As far as golf was concerned, the 80’s were just the opposite of the 70’s. The decade started off slow, due to work and family commitments, but ended with a bang. We joined Rolling Hills Country club at the end of 1986, and I went from playing 3 to 4 times per month, to playing 3 to 4 times per week. I have continued that rate of play, except when I went on a golf hiatus from 94 to 96. The reason I took a hiatus from golf will be covered when I discuss the 90’s. In fact, the Rolling Hill years will be covered, when I write about the nineties. The eighties were the South Park group, and I went on one unusual trip to Winged Foot Golf Club, in the early eighties. I played some of my best golf, during this time, and shot my two best rounds 67, both at South Park. On July 19th, 1988, I made my third hole in one, on no. 8, at South Park. This was the first hole in one, that I saw, and got to take the ball out of the hole. The unusual thing about this hole in one was, we had to wait, while the greens cutter changed the pin. I was the first player of the day, to hit at that pin. I hit a pitching wedge. The ball hit about 2 feet to the front and right of the hole, took one big hop, and then sucked right back into the hole. It was nice to make, what I called, a complete hole in one, almost 20 years to the day of my first hole in one, July 31, 1968. Before I get to my other South Park experiences, lets take a trip to Winged Foot.
A friend of mine Bill, who was a professor at a small school in Allentown Pennsylvania, had tutored a student of his, and helped him get through some classes. His dad, who was a member of Winged Foot, as a way of showing his appreciation, said he could come out and play at Winged Foot, all 36 holes, as his guest. When he said he could bring a friend, Bill called me, and I didn’t have to be asked twice. We were going to play 36 holes on Saturday. I left on Friday morning to head to Allentown to pick him up, which was about a 5 hour drive. I owned a Lincoln Towne Coupe, which was a big black two door sedan. I must preface one thing. I do not get cars fixed, as long as they are running. The knob that you pulled out to turn on the lights was broken, but the Lincoln had a sensor, so when it got dark, the lights came on. I was driving east on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and there are a couple of tunnels that you have to go through. I noticed, when I was in the tunnel, that my lights were not coming on. I did not think much about it, but I should have. I picked up Bill, and as we were heading for his student’s home in New York, it was getting dark. You guessed it, I had no lights. We stopped at some repair shop in New Jersey, and they could not fix the light switch, and did not know why the sensor would not work. It is easy to tell this story now, but at the time this was very upsetting, because these people were waiting for us at their house and apparently had some kind of spread, for us to eat. If you have every watched the movie Along Comes Polly, a character in the movie says that he just sharted. When Ben Stiller says he does not know what that means, he says you fart and a little shit comes out. Well, through this stressful situation, I had done the same. It’s not the greatest feeling in the world to be standing in some godforsaken car garage, with a spray job in your pants, and a car without lights. We were able to get down the road with flashers going, to a motel, in Paramus, New Jersey, the home of Championship Bowling, hosted by Fred Wolf. I just thought, that this was quite ironic, that I use to watch Championship Bowling every weekend, as a kid, and now I was going to spend an unexpected night in the town where it was telecast. Needless to say I dumped the underwear, no pun intended, and was just thankful to be able to get to a motel, without getting arrested. The next day went much better and we played 36 holes at Winged Foot. I got in a lot of sand traps that day. We played the West Course in the afternoon, and the old adage of practice makes perfect came true. I was in 8 green side bunkers on the back nine, and got up and down 7 times, to shoot a one over 37 and a 78 for the round. I hit one of my greatest bunker shots, that day. I had short sided myself in a very deep bunker. With very little green to work with, I cut under the ball, and when I looked up, it seemed like the ball had gone right through the lip of the bunker, but barely cleared it, winding up about 6 feet past the pin. I made the putt for another sandy. Thankfully the trip home was not as eventful and I did get the lights fixed.
The rest of the 80’s was highlighted by my South Park foursome, as I liked to call them. They were a little older than I am now but we all walked the course. We were the first group that teed off, that could see their drives. The first two groups in front of us, teed off in the dark, and we would never see them again. We took about 3 hours and 20 minutes to walk 18 holes. I played close to 400 rounds of golf with these guys at South Park, and we never had to wait one time to hit a shot, except for somebody finishing up cutting a green, or changing the golf hole. The group changed a little over the years. In the mid 80’s one of the group passed away. I have written previously about how one of the guys got kicked out of the group for hitting the wrong ball. The last 8 years from 87 to 94 the group stayed the same. I played some of my best golf with this group. I shot two 67’s and I had my best 12 stretch of golf, ever, when I was just about ready to walk off the course. Four of the first 5 holes are fairly easy at South Park, and if you are going to have a good round, you need a couple of birdies, during this stretch. This particular morning, I got off to a bad start, and was 3 over after 5 holes, and when I put my tee shot in the sand trap on the par 3 sixth hole, I was ready to walk off the course. Then, I hit the most beautiful bunker shot, and it wound up 2 inches from the hole. I just felt this really good rhythm, when I made the shot. I decided to continue, and went on to birdie 6 of the next 12 holes to shoot 69. Playing with those guys was a great experience and I always appreciated them allowing me to play with them, all those years. As the 80’s drew to a close I was playing more golf and fully entrenched in playing at Rolling Hills. We will hit the country club set when I delve into the 90’s. A decade that saw me go from not playing for a couple of years to playing on professional tours.