I headed up I-71 and across 70 east to play a little 12 man tourney called the Salt Fork Classic. I was invited by my old Buckeye buddy Doug. I immediately struck up a lively conversation about handicaps with organizer and new Buckeye friend Scott. I dazzled Scott with a little Slope/Rating information, then whined a little...Boom, I had already weaseled another stroke for myself. I discovered later this was an unnecessary exercise. Probably just habit.
The first 18 holes of the Classic were played at Ogle Bay in West Virginia. They have two Championship courses. A Robert Trent Jones design and a new Arnold Palmer course. Both looked beautiful. We chose the Arnold Palmer course. All bent grass. Water and sand come into play. It's a great track with exceptionally large greens. In case you haven't been to this part of the country, let me tell you this. Flat land is a rare commodity. You will encounter many side hill lies and quite a few elevation changes. It's pretty to look at, but tough to play. The first hole is a 430 yard par four from the white tees. The green is approximately 100 feet below the tee box and bigger than the clubhouse. It's a great hole and a tough start. The course was in great shape while we visited (5-18-01). I would certainly love to play Ogle Bay again. Breathtaking views and a good golf test. Accommodations are available at the course.
Rain made conditions quite difficult. I closed the day out with a workman like 81 making me the leader in the clubhouse for the tourney. My best ball partner, Rick (17) was right there to save us every time I (8) stumbled, so we scooped up that bet too. We both grabbed a skin just for good measure. A successful, fun filled day!
Next up on the weekend was Salt Fork State Park Golf Course. We reserved a cabin at the park, just around the corner from the golf course. I think I should note that if you get a golf package at Salt Fork make sure it includes dinners. Ours did. It was great. I had the Salmon Friday night. Delicious! Saturday night I went with beef, (being the good Kentucky boy that I am). I had the Filet Mignon rare. It was a great cut, prepared perfect. Everyone in our group thought the food was excellent. Hats off to the folks in the kitchen. Service was also exceptional.
Somehow, Saturday morning I drew the 6:30 tee time. Ouch! Friday night was busy with cleaning clubs, checking yardages, marking balls, and laying out Saturdays outfit, so we didn't get as much sleep as we would have liked. I had a huge breakfast consisting of 3 ibuprofen and every bottle of water I could get my hands on. Off to the course, where we found more fog. Due to the fact that we only had 11 players, and that's not divisible by 2, organizer extraordenaire Scott (14), in an apparent move of masochism, gave my team the extra player for the better ball bet. Funny how that worked out. Anyway, Ray (?), Steve (^#), and I prospered from the fortuitous grouping. Again, I grabbed a skin for good measure. Leader by 11.
Salt Fork is also very hilly. It's bent grass fairways lead to bent grass greens. Along the way you will encounter water and sand. The course is just what you expect for the area. Lots of side hill lies. Elevated tees and greens. The course incorporates numerous doglegs with mature trees. Putting emphasis on distance control off the tee, aswellas, in the fairways on the par fives. The course seems more difficult than the 126 slope figure on the card. Salt Fork's patio overlooks the course, providing fantastic panoramic views. Great for pictures to remember your outing. We also enjoyed adult beverages while soaking up scenery. Or you can soak up adult beverages while enjoying scenery. Either way it's a great place. Salt Fork is a tradition with the group I was with, and it's obvious why. The course was in impeccable shape. I hope to return.
Saturday afternoon we decided we were men enough to head over to Richmond and play a second 18. We arrived at Blackmoor well past our tee time. This was due to the fact that you need a tactical team, a navigation team, field maps, and air support to find this place. (A lawyer almost came into play). Ok...we used Onstar, but it took a couple of tries. Its on Cragle Rd. off of 22. But the Cragle Rd. sign is small and only benefits west bound travelers. We were east bound. Once in the clubhouse, we offered to purchase a Blackmoor sign for them. The young man at the counter chuckled as though he had heard that one a few times. Call ahead and get specifics before you set out for Blackmoor.
What Blackmoor does have, is a hell of course in the middle of nowhere. It's all bent grass. Mature trees, water, and sand come into play. We played after a large outing and the course held up great. Nice design. Starts off on a fairly open par five, but many holes were considerably tighter. This place is definitely a value at $32 on the weekend to ride. This course would cost much more if it were near any metro area. We'll try to work it in on future trips, now that we know where to look.
The format for this round was a two man scramble. Again, I drew Steve (^#). Since we were already sporting a victory on the morning 18, we decided that our format was fun. We flirted with a subpar round for 14 holes but then the fun was just too much for us. We finished up with a respectable 3 over 75, and a lot of fun. Our playing compadres Billy (^#) and Scott(14) finished a stroke behind us with 76 and at least as much fun. JW and Ray took the scramble pot with a nice one under round of 71. I heard later that it was possible, that a few guys had so much fun, they lost their asses on side bets.
Back to the Fork on Sunday for the final round of the tournament. Leaders teed off last, so I enjoyed a nice leisurely breakfast and a good warm up on the putting green. The lead group consisted of myself (8), Scott(14), Ken (14), and Rick (17). Apparently, I wasn't warmed up enough. All aspects of golf seemed to escape from my body. I floundered like a fish taking his last breath on the putting surface. 4 putts later, I've tripled the first hole. The news of my apparent collapse spread like wildfire. I heard whispers. I believe someone made a Greg Norman reference. Hope snuck into a few minds. I bogeyed 2. The golf devil made a visit to my mind. Down to 7 strokes big boy...what if somebody birdied the first two? Your lead might only be 5? Could I really blow an 11 stroke lead? NO! I regroup and shoot 80. Scott (14) was cruising along nicely early, but the firm fast greens of the afternoon seem to be his undoing. Rick had some up and down moments, but stayed in the hunt for second. Ken, realizing he had been "Forked", moved on to procuring much needed and past due adult beverages. He did this with flair and confidence. On the final hole Scott (14) still had a chance. He was in a furious battle with Rick for the place pool. Needing a 17 footer, Scott was faced with a restless gallery while trying to concentrate on his looping putt. After backing off several times, he regrouped and made a courageous run at the hole. But it was not to be his day. The ball harmlessly grazed the cup and passed on by. Rick and Scott finish tied for second. Later in a pleasant ceremony on the aforementioned Salt Fork patio, I am given hardware. Last years champ Scott, presents me with a nice Liz Claiborne jacket. And of course, a little pocket change to take back to Kentucky.
I hope everyone had as much fun as I did! Great group. Thanks to Doug for booking the trip...Scott for organizing....Billy and Danny for the great logo balls from Sutherland Golf. See you in August.