Although the RBC Canadian Open likely drew more spectators, just a 2 hour drive down the road in Belleville, another tournament was taking place. Well, the event was more than a golf tournament, it was a road trip experience that always brings out the best in people. “The Battle At Belleville” is an annual gathering of two recreational golf tours – one from Ottawa and one from the Toronto area.
The National Capital Golf Tour is where yours truly plays his tourney golf, albeit poorly… The IGAO (International Golf Association of Ontario) is our annual opponent on the road trip, which is known just as much for camaraderie and copious amounts of alcohol as for the golf itself.
So, on with the story…
We all met at our co-captain's place at about 10am on Friday, and kicked things off with a quick pint as we packed up the vehicles with golf gear, and coolers. Oh, and some people brought clothing and toiletry supplies as well! Once everyone was present, we gave out the walkie-talkies we use to communicate on the road, as we meet up about half-way for coffee or beer, and maybe a quick sandwich. Then, we were off…
After the Timmy's stop, it was a quick jaunt to Brighton, Ontario for a warm-up round at a lovely course called Timber Ridge.
It was our first time at this particular course, and boy was it lovely! Despite having nothing but rain in Ontario this July, the weather actually cleaned up for us to embark on our mini skins game tune-up. This round is particularly useful for players like myself, who hadn't been out in weeks, again, largely due to the constant rainfall in Ottawa. I can't say that I played particularly well, but my putting was in the zone, and I managed to make some really nice shots. After all, I didn't want to use up all the good stuff prior to the main event on Saturday!!!
Anyways, the beer was cold, the weather was hot, and so was the beer cart girl… Oh, I should have mentioned that it is an annual right of passage to get to know the cart girls, in order to secure better service. By the end of the day, she (Erin) was following our groups, and I can only imagine that anyone behind or ahead of us would have been parched by the end of their rounds as a result!
After the round, and a brief stop at the 19th hole, we headed back to Belleville to check into our hotel, a Comfort Inn which is conveniently (for some) across the street from a strip club. Once checked in, the coolers came out, and a call for pizza was made.
After we all burned the crap out of the roofs of our mouths, we settled in for some chatter and more beers. We skipped the planned poker game, for some unknown reason, and actually got to sleep before the sun came up on Saturday.
When the wake-up call came, our group was already pumped up. We donned our black golf shirts, grabbed some continental breakfast (or McDick's in some cases), and it was off to the course for our 10am tee off time.
Arriving at Black Bear Ridge, we met up with some other teammates who opted to pass on the Friday round. In total, 20 players from each team compete in this event, which is a 36-hole Ryder Cup format marathon. A quick warmup on the range, chipping area and putting green, and then our Rules Official, Rich McLean, gave us the rundown on what we were doing. First, a two-man best ball 9, followed by alternate shot for 9 holes, then scrambles for 9 holes, and finally 9 holes of singles match play – where people were matched up against someone with a similar handicap for fairness.
The first tee is always a daunting shot, but with a competition under way, and a stikingly large gallery (of course made up of our own players as well as a few course members), the pressure mounts even more.
My first tee shot found a bunker on the right side of the fairway, but it was an easy out to about 50 yards from the green from there, so a recovery was underway. My partner, Mike “Shtick” Andersen, was in much better shape off the tee, and while the soggy grass in the landing area cause him to fluff his second shot, he managed to chip up to about 8 feet from the cup. Our opponents, both originally from Guyana, were faring much worse, with penalties incurred for shooting into hazards. We were up 1 hole already!
I won't bore you with the details, save to say that after 9 holes, our team was up 9 points to 1 for our opponents, a new tournament record for margin of victory in a 9-hole segment.
We were off to alternate shot, which usually means my partner has to make a lot of recovery shots. But, this time we both played very well, complementing one another with various elements of our respective games. For me, that meant batting cleanup on the greens a lot, as Shtick is better than me in almost every other aspect of golf. However, the putting actually was an important thing for us on this day, and we went on to win our match by a 4 and 2 margin. Off to scrambles!
With our opponents thoroughly steeped in vodka (a preferred drink on their tour it seems), we started to sense that they were both on the verge of a major collapse. Whether it was the two birdies I effectively scored on my own, or Mike's strong play overall, we took it to our opponents, taking another valuable match for our team. Clearly this year, we outclassed them on the course in every way.
We then finally got into our singles matches, which are far more stressful, as you can't rely on a partner to save you if things go awry. Shtick and I took the first three holes before my opponent Frank tied me on one. But, that's as far as we got, as the horn blew for lightning risk.
But it was already over, as our team (NCGT) could not be caught mathematically. The final score was 35-15, another record for margin of overall victory.
While normally we take photos of the trophy presentation (last year IGAO had beaten us), our opponents had forgotten to bring the coveted plaque.
We had to settle for a group shot, which I suppose is just as good. They'll be shipping the plaque to Ottawa very shortly I am told.
We all shook hands, vowing to return next year for another great time. Then we parted ways, with the NCGT heading back to the hotel to get cleaned up for our annual team dinner.
To be honest, I have no idea what the place we ate at was called, but it was a great evening of shot-talk and pride.
After putting Molson out of business with some hearty drinking, it was time to get to bed. After all, Loyalist Golf Club awaited us the following morning for what has now become the “Hangover Cup”.
Thanks to Guy “Izzy” Bourgon and Shtick, a new format was implemented, largely to spare our backs the pain of playing regular stroke play… It would be a two-man scrambles stableford event, in which eagles were awarded 5 points, birdies 3, par 1, bogeys 0 and double-bogeys -2 points.
Again, I will spare you the details, save to say that I was incredibly stiff and shot poorly. Sorry to Matt Renaud, who was my partner for the day. I let you down bro!!
We then packed up, and it was back to reality… At least, for a year, after which we'll do it all over again!
My thanks to my teammates, opponents, and a special shout out to Steve Karam and Rich McLean for their hardwork in organizing this wonderful trip. It's the highlight of my year.
Hit em straight!
About the Author
Written by Dan Rakusan
A huge Rangers (NHL), Falcons (NFL), PGA Tour and soccer fan, I have been writing semi-professionally for about 7 years now. I try to impart information with some degree of humour, and always have an opinion. PSB is another feather in my cap, and am really proud of the team assembled here, and look forward to the long-term journey PSB is embarking on in terms of establishing itself as the best sports blogging collective on the net! Look for articles such as 4-Play, Rangers blogs and PGA Tour updates, along with my NFL handicapping service!