf club figure I had purchased at a chainsaw art shop in England’s Lake District had served as the trophy for our story-telling contest. Somehow it had picked up the name of the Monkey’s Uncle Award. The story is supposed to be about something the story-teller saw happen during this year’s tournament, but no story is discouraged. For the majority of the years of this millennium, the hardest I laugh all year is at the Myrtle Beach story telling contest.
Our numbers were down by three, as Jon, Steve and Mike Caputo had decided to go out on Myrtle Beach’s gambling boat. The boat leaves at 7:30, and comes back at 12:30 in the morning. The ride is free, and a dinner buffet is free, and as long as you are gambling in their casino, drinks are free. I heard the next morning that this “free” trip had cost the three of them close to a grand combined.
Jeff announced the winner of the Ne’re-do-wells golf skills challenge. Perhaps because his recent knee replacement kept him from taking full swings, the skills he selected were all short game skills, such as putting and chipping. Jeff won the first place medal. Danny Scott won the second place medal. Mike Masterson won the third place medal. Al was awarded a medal which read “Participant”.
We had a new award this year – the Alice Shankshoulder award for the man who played most like a woman. I thought I would get it, but I barely lost out to Dave Wells.
I don’t remember the stories told at our story-telling contest this year, although I recall that John White won. I remember that I kicked it off with a story about a shot I had attempted which had all the earmarks of being a terrific shot (between two trees right in front of me, over the next trees, over the pond and onto the green). I kept my head down, and never saw where the ball went, although my ears told me quickly that I had hit one of the two trees in front of me. Although three guys were there watching, nobody saw or heard where the ball came down, so I had to take a two stroke penalty and try the shot again.
I hate to go to bed early on the Saturday night of a Myrtle Beach Classic, but at my age I don’t have much choice. I seem to run out of energy. When I returned to Morganton and downloaded my Fitbit pedometer into their website, I saw why. It seems I take about five times as many steps on a Myrtle Beach day as I do on a normal day at home. My 18,390 steps on Thursday set a new personal record, and on Saturday I walked almost as much.
On Sunday my back wasn’t much better, and I was pretty sure I couldn’t play. After breakfast I wished the guys the best, and went back to my condo to watch Tiger Woods play on TV. Pretty soon a couple of things sank in. First, it was the prettiest day yet. Second, Tiger wasn’t doing well. Third, a trip to the Ne’re-do-wells condo revealed that they were preparing to head home. Fourth, I realized that check-out time was 10:00 am, and I would essentially have nowhere to go, and nobody to go there with. Thinking quickly, I raced back to the clubhouse and had the Cart Master take me out to where my group was all gathered on the first tee, waiting to tee off. I arrived in the nick of time, since there was a delay of about an hour due to the early frost. I was delighted to put my bag on Dennis’ cart and play along with David Mursch and Jacob. I didn’t play well, and never really turned in a score, since I was already out of the tournament, but David, Jake and Dennis all played well, and it was fun watching them and joking with them.
After the first nine, Dennis and Dave Wells decided they would only have time for a few more holes before they would have to leave for the airport. After we finished the 12th hole, Dennis took me back to play with Danny Cook, Phil and Keith, and he and Dave Wells took off for the airport.
As soon as Jon, Mike and Steve finished their round, they took off for the airport. Dennis, always the Master of Ceremonies, was gone, along with Dave Wells. Tired to the bone, I sat down and calculated the tournament results, and Jacob helped me hand out the trophies. Jon Smedley had barely beaten John White in the Championship Flight. Phil Shirley won the First Flight. Jacob Pittman won the Second Flight. Danny Cook won the Third Flight.
My good friend Jacob helped load me and my clubs into my Odyssey, and soon John, David and I were on our way back to Morganton. The thirteenth annual Myrtle Beach Classic was over. Soon it will be time to start looking forward to the next one.
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