It has been quiet on the ratings front. Catch Basin’s new concrete parking lot was sealed last week, and the Bomar Brain is down for maintenance. It being election season, we’ve rented out the big ratings board to the local TV station that sold it to us. (I fully expect to see an election-night victory call of incumbent Rep. Emanuel Cleaver over tenth-ranked Royal Portrush GC.) On the competitive front, our South-Atlantic ratings chief, David Henson, won the MGA Individual Match Play Championship at 51st-ranked Palmetto Hall Plantation for the second straight year, and last week I teamed up with my Tour Tempo co-author, John Novosel, to run away with the St. Francis Xavier Celebrity Two-Man Scramble at 45th-ranked Hillcrest at Heartland GC.
Speaking of Hillcrest, the venerable Kansas City track is making great progress on the restoration of Donald Ross’s original ninth green. Located for most of the club’s history at the end of the ninth hole, the Ross green was abandoned a few years back at the urging of a since-departed club executive. A miniature green suitable for a putt-putt course was subsequently installed at a random point in the fairway, fronted by a stone wall that has caused Ross to spin so vigorously in his grave that he has drilled down through bedrock and struck oil.
When I first brought up the Hillcrest project in a recent post, I unintentionally gave the impression that the bogus green was the work of GCSAA Hall of Famer Bill Amick, who oversaw a 1984 renovation of Hillcrest. “That was certainly not the case,” Amick informed me in a recent phone call, “and I don’t know why anyone would impose stone walls on a Donald Ross green. That’s anything but subtle.”
I heard from Amick again in response to my column celebrating Hillcrest’s par-4 fifth as my favorite hole of the summer. “You hit me in my professional pride, right where it hurts most,” he wrote.
For I don’t much recall Hillcrest’s fifth hole — and I spent a good bit of quality time on that course. The picture you included didn’t help, even though, as my wife says, I pay attention to golf holes, if little else. So I viewed Hillcrest using Google Maps, and that wasn’t a whole lotta help, either. I must confess that I recall more about Green Lawn Cemetery [across the road from and paralleling Hillcrest’s first hole] than the fairway of number five sloping to the left. Could I really be wrong in thinking that the “Carolina pasture-plower” concentrated more on getting players from the green of #4 to the tee of #6 than he did in making that a special hole? But there it all is in your September 7 blog, and you’ve likely messed up that hole enough times to know.
Perhaps Herbert Warren Wind was wrong when he wrote something like “One mark of a great course is that after a single round you can distinctly remember each of its holes.” I can still clearly visualize Hillcrest’s opening hole and several others, but not the fifth.
My purpose in this message, if I really have any, is this. I believe you might be misleading “a neighbor,” who just happens to be your grandson Jack, about your current favorite golf hole. I do agree with many of your other conclusions on courses and holes around the world, but on this particular selection, maybe you’d better stick to playing catch with Jack after dinner.
Yours, Bill (known to some of his friends as The Overbunkerer)
I chuckled knowingly when I read Amick’s e-mail. Twenty-eight years have passed since he performed his miracles at Hillcrest; his memory will understandably be cloudy concerning a hole that was unremarkable back when Ronald Reagan was seeking a second term. But Hillcrest’s fifth, like a fine wine, has improved with age. It is one of those rare holes that, having long been bad, ripens into something sublime.
It’s possible, of course, that Amick doctored the hole in a way that led to its ultimate improvement, and he’s forgotten that. How about it, Bill? Do you still have the blueprints?
Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but a tennis injury has forced Ernie Els to pull out of next week’s PGA Grand Slam of Golf at 51st-ranked Port Royal Golf Club in Bermuda. I only mention it so I can remind everyone of my own first-place finish in the 2006 PGA Grand Slam Pro-Am at 15th-ranked Poipu Bay Golf Course on the island of Kauai. That’s the year, if you’ve forgotten, that three scramble partners and I carried Tiger Woods to victory. My trophy, a slightly smaller version of the crystal-spire-upon-a-walnut-base prize that Tiger has won seven times, greets visitors as they enter Catch Basin from our new and very expensive parking lot.