Renewing an old overnight golf trip — but something was missing

Twenty-five years ago this golf trip was on my itinerary. Our overnight trip to Apple Valley was a “can’t miss” excursion. Over time things change. I started playing with another group and got away from these golfing buddies. This seemed like a perfect time to renew old acquaintances.

So I threw my clubs into the van and set sail Thursday morning for Mount Vernon. I would be meeting up with my “old” group of friends. Mostly former teachers from Lakota High School, these guys play a scramble format. We choose teams that appear to be fair and wait for the competition to begin. Of course we have to endure the complaints of one team being “loaded,” but the scores suggest that the teams are always competitive.

We played Apple Valley Golf Club Thursday and I had forgotten how beautiful the course is. My favorite hole is the par 3 fifth. A scenic little hole, it requires a short shot over a lake that usually has a swan gracefully plying the water though it was not to be seen this year.

My team acted like we knew what we were doing as we shot a 7 under par 29 on the front nine. That score included a great par save on the aforementioned fifth hole. When you have to chip back towards the water from above the hole, getting a par is not easy.

Apparently we must have felt that score was good enough as we went even par on the back nine. That proves again that golf is a fickle game. As it turned out, seven under was enough as our opponents could only muster a five under total.

After golf we headed into Mount Vernon to stay at the Super 8 Motel. It was hot on the golf course and a cool dip in their indoor pool sounded great. Cool water, however, was not what awaited us! Icy cold was more like it, so if anyone connected to the Super 8 reads this, you might want to warm the waters up for our next trip.

We can walk to a steakhouse called Jake’s from the motel and we always get good food and service there. We also rehash the day’s golf results and a lot of good natured ribbing ensues.

On Friday we head to Chapel Hill Golf Course and after mixing up the teams go back at it. We managed to get 17 holes in before threatening weather ended our trip prematurely. Interestingly enough, the scores were again 5 and 7 under par. If you have seen 18 at Chapel Hill, the scores were not likely to go any lower!

The trip was fun, but something — or more to the point, someone — was missing. Dave Worstein was a regular on this and many other golf trips. A couple of weeks ago Dave lost a courageous battle with cancer, and to suggest he was missed on this trip would be a huge understatement.

You can say that Dave Worstein was a fun loving man. It would also be appropriate to say he was a “pot stirrer” as he loved to needle his friends. In fact when each golf season started Dave would say something nice to one of us. When we looked at him curiously, he would smile and say he was turning over a new leaf.

Within minutes he would be pranking someone. He was never going to change!

On the golf course you could expect two things from Dave: On the first tee, he would tee his ball up in front of the tee markers. He did it without fail just to see if anyone would notice. On this trip we all did it as a tribute to Dave.

The other thing he would do involved what he called the “Worstein” rule. In a scramble, each team would choose the closest ball to the pin. Dave would go to his ball and hit it towards the cup. “Good if it goes” he would always say while chuckling.

We gathered in the clubhouse after golf on Friday to announce the award winners. Yes we do have awards such as the best-dressed, most fun to play with and most valuable golfer. Of course the awards consist of tepid applause as we tend to nominate and vote for ourselves!

There is one special award given each trip, and it is known as the Mr. Obnoxious Award. Inevitably Dave would win this award for all his “criticisms” of his playing companions. The award was always given jokingly because everyone knew Dave’s barbs were meant the same way.

On this day the award was given to Dave, again as a tribute to our lost friend. Dave would have loved this.

When one loses a close friend, we tend to think about a particular story that symbolizes them. Unfortunately I have had too many opportunities to do this in the last several months. I remember one story about Dave though, that has always stuck with me. He had invited all of us to his place after a round of golf for swimming and a cookout. While we were golfing, Dave’s son was to mow the lawn.

When we got to Dave’s house, the lawn had indeed been mowed, but a little haphazardly. The lines were not straight and spots were missed. When someone asked Dave if he was going to have a talk with his son, he quickly dismissed the idea saying…

“My son and I will likely disagree on a number of things as he grows up. When we have a heart to heart conversation it will be over something way more important than mowing the lawn!”

With this kind of keen perception there was no reason for Dave to ever turn over a new leaf.

Rest in peace my friend. Rest in peace.

Al Stephenson is the golf columnist for The Advertiser-Tribune.

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