Posted: Thursday, July 1, 2010 2:00 pm
By Kim Brown
This year’s Kirkwood Tournament will provide great memories for the winners of the championship flight for a long, long time.
Rarely have the week’s events unfolded as unpredictably as they did in the 43rd annual playing of Stowe’s finest golf event.
The delightful playing conditions for Wednesday’s practice rounds set the stage nicely. As Scott Rossi, the course superintendent at the Stowe Country Club, observed later, “The greens were rolling to a pleasing speed of 9.5 on the Stimp Meter, the fairway was in great shape and all systems were go. Unfortunately, on Thursday the rains came.”
But a little wet weather couldn’t dampen the spirits of the 144 golfers signed up for nine flights of play in the 2010 Kirkwood.
Day one is qualifying and the low gross score earns the top duo in 18 holes of best-ball medal play the Jeff Hadley Trophy, named for one of Vermont’s finest pros, sadly struck down in his prime by the dreaded ALS disease.
Andy Light and Andy Donatello, the only team to go lower than Stowe’s own Slayton brothers, Dave and Mike, captured the prize and with it top seed in the Championship Flight.
Qualifying scores set the flights and almost every year there is a logjam of teams around the magic number to make it into the top bracket. This year, six pairs carded a score of 74 and that set up a sudden-death playoff. Two spots were at stake, and as dusk settled, Alex Loh and Andy Mink had captured the 15th slot while Mike Lovejoy and Nate Bedford had taken the final seed in the bracket.
Remember those names.
If veteran Kirkwood watchers have learned anything over the years, it is that when match play begins on Friday it is a whole new ballgame. Never was that more true than in this past week. Top qualifiers Donatello and Light were set against the 16th team, Lovejoy and Bedford, and in the first upset of the day the underdogs prevailed 2 & 1. Down in the other half of the draw, the Slaytons were being rudely ousted by Loh and Mink. The latter played from No. 8 to No. 15 at 8-under par and just like that the defending champs were done.
Throughout two more rounds on Friday and Saturday, the two underdog pairings calmly won each and every match on the way to Sunday’s 18-hole final. Both teams started strong, but in the end it was Loh and Mink who were making the critical putts and it ended at the 15th green with a score of 4 and 3.
There is far more to the Kirkwood, however, than the drama of capturing the top flight. This year the Slaytons, taken down on Thursday, rebounded to take the top honors in the first flight. Another pair with many previous trophies, David O’Rourke and Rob Tedoldi, wound up with the consolation honor in the Championship flight.
Mike Johnson and Eric Hanley took the second flight and Peter Holmberg and Jeff Fuessner took the third. Putting woes on day one had bumped Scott Baraw and Jeff Holleran down into the fourth group, but it was fertile ground, as they beat out Sal Vespa and Michael Flanigan to end up on top.
The real noisemaking in the fourth belonged to the winners of the consolation prize, Ron Klein and Kevin D’Arcy. Now, you might not be totally revved up to be playing in the consolation round on Saturday, as this pair was, but when you hit a picture-perfect shot off the 10th tee that lands 5 feet from the flag and rolls straight in, it is cause to go wild and that was what happened to Mr. D’Arcy. A hole-in-one off No. 10 in the Kirkwood brings a nice prize, and this one was a doozy.
Rumor was that D’Arcy hit 11-wood off the tee but who cares, because he just won a trip to Pebble Beach. If there is a better prize for one of Stowe’s most popular players, your Scribe doesn’t know what it is. You know if you win cash or a car, that’s great, but sooner than later, the car’s done or the money’s spent and all that is left is the memory.
But winning a trip to America’s most scenic course, which just happened to host this year’s U.S, Open — well, as the good folks at MasterCard like to say, “That’s priceless.” The Scribe is betting that on this trip, D’Arcy manages to get onto Cypress Pont and Spy Hill while he’s at it.
The only remaining question was how much damage was done to D’Arcy’s bank account in the Joe Kirkwood Pub later that day.
The winners of the fifth through seventh flights this year were Doug Teetor and Fred Bashara, John Wykoff and Bill Widen, and Mike Wurth and Mark Severance.
In the eighth, there was some added drama. Peter Sakash had signed up with Lee Burgess as a partner, but the latter actually injured his foot coming off his own home course. Undaunted by the prospect of playing a best-ball event on his own ball, Pate managed to win three straight matches, capturing the title by besting Richard Philo and Larry Hooker.
A few final notes to close a great week:
• The Lady Kirkwood this year was won by Mary Brush, with Sally Fuessner and Joanna Graves taking the next two spots.
• The Lucky Loser event saw the always entertaining Mark Poduje post the low gross on Sunday while low net went to Brent Libby.
• The closest to the pin prizes awarded during qualifying were earned by Mike Wurth at the second, Larry Hooker at the fourth, Ken Miller at the eighth, Mike Slayton at the 10th and Mike Johnson at the 15th. Slayton wound up a mere 220 inches from the hole.
In the end though there were nine champions, nine consolation winners and a whole raft of happy golfers. Now it is back to normalcy. See you out there soon.
Kim Brown, a ski bum by winter and a hacker by summer, lives in Waterbury Center.