NGAWire® | 1Apr02
Kurt Goetzke (NGA.com Staff Writer)
As spring took hold in the quaint city of Marshall, Michigan, the first official round of golf for the year 2002 took place on Friday, March 30th at the Medalist Golf Course. The Medalist, measuring a tame 6,007 yards, requires accuracy off the tee, but once in play, the golfer is afforded many scoring opportunities. Yet, rust is always a factor this early in the season, and it showed on more than one occasion.
On a crisp, cloudy morning, 5 men descended on this fine test of golf. The teams selected for the day consisted of Karl Nagy and Ron Clifton on one team vs Kurt Goetzke, Andy Kurncz and Louis Song on the other in an 18 hole best ball competition. Side bets were also placed, with Nagy and Goetzke going even up, Goetzke giving Song 7 strokes and Kurncz 2 strokes, while Nagy gave Kurncz 6 strokes and Song 11. Ron participated only in the team bet, a wise choice as we will soon see.
On the short first, it appeared that the aforementioned rust may not be a factor, as 4 out of the 5 split the middle of the fairway, and three of the five hit the green. But no birdies were achieved and soon, a pattern would become painfully apparent. After halving the first two holes a breakthrough for Team GKS finally occurred on the short third. After a safe tee shot to the far right of the green, Song faced a lengthy birdie effort. 40 feet and a missed Clifton 15 footer later, Team GKS was 1 up. It was a lead they would never relinquish.
As the round continued, it was apparent that one player was hot with the flat stick. Kurt Goetzke, owner of a brand new split grip long putter, began to claw his way to a good round. With one putts on 5 holes on the front nine, an erratic ball striking day was being salvaged by the putter. All this would change on number 9.
Always the mark of consistency, Karl Nagy was in prime form from the start of his round. With Faldo-like precision, Nagy got out of the gate with 5 straight pars. It was apparent that he was going to be tough to beat on this day, and if not for a bulky putter, his eventual round of 1 over par 73 could have been much lower.
Yet, some of the field was struggling with their game. The par 5 5th was the first to bite the combatants. A triple bogey 8 for Louie Song slowed him down after his birdie on the previous hole, and a painful to watch 11 for Ron Clifton, derailed his fine 1 over after 3 start.
Much of the play for the next few holes was uneventful. Then came the short par 5 9th. At 452 Yards, the hole seems docile, but a small landing area and a lake on the left make accuracy a premium. Kurt Goetzke stepped on the tee at 2 over par. His team had halved the next 5 holes after winning the 3rd. A well struck drive began up the right side with a hard draw. Unfortunately the ball took a hard kick left and just stayed out of the water, but was in the confines of the hazard. With the ball well above his feet, Goetzke feared a hook into the water left of the green…and his worst fears came true when a poorly struck 5 iron left the clubface. Andy Kurncz followed Goetzke into the hazard left, but was able to escape with a bogey 6. Goetzke was not as fortunate. After a drop, a chunked 4th, a “Texas Wedge” just to the front fringe of the green, and three strokes of the putter later, Goetzke had carded an 8. Kurncz was later overheard consulting with Nagy as to whether a four putt should be placed on the scorecard. Fortunately for Goetzke, the rules of golf afforded only a 2 putt.
As the back 9 took shape, it was apparent that Ron was not going to be of much help to Karl. Two 8’s and a 10 sent Ron crashing to a back nine 53 and final score of 100. The Best Ball match stayed as it was until the Par 5 13th, where Karl was not able to get it up and in from the fringe and therefore suffered an unsavory bogey. Goetzke and Kurncz both pared to put Team GKS up 2 with 5 to play. Nagy finally got off the schnide by birding the Par 5 15th, but that number was matched by an equally solid birdie from Louie Song. The death blow came on the Par 3 17th, when Andy knocked a 6 iron within 15 and sank the putt to complete a 3 and 1 trouncing for Team GKS.
Yet, there was still one subplot remaining. As the players stepped onto the 18th tee, Karl had locked up his other matches, but the ones between Kurt and Andy and Kurt and Louie were still much in doubt. As the players reached the putting surface, Kurt was faced with an 8 foot left to right putt in order to win his match with Andy and halve his match with Louie. Unfortunately, Kurt’s putt slide painfully just below the hole for a final hole bogey. With that miss, his match was halved with Andy and he lost by one stroke to Mr. Song.
All in all it was a fine day of golf. Karl sandwiched 2 bogeys and a birdie between 15 pars, while Kurt holed 13 pars in his 79. Andy had a solid ball striking day, but could never really get the putter going, and he carded a respectable 81. Louie had the most birdies of anyone in the group (2), but a case of the hooks due to an ailing back sent him back to Livonia with an 85 in his pocket. As for Ron, it was great to see him.