October is golf season on the Northside. It’s relatively dry, the average high is 78 degrees and we still have daylight savings time.
The Internet claims eight percent of all Americans golf, which is a pretty big number. My apologies to the non-golfers. You may want to skip this column.
Ten percent of Americans play tennis at least occasionally. That’s probably higher in Jackson. A while back, the Sun did a story that Jackson had the second highest per capita members of the United State Tennis Association, topped only by Hilton Head, South Carolina.
As both a golfer and a tennis player, I feel very adapted to life in Jackson. To me, it’s the perfect blend. Tennis is quick and aerobic. Golf is beautiful and analytical.
I urge parents to give your children grounding in both tennis and golf. These are the sports of a lifetime. It’s so much easier when you start as a child.
As a kid, I golfed. I just took to it like a duck takes to water. My mom would drop me off at the country club and I would play all day long in the summer.
When I had children of my own, I quit golf and took up tennis. Golf took five hours. Tennis took 90 minutes. Plus we lived five minutes from River Hills, one of the best tennis facilities in the nation.
At around age 60, my body started complaining about my four or five matches a week. The kids went off to college. And I was able to return to golf. Having played as a child made that transition much easier.
Hitting a golf ball is simple to do if you only want the ball to go 20 yards. But making it go hundreds of yards involves the complex coordination of about 100 different parts of your body, each capable of an infinite number of positions.
I have one goal in golf. To be just good enough to have fun.
One common format for golf is a scramble. Often charities will sponsor scrambles as fundraisers. They are great fun. You meet new people and help raise money for good causes. There are dozens of scrambles every year in Jackson.
In a scramble, each of the four players hits a ball. Then each player plays the best of the four shots. As a result, scramble scores are very low. Typically, 20 under a par will win a scramble.
This spring I won my first golf scramble at the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association scramble at the newly renovated refuge. We were 22 under par, thanks to Madison financial adviser Josh Oller, who used to play for Mississippi State, and Jackson attorney Tripp Segars, another scratch golfer. Their backs were very sore the next day after carrying me for 18 holes. Still, a victory is a victory and I have the mug.
My goal in most scrambles is to avoid embarrassment when the scores are posted. Charles Johnson, Edward Erlich and Bennie Butts did just that last week in the Cystic Fibrosis scramble at Reunion. The course was in excellent condition.
Jackson has an amazing number of beautiful courses: Country Club of Jackson, Reunion, Annandale, The Refuge, Lake Caroline, Deerfield, Patrick Farms, Whisper Lake, Live Oaks and many more.
For short road trips, we are also lucky to have two fine courses at Dancing Rabbit in Philadelphia, two great courses at Old Waverly in West Point and a dozen fine courses on the coast, not to mention dozens of fine country club courses scattered throughout the state.
Mississippi is a great place for golf. We have a huge amount of land, not many people, lots of sun and rain to grow grass and a mild temperature that allows you to play year round.
Pity, for instance, the Japanese who pay $1,000 to play a round of golf that they have to book three months in advance.
Meanwhile, Mississippians can play golf for $50, make a last minute reservation and rarely even have to wait on the tee box.
My thanks to Northsider and fellow Loho resident Sam Farrington who invited me to play in the member-guest tournament last week at the Country Club of Jackson. Sam’s a great guy and it was a bonding experience.
CCJ had just hosted the Sanderson pro golf tournament and the course was in magnificent shape. Even the pros were talking about what great shape the greens were in, some of the best on the tour.
Golfers usually judge a course by its greens and the greens at CCJ last week were the finest I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot of greens.) They were not only a beautiful lush green with almost no defects, but they rolled fast and true.
This makes me especially happy, since my longest all-time golfing buddy, Charles Bowman, has been head of the CCJ golf committee for many years.
The tournament had a great format. You and your partner play five different rounds of nine holes against five different opponents. This is great for meeting people. One great thing about golf is there is plenty of time to talk and socialize around the greens and on the tee box.
It was my pleasure to play with Durr Boyles and his son Conner, who works in Dallas. I was able to tell Conner that I knew his grandfather Derwood Boyles, who was a member of the Jackson city council representing the Northside.
Sam and I also got to compete against Edward Erlich and his son-in-law Dylan Cook from Steamboat Springs, Matt Armstrong and Lee Owen, Todd Everett and Pierre DeDelva and Ben Tuberville and son-in-law Landon Thompson.
On Thursday night, there was a cocktail party for players and then we brought wives for a Friday dinner. I hung out with my high school golfing buddies Charlie Cooper and Charles Bowman of Greenwood. We were all on the golf team at Greenwood High and came in second or third in the state championship (or won it, depending on how many drinks we consume.) We reminisced for hours. It’s amazing how our brains retain those youthful memories in such detail.
CCJ head pro Jason Prendergast and his staff did a great job of making all the players feel welcome. Jason is a real club pro, getting to know each player, joking around with them and making them feel at home.
There were six flights of six teams each. The goal was to be one of the eight teams to make the “shootout” with money on the line. You either had to win your flight or be one of two wildcards with high point totals.
Matt Armstrong and Lee Owens won our flight (with the lower-than-average players) but both Sam and I and Durr and Conner Boyles won the wildcards. Both wildcards from the same flight. Kinda unusual.
In the shootout, you alternated strokes with your partner. Players who didn’t make the shootout could stick around and root for their flight winner and get money, but only if they watch. So we had a good crowd, which is nerve wracking for a golfer of my limited ability.
The first shootout hole was number two on Cypress, a par three over water. Sam and I debated who would go first. I shrewdly figured that Sam and I had an equal chance of hitting it into the water and if so, I’d much rather he be the one to hit it in the water than me. And he did, missing a perfect shot by just a few yards. And thus ended our moment of golfing fame.
The grand champions were Charlie Chandler and Paul Loyacono, both one handicap golfers. That means they are really, really good.
Other flight winners were Kyle Jenkins and Colin Chapman, Tommy Abernethy III and Brent Wood, Will B. Johnson and John Harlin, John Giddens and Michael Giddens.