The last weekend in September marked the date for the annual 3-Man Best Ball/Scramble at Mille Lacs Golf Resort. The tournament had quickly become the largest (64 teams – with an overflow tournament the following weekend for teams that signed up late), most competitive late season golf tournament in Minnesota. Returning players had learned, from experience, to bring everything from shorts to a snowmobile suits. The course, which was known for very slick greens, was always dressed-up in various shades of red, gold and orange from the maple trees, that line every hole.
Golfers from California, Iowa and West Virginia were regulars at this fall classic, as well as golfers from all corners of Minnesota. The tournament was known for the action – $960 in the skin pot each day, a match play putting tournament, featuring free beer and sweet corn late Saturday afternoon where the winner could win up to $500, and a BIG CALCUTTA Saturday night, meaning that even teams that had a bad day Saturday had something to play for in the scramble on Sunday.
Big Clyde, a newcomer on an Iron Range team, showed up on Friday for a practice round. The very gentle giant looked like anything but a golfer. Standing 6’3”, Clyde weighed about 320 pounds, depending on how many beers he had consumed. His huge, very soft belly hung over his belt and swayed side to side with every lumbering step. Clyde had huge feet, I would guess size 15 or 16 and his hands, that matched his feet, engulfed the hand of everyone with whom he shook hands. Everybody instantly loved Clyde, with a constant smile on his big face. And, Clyde could play, a 2 handicap at Cuyuna Country Club!
The 5th at Mille Lacs Golf Resort is a short, square doglegged left around a water hazard, par-5. The blind second shot plays over the hill to a very small green. Because almost all players have a chance to get home in two, and the second shot is blind, to speed up play tournament rules require teams to wave the following group up after marking their balls.
Big Clyde, never having seen the nightmares that can occur on this devilish little hole, chose a 3-wood and hit a perfect shot over the corner – twenty yards ahead of his playing partners. In restless excitement, Clyde and the other five players waited, what seemed like an hour, for the group ahead to finally mark their balls and signal with a wave of the 12’ long flagstick.
Big Clyde watched as his playing partners attempted to hit the small green that slopes away from oncoming balls. Team members stationed at the top of the hill reported where the approach shots landed and the run out of each ball. Clyde later reported he had never spent so much time contemplating a golf shot. Should he land his ball short on the downhill part of the fringe and let luck play a part of the shot or should he attempt to carry on to the very front of the green and let gravity take the ball to the back left hole location?
After a pace off the yardage from the 200-yard marker and also the 150-yard marker, Clyde and his group decided that he had 178 yards to the pin, downhill and slightly down wind. “Play a 155 yard shot to the front of the green.” Big Clyde chose his 8-iron and visualized a very high shot that would start about 15’ to the right of the slightly fluttering flag. After two big practice swings, Clyde stood over his ball – no smile on his face now.
WACK! The sound at impact vibrated off the trees. One of the other 5 players watching from the top of the hill shouted, “Looks good, it’s rolling toward the hole.” Then the sound of eleven golfers shouting in unison echoed through the trees at MLGR. Big Clyde had made a double eagle – 2!
Big Clyde’s team did not win the tournament, but his skin, worth $960, the only skin that day, paid for his team’s trip for the fall classic the next year.