NOEL NASH/PHOTOGolfers enjoy a post-round meal and await for the raffle and awards ceremony to begin Sunday at Emerald Valley.
Sunday was a good day. The community gathered together around a common cause and for a much-anticipated event.
It reminded me of when we lived in Gainesville, Fla., and the Gators football team was celebrating its first national title in a citywide party. For the first time in days, the sun and blue skies broke through a wet winter in north central Florida.
The team’s head ball coach, Steve Spurrier, the son of a preacher, stepped to the mic:
“God’s smiled on the Gators.”
It felt like He was smiling on the Creswell High School athletics boosters this past Sunday afternoon, too, on a glorious, sun-drenched autumn day on the Emerald Valley Golf Resort course. The layout – 7,200 yards from the “Duck tees” – is challenging and fair. The more than 700 interior trees have been reduced by just more than 100 recently; the logs are neatly stacked in waste areas, or lining the out-of-bounds areas along a few holes. Thankfully, there aren’t many water hazards on the course – although “my game” probably brings more of it into play than most golfers.
There were flags waving all over the place. In fact, I counted 18 of them on the course alone. Made in triangular pieces, the flags tried to straighten out in the light breeze, making the sound of waves lapping against the shore.
People dressed in clothes displaying their loyalties. Most in red, white and blue. Nike. TaylorMade. Bridgestone. Puma. Adidas. Somehow, they mingled together in a friendly way despite the diversity of brands.
During the event, you could hear people shouting, excited for a great shot or bemoaning a near-miss.
Yes, the sky was clear, the air quality good enough to take deep, cleansing breaths that also helped one clear the mind.
The air contained something else, too. Optimism. Possibility was floating around, everyone soaking it in. The post-golf scene – with its largest attendance in years, according to organizers – felt more like a festival. Raffles, gift baskets, burgers, all in a collegial atmosphere.
The cause around which all of these people gathered, of course, was a good one.
Our children will take to the fields and courts again, and the need to support them will be greater than ever. Facilities, uniforms, equipment, celebratory team dinners and awards ceremonies, Senior Night festivities, Homecoming, playoffs and state tournaments, pep rallies, support staff, posters and painted faces, THE BAND, student sections, concessions, ball caps and pom-poms and Bulldogs T-shirts, coffee mugs and more. You can hear it, smell it, taste it. You feel it with goose-bumps up and down your arms.
We’re making hard, smart sacrifices to ensure a faster return to the things we love and miss the most. Sometimes, you miss things you didn’t even know you missed. The boosters handed out goodie bags, and each contained a wooden ball marker, with the Big Dawg tournament logo burned into it. Such a cool, thoughtful trinket, handcrafted for all participants by David Leavitt, parent and booster. Clearly, the most precious item in the bag. I hadn’t realized how much I missed little keepsakes like that.
Most of the conversation pre-tournament was good-natured, indicative of friendly competition, jokes about “ringers” on teams, all with a wink of the eye. And then we teed off and, in the blink of an eye, things got a bit more serious.
The Chronicle’s team? Drew Schwarz, the assistant pro at EVGR, Kevin Settles, Robert Baguio and I formed our foursome. Well, we left a few strokes on the course, as they say.
Three times we were in a great position thanks to Drew, the powerful young pro. He drove the green on two par-4s. We had two putts to make birdie, and made par each time. Drew got us on a par-5 green in two shots; again, we ended up with a par. We failed Drew as teammates, but he never made us feel that way.
We were about halfway through our round when word came that a group ahead of us was 14-under par through 11 holes. We were 1-over par at the time. If you don’t know anything about golf, now you know this: It is NEVER good to be over par in a best-ball format tournament.
The truth is, the best part of these tournaments is meeting new people, and Drew and Kevin were a delight. Drew, working to actually help run the tournament, jumped in late when one of our original members had back pain. Kevin, a longtime forklift driver at Costco, has a swing that has evolved with the effects of hard work on a body. His measured tempo with a club matches his demeanor. On the course, he was easy-going, filling the moments while waiting for other golfers with talk of his daughter, obvious joy in his voice. She’s working in an independent online study program, exhibiting the focus and self-discipline that would make any parent proud.
The tournament is controlled chaos all day. Drew seems unflappable. Robert, riding shotgun in our cart, has recently launched sanitizing sprays for cloth masks. He’s a serial entrepreneur and I’m impressed at how quickly he got his product to market.
Ryan Hoffstot’s Farmers Insurance, the Original Grain Watch Co., and The Chronicle shared “Leader of the Pack” sponsorship for this year’s event. But make no mistake: This was the boosters’ blood, sweat and tears – as usual – making this tournament a success.
Sunday was a good day. We gathered for a good ol’ fashioned, wholesome activity that was all about supporting and helping others. It was respectful, kind and courteous.
It was a scene right out of small-town America, and represented the best of our values.
Noel Nash is publisher of The Chronicle.