By Joe Soraghan
"The emblem on the necktie reserved for members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, is the Saltier Cross, on which St. Andrew was to be stretched before he was crucified. Only the Scots would have thought of celebrating a national game with the figure of a tortured saint." — Alistair Cooke, journalist and golfer
It's fall, the leaves are turning, and things are winding down on the golf courses. This will be the last golf article for this season. It has been a very interesting golf year.
Locally, our club superintendents have done a great job in a year where water has been at a premium. Players have benefited from their tireless efforts to produce optimum conditions. Play has been strong all season long. The pro shop staffs at our local courses have been there for golfers every step of the way.
The bartenders, waiters and waitresses have provided food and drink and have put an exclamation point on some great days of golf. To all of those folks who work to make our golf outings such great experiences ... Thank you!
At the highest level of golf, we saw four different winners in the major tournaments this year. Young players and seasoned veterans combined to display skills of which most of us can only dream. Tiger was not the story this year — it was the golf.
Yes, there were blips during the pro season. The rules violations during some of the key events of the season left many of us scratching our heads. The passing of Arnold Palmer brought an end to an era of golf that will never be seen again. Mr. Palmer brought golf to a high level with his play. The standards he exemplified, in his conduct, both on and off the course, set the bar at the highest level. With that being said, golf needs to look at the direction in which it is heading.
Last weekend, the Ryder Cup was played at Hazeltine Country Club in Minnesota. Players from the United States and Europe faced off in formats that are not the norm for tour players. "Four ball" and "alternate shots" are two of the different games the players used. The golf was outstanding, with matches like the Mickelson, Garcia and Reed, McIlroy competition becoming immediate classics that will be replayed for viewers for years to come.
With the U.S. team winning the Cup by a score of 17-11, golf should have been the story. Watching this event, which is played every two years, I could not help but feel that fan behavior would determine the outcomes of certain matches. There is no place in golf, or in any event, where vulgar, personal attacks and confrontational acts become part of the game. It seems that golf is on a course of compromise with how certain societal behaviors have become accepted. Golf has prided itself on how players should conduct themselves. Only golf begins its Rules of Golf with a section on etiquette and behavior. Why do fans, who want to watch the best golfers in the world, want to impact the outcome?
If you have been to Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium, the "Garden" or any other professional sporting event recently, much of the focus is not on the field of play. With large Jumbotrons and fan-centered activities occurring, I can't help but think that the games have become more about the fans than the actual game. Fans are taking selfies while play is happening. Heads are turned toward the large screens the arenas have installed, and fans are trying to see if their faces will be shown throughout the arena. When did the need to be seen become the goal of fans?
The tournament at Hazeltine took on the look of one of our sporting venues. It had the great players, competition at the highest level, a major league course and a great atmosphere. For the most part, fans were there to support their team and voice that support. But it took only a minority of the fans to taint the event for those who conduct themselves properly and are there for all the right reasons.
Rory McIlroy has said that when the Ryder Cup is played in Europe in 2018, he hopes there will not be any retaliation toward the U.S. team. I hope he is correct. But as long as you have fans who want to be seen and heard as much as the participants, and there is the technology that accommodates this, the fan-centered problem will continue to exist.
• North Conway Country Club, 50 Norcross Circle, North Conway, (603) 356-9391: The 2016 Member Appreciation Tournament is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 15. This annual event not only highlights the final tourney of the season, but a fine meal, and member recognition follows the round. Sign up in the pro shop. The 16th of October will highlight the "Shootout." This pits 10 members, who have accrued the most points in pro shop events, against each other.
• Indian Mound Golf Course: Center Ossipee, (603) 539-7733: The final Nine and Dine was held last week. The winning team members were Diane Robertson, Bruce Robertson, Charlie Hadlock and Joann Hadlock. Diane Robertson was the overall champion. The $ Scramble is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 23. This a 10 a.m. shotgun start and the cost is $85 per player. This is a five- person scramble and one pro is allowed to play on each team. There are no handicap restrictions. Your entry fee goes toward skins, cash prizes, and food. Wayne's Cross Country Golf Outing is scheduled for Oct. 30. This is an 11 a.m. Shotgun start and costs $39 per player.
• Hale's Location Golf Course, West Side Road, North Conway, (603) 356-2140: Hale's is offering a $20 twilight rate that begins after 3 p.m. Nine, Wine, and Dine continues with the fee being $55 per player. The pro shop has begun its Fall schedule with opening starting at 8 a.m. and closing at 5 p.m. Congratulations to Colette Spenard who had a hole-in-one on No. 6! The course is scheduled to close on Sunday, Oct. 30.
• Eagle Mountain Golf Course, Carter Notch Road, Jackson, (603) 383-9090: The Fall Don Ho League completed its season last week. Taking first place was the New Team at -37. The Sea Dogs, -34, were second and third place went to the Golfaholics at -33. Ann Bennett took closest-to-the-pin honors, while long-drive winners were Jen Bartlett, Nicki Lynn, Noah Packard and Eric Pendleton. This year's field consisted of Kimball and Neysa Packard, formerly of the Eagle and now operators of the Farmstand Bed and Breakfast in Chocorua, who started the Don Ho 33 years ago. The Eagle plans to stay open as long as the weather remains nice. On Oct. 23, a fundraiser will be held for Angels and Elves. The fee to play that day will be $20 and half of all greens fees will go to the charity.
• Lake Kezar Golf Course, Route 5, Lovell, Maine, (207) 925-1002: Lake Kezar is very much still open so give them a call for tee times.
• Wentworth Golf Club, Route 16, Jackson, (603) 383-9641: Call for tee times.
A true sign of remembrance and respect for Arnold Palmer was seen on the 17th hole of North Conway Country Club last Sunday. A player who went out early in the morning placed an Arnold Palmer golf ball on a tee on the 17th. When players approached the ball, feelings of respect came over each and every individual. One guy saw the ball, without realizing the symbolism of the gesture, and was going to hit it into the pond. When he saw the Palmer signature, he backed off and said, "That's an Arnold Palmer ball, I'm not touching it."
Have a great fall and winter, and thanks to everyone who has provided me with great information and stories.