The torch has been passed. With a firm handshake, John Fox turned over the reins to Scott Hall. As he prepares for a permanent retirement move to Arizona later this year, the mastermind behind the Fort Wayne Fling felt it was time to let someone else plan this three day golf extravaganza.
For the past 20 years Foxy has made all the arrangements. He chooses the golf courses and makes the tee times. He calls the motel and secures the rooms. He has scoped out restaurants and watering holes, though finding some of those places has been a bit of a chore. All we golfers have to do is show up and have fun.
I guess all good things must come to an end or do they? After the handshake, Hall made his first announcement as the new Fling leader. He said that as long as he runs the event it will continue to be called "Foxy's" Fort Wayne Fling. We will always remember the man who created this golf trip. Yes, he means that much to us.
We play three days of golf on this outing. After each round we rehash the shots of the day. They may be great ones, ugly ones or downright funny shots. This year brought out the usual assortment of each.
The course that we typically play the first day is Cedar Creek Golf Club in nearby Leo. This layout is always in great shape and the people there treat us like friends. One of the games we play at Cedar Creek is called the Pink Lady. Each foursome is given a pink golf ball. The golfers will alternate holes with the ball and a separate score is kept. If a team loses the ball, they must add a shot to the score for each hole thereafter. This format makes each team consider which golfer will play the ball on which hole.
The hole that usually causes the most trouble is No. 7. On this lengthy par-5, the third shot (or fourth or fifth, hey we're not all Jack Nicklaus) has to carry a large and deep pond to the green. Normally a group will have its best golfer (if indeed that can be determined) play the pink lady on this hole. One fly in the ointment this year was the fact that we started on the back nine. One mathematically challenged group figured they would give the ball to their ace on No. 11. After all, if you started on the front he would get the ball on that hole after playing it on No. 7.
Apparently it doesn't work that way when you start on the back. By the time the team got to the front nine the order was out of whack. Guess where they lost the lady? You guessed it. In the pond on No. 7. To make matters worse, the team lost the pink lady game by one shot.
Another group did not put that much effort into determining who would play the ball on what holes. Bob Etzinger plays a pretty big slice and the only trouble on No. 10 is left, as trees and out of bounds guards the fairway all the way to the hole. He opted to take the pink lady on the hole and aimed right at those trees. For maybe the first time in his life, he hit the ball dead straight and it was gone. His team lost the pink ball on the first shot of the day, setting a record that will be talked about in the future.
The shot of the day at Cedar Creek belonged to rookie Dean Kieffer, though it came with a little help from our esteemed founder. After hitting a nice tee shot on No. 18, Kieffer set up for his approach shot. Foxy told him to take one more club and shoot for the back left portion of the green. Because the green slopes from left to right, the ball will trickle down to the pin, Foxy assured him. He pulled it off exactly as suggested and the ball settled three feet from the pin. If you see Dean, ask him how the birdie putt attempt turned out.
Day two in Fort Wayne is our Ryder Cup day and we played the Donald Ross Golf Club. Six holes of a two-man scramble are followed by six holes of alternating shot competition. The last six holes pit golfers in head to head match play. It is wild and hilarious and this year added a different twist, as the following story will attest.
Fort Wayne has had very little rainfall lately (sound familiar?) and on the sixth green we found a course worker watering the green. He waved us on though he didn't leave the green.
Bill Eynon registered a complaint with the committee following a shot by his opponent, John Marshall. Bill's team had put their ball on the green after hitting their tee shot in the middle of the fairway. Marshall had to hit his second from the trees off the fairway. His shot a good one according to Eynon flew low under a tree branch but was hot as it approached the green. Eynon assumed the ball would roll over the green, but it hit the worker's hose and stopped inside of Eynon's ball.
The committee, which I'm pretty sure doesn't actually exist, denied Eynon's request for a scoring change. As for Marshall, he pointed out that using the hose for a backstop was a better option than using the course worker. Can't argue with that logic.
On the last day of our trip we played Cherry Hills Golf Club. If you are in the Fort Wayne area and are looking for a nice course to play, check out this one. A well manicured layout, the course is surrounded by beautiful homes, particularly on the back nine. It may make you wish you had better digs, but the course is absolutely gorgeous.
A couple of shots stood out on this day. One was a "oh crap" shot and the other was a 175-yard putt. Larry Topor hit the first one and I get credit for the second.
Topor had a long second shot into the par-4 17th hole, which has water guarding the right side of the green. With the green tucked on the right side of the green, the prudent play was to aim left of the green. He did just that but pushed his shot prompting the "oh crap" (or something similar) comment. The ball made a beeline for the pin, ending up six inches from the hole for a tap-in birdie. I know what you're thinking. I usually make a similar obscene comment when I stake a shot too.
My shot came with a seven-wood. The ball never left the ground and rolled the entire distance negotiating several hazards before settling some 15 feet from the cup. As for the birdie putt, well you can't make them all, though just one would have been nice on this day. Maybe I should have used the seven-wood on the green.
Three sayings stick out in my mind from the 2012 version of the Fling. Two belong to John Fox. The first was uttered on the first day when he said "it's almost criminal to have this much fun." The second came on the last day. "How does the time go so fast, it seems like we just got here."
The third comment came from the 15 other golfers as we exchanged handshakes and hugs upon departing. When it came time to say goodbye to the founder of the Fling, we each said, "Thanks, Foxy."
I think that says it all.
Al Stephenson is the golf columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune.
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