Seventeen intrepid floggers (that’s what golfers on our pasture-based course have come to be known) and a handful of walkers, gawkers, and spiritual advisers managed to find their way to the Munger Farm on the banks of the Cloquet River Saturday for the not-so-annual, whenever-Mark-feels-like-holding-it, Catfish Open. This is the third time in a decade that, after the Larson boys have hayed our field, I’ve mowed fairways and greens and put in flags and cups to denote something close to a Scottish Highlands golf course. This year, the weather couldn’t have been better: sunny, mild, a high in the low 70s, and just enough breeze to keep off the flies. The mosquitoes, on the other hand, seemed content to lurk under the foliage and, whenever the course drew players to tee boxes or greens in the shadows, the skeeters swarmed like Japanese pilots bent on crashing into air craft carriers. DEET didn’t deter the littler buggers ardor for human blood. Only moving into sunlight seemed effective. But despite the bugs, it was a grand day for a floggin’ tournament, one that featured shots of amazing quality and skill.
The event featured four teams of 4-5 floggers per group, all staggered around the course for the shotgun start. Because of heather-like rough (deep enough to swallow a man) and very tight, tree-lined fairways capable of consuming even the prettiest drives, I placed complimentary jugs of used golf balls on the 1st and 5th tees, Lose a ball? Take another. Seems fair to me. Since folks drove all the way from town to join my cavalcade of fun, the least I can do is supply used balls to whack into the pines. As reported in a previous blog, my first tour around the course this year, I lost five balls on nine holes. Oh, it got better. By the third time around, I only lost one. Saturday, I also positioned four of our picnic table benches around the course so oldsters like myself (and my eighty-year-old-plus father and step-father) could, you know, take a load off. Nothin’ fancy. Just a place to rest your keister while waiting to flog.
Keeping up a regulation floggin’ course is no easy chore, what with familial duties, work, and other chores getting in the way. As the week approaching the great Open sped by, I knew I was in trouble. The fairways and greens were reverting to pasture, and the holes (really just those little plastic containers you buy plants in) needed re-situating. Our fifteen-year-old son Jack offered to help mow. But our rider is slow and it would have taken Jack eight hours to mow the course on his own. I didn’t want to have to cart Eddie Salveson’s riding lawn mower from town again. Remember, he’d come out two weeks earlier to help me give the fairways and the greens their first cutting. With time running short, I hit on the idea of asking Ron McVean (a neighbor and close friend who wasn’t able to attend the event) to loan me his riding John Deere. But Ron did me one better. He showed up Friday, the day before the Catfish Open, with his mower. In the blink of an eye, Ron had his rider off the trailer, fired up, and cutting grass. Between Ron and Jack, they had the entire course and the lawn done before noon. It’s a good thing to know retired guys with riding lawn mowers.Thanks, Ron, for pitching in.
Saturday. The four groups assembled around the course. Duke Tourville was the captain of my team. Eddie, the odds-on favorite to win the title and fabulous prizes (there were no prizes, not even a trophy) headed up another group. “Honest” Bruce Larson, CFO of Best Oil, Co. in Cloquet, captained Team No. 3. And Colonel Dave Larsen (US Army, Ret’d.) was the leader of the fourth and final bunch of floggers. The event called for 18 holes but, due to a late start and Suzie Salveson’s aching knees, the girls pulled the plug on the contest after everyone had completed nine. It was likely a good thing. With all the balls sailing around, my liability insurer breathed a sigh of relief when we ended the contest early. Plus, the mosquitoes hiding beneath the tree canopy continued their assault without mercy. My grandson AJ ended up looking like he had chicken pox due to all the bug bites on his face and neck. No, it was a wise decision by the women folk to override my zeal. I’m a pretty good ideas man but, when it comes to executing events ( including family canoe trips) sometimes my mind wanders into fantasy land. Nine holes was, at the end of the day, plenty for all concerned, including the author and golf course operator.
As foursomes were finishing, I fired up the grill. Once my wife (and assistant course manager) made it safely in from the field of play, the women assembled a feast of Arthurian proportions under a white EZ-Up tent that once served as my mobile bookstore. Brats and dogs sizzled. Our son Jack, his pal Nathan,and our older sons Chris and Matt played an impromptu game of football (we Americans like to call it “soccer”) on the back lawn. Beer tops were popped. Cocktails were poured. I tabulated the scores.
As expected, my retired fire fighting pal Eddie squeaked his team to a one stroke victory. Duke Tourville and Colonel Dave’s teams tied for second place, though, in a moment of executive decision making, I declared Duke’s team to be second and the Colonel’s misbegotten clan to be third. Since I was on Duke’s team, a protest was lodged with the executive committee. But since I am the executive committee, redress was denied. “Honest” Bruce Larson, who, as a CPA, never met a number he didn’t like, computed his group into last place, apparently oblivious to the “new” math that most floggers rely upon when reporting their scores.
After dinner, conversation, and an adult beverage or two, I toddled off to start a bonfire down by the river’s edge. One by one, the couples who’d shared Catfish Acres with us said their goodbyes. As dusk closed in around the field and the fire crackled, Roni Town, Rene’ and I, my mom and Duke, and the Salvesons claimed seats around the fire and talked a bit more, relishing memories of soaring white balls and flailing clubs.
Thanks to everyone for coming out to share a glorious day on the River with Rene’ and I. Hopefully, we don’t wait four years to do it again…