by Kevin Sylvester, Buffalo Sports Page

Lift

-Congratulations to Francisco Molinari for his first win on the PGA Tour with a precision performance at the Quickens Loans National. It’s a great story, but not the story from the weekend. Tiger Woods was with a T4 finish. He gave himself a chance to win again, and has renewed faith (in him and everyone) that he will win again. I believe he will win again. I don’t know if it will be a Major or a PGA Tour event, but I believe it will happen. When? If I knew that, I’d head to Vegas. 

-If you aspirations of becoming a professional golfer, you should check out the Monday qualifying scores from the LECOM Health Challenge. The Web.com Tour event’s qualifier was held at Shorewood CC in Dunkirk and saw over 140 players tee it up for 12 spots in this week’s event at Peek n Peak Resort. Willie Mack fired a course record 60 to lead the field, five players shot 64, and six fired 65 to make it to the weekend. East Amherst’s Ben Reichert was close with a 66, that he shot early in the day. It must have been a long agonizing wait to find out he missed by a stroke.

Clean

Sometimes the best days of golf come from the unexpected. That’s what I experienced last Wednesday at Elkdale CC in Salamanca with my friend Steve and some of his buddies. Steve invited me down to play in a charity tournament that his business was a sponsor of. On my way to the Southern Tier he called and said the tournament was postponed due to the terrible forecast. Since I was already halfway there, I said I’d come down and have lunch and see what Mother Nature had in store. 

We met at Elkdale CC around noon. Light rain was falling and some players were just finishing the front nine. I met Steve’s other friends, and we grabbed a beer and some laughs while trying to read radar apps and forecast the afternoon. We decided we were going to play once the yellow the dots on the radar moved through. 

After 90 minutes, we headed out. PGA Pro Jack Widger looked at us like we were nuts considering the rain really hadn’t let up. We went out as five-some (who was going to complain?) decked out in rain gear. With the odd number, and weather, we decided to do 6’s (3 different teams through 6 hole matches) and play scramble. 

It started out fun, but by the 6th hole, the heavy stuff started coming down. We missed a yellow dot on the radar! We paused under a tree for it to pass, and 10 minutes later we were back on the tee. It rained for the next 6 holes, but we could see the end in sight. The final 6 was going to be glorious. 

Glorious it was. The sun came out, and conditions were perfect. Sunny, warm, and receptive greens. The final match was also where the drama came in, and made the day even more memorable. I’ll spare you the hole by hole, and just head right to the finish. 

My partner for that 6 (another Steve) and I were up 3 on the original match, but a even on the press my friend Steve and the others put on. Both teams were well short of the hole on the 18th. We were just on the surface with a 50 footer, while Steve and his guys were just off the front of the green, 60 feet away. Bob and Rich (Steve’s partners) went first in the scramble knowing one of the three needed to do the improbable to erase the first match and come out a winner on the second. Rich putted first and gave the uphill left to right putt a great run, but it missed high and ran 10 feet past. Bob got a good read, but his stroke only made it 3/4 of the way there. It came down to Steve, and we were feeling pretty good about our chances for a 2 putt push and overall win. 

Steve was the member at Elkdale and had something up his sleeve. He took an enormous backstroke and struck the ball. It raced off the face of his mallet putter and climbed the slope turning right. The ball was rooster-tailing water the entire way and then BOOM! The ball hit the cup, popped up and dropped in the bottom. He made it! Rich, Bob, and Steve were celebrating their pending victory. The other Steve and I were just shaking our heads.

 I told Steve to go first, and his putt was on a perfect line, but he didn’t hit it. It only made it halfway to the hole. He picked it up and gave Steve a fist bump for making that crazy putt from off the green. It was down to me and 50 feet, uphill with a little break to the right. I knew the line and that I had to hammer it to give it a chance. The make percentage for PGA Tour pro’s from 50 feet is less than 5%, and Steve just made a 60 footer. I put my money on miss all day long. I would have lost. 

I hit the putt really hard, and it raced through the moisture up the hill towards the back middle hole location. About 10 feet from the hole I knew it had a chance, but it needed to break just a little right. It did just that 3 feet from the cup, and it dropped! Holy smokes, I made it! I started running like Jimmy Valvano when N.C. State upset Houston in the NCAA Final. The others were hooting and hollering too. It was amazing that just one of us made one of those long putts, but both? Unthinkable, Incredible, and a great finish to an unexpected great day. 

Place

-There are a lot of membership drives and incentives to join area country clubs at the moment.  If you’ve ever thought of joining a club, now is a great time to investigate and give membership a test spin. Here are some things to consider before you sign on the dotted line:

-What is included with your membership? Greens fees, use of range, handicap system, bag room storage, shoe service, and a locker are all add ons unless they are included with the package. 

-Carts. Whether it’s a pull cart or powered cart, there will be a fee. Calculate how much you’ll use either and what that will run you. If you like to walk, make sure the course is walkable. If you own your own push cart (or powered), ask if you can use it with no charge. 

-Pool and Tennis. What is the access to the pool, and what are rules of usage? Does food at the pool count towards monthly minimum? Are you allowed to bring guests to the pool, and what is the fee? 

-Food minimum. Most clubs have these and it’s to help budget for staff and food buying. Don’t be afraid of this either. Odds are you’ll have no problem spending the minimum, but be sure to ask if the bar and halfway house count towards the minimum. 

-Guests. What are the rules for bringing guests to the club? How often and when can they golf with you? Some clubs have restrictions on how many guests can play in a group during prime tee times. In addition, there will likely be a limit on how many times a guest can play during a month. 

-Visit the club for golf and dinner. Most membership directors will gladly have you out for a round of golf to make sure you enjoy the course, and to give you a feel of the club. You should also ask if you can visit for dinner. The idea is to gauge what a typical dinner service is like, and to see if you like the food. 

-Speak with members. Odds are you know someone at the club, but ask to speak to a few members you don’t know. Ask about ease of booking tee times, what the atmosphere is like, what they enjoy about the club, and what they’d like to see improved. 

-The Money. Being a member of country club is not an inexpensive proposition. Ask how much money the average members spends each month. In the least, it’s a car payment and hard to justify on a rational budget. 

A country club membership is more obtainable than you might think, and very rewarding if you find the right fit. One last your rule of thumb: If you pass two clubs on the drive to your club, you’ve gone too far. 

-There is still time to register for The Duster Challenge Putting Tournament. It takes place on Friday evening, August 3rd at The Fox Valley Club in Lancaster. This is a great time, and a portion of the proceeds go to the PGA Reach Foundation. Register here.

Remember, if you need a 4th, call me.

Kevin Sylvester

Kevin Sylvester has over 20 years of experience in media, working for stations, professional sports teams, leagues, and national broadcast entities. This experience includes being an announcer for NHL, NBA, NCAA Football, NCAA Basketball, NCAA Hockey, and The PGA Tour. Kevin also served as the producer for the Buffalo Sabres post-game show, executive producer for a Sabres radio show, and started his own media production company, All Square Media LLC in 2008. All Square Media serves as the executive producer of the Tee 2 Green TV and Radio shows (created by Kevin), handling distribution, sponsorship sales, fulfillment, and production of the shows.

Kevin's business background extends beyond broadcasting. He served as the Director of Amateur Athletics for WNY Arena LLC (Key Bank Center in Buffalo), procuring major amateur sporting events for Buffalo, NY. The major highlights include two sold out NCAA Tournaments First and Second Rounds (2007, 2010), and the 2011 IIHF U20 World Championships (Kevin co-wrote the winning bid, and served on the organizing committee for USA Hockey). Kevin created The Duster Challenge in 2016, a local 18 hole putting competition, and serves as an advisor to WNY golf ball company, OnCore Golf.

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