He was the man who called me for my first substitute teaching job at Columbian High School. I hadn't seen him for years when I ran into him at a local grocery store a couple of months ago. I am talking about former assistant principal John Tomaszewski.
As we stood conversing, John mentioned how much he enjoyed reading my column. At this point I am wondering about his sanity, but then he encouraged me to give him a call and we would play a round of golf together. Now I was sure he wasn't quite right.
All kidding aside, I knew that John was a longtime member of Mohawk Golf Club. When someone extends an invitation to play this great course, you jump at the chance. After playing a little phone tag, we decided that I would be John's guest this past Thursday. He would be bringing along a couple of longtime friends to complete our foursome.
At the club John introduced me to Brad Seitz and Joe Clark. The three had been friends for years. John suggested that we play six holes and then change cart partners. That way I could get to know each of these gentlemen a little better. John had a great idea and I had a chance to find out something about each of my playing companions.
After the introductions John handed us each a towel, a sleeve of golf balls and a bottle of water. Talk about the perfect host. I'm used to playing with guys that aren't quite so generous. Once after a round of golf one of my friends told the bartender he wanted to buy his buddies a round of drinks. He then looked at me and asked if he could borrow a twenty!
Before we teed off John took us inside the clubhouse and introduced us to Faith Egli, the general manager and director of folf. I know Faith as we have a Hiram College connection and I watched her play in the Jamie Farr Classic a few years ago. She was kind enough to show us the architect's diagram of proposed changes on the front side of the course. It was the first of several history lessons I would receive on this day.
As we approached the first tee John had some advice for his guests. Though it did not look too bad, he suggested that we avoid the rough as our scores would likely suffer if we missed the fairway too often. One of my concerns coming into the day was the fact that I would have trouble hitting from the fairway. Mohawk's fairways are so nice I don't want to dig them up. As it turned out I didn't have to worry about taking divots in the fairway, because I didn't end up there very often.
John seemed to find the fairway on most holes though the rest of us did not. Brad went right on nearly every hole, while Joe and I chose to miss right and left with no apparent inclination to favor one side over the other. What the three of us did consistently seemed to be to avoid the fairway at all costs.
After struggling on the front nine it was time to head to the original nine holes designed by the famed architect Donald Ross. The back side has some outstanding golf holes. They are not easy (particularly when you choose not to use the fairway to get to them) as there are a lot of elevation changes on this nine.
Probably the funniest incident of the day took place on the par-5 11th hole. Joe had a 15-foot putt and he was moving almost as soon as he hit it. Now sometimes that means you know you have made it, other times you know it doesn't have a chance. I asked Joe if that was an "oh, crap" walk and he admitted it was. It should have been the other walk as the ball broke and went dead center into the hole much to his surprise. Apparently he had read the putt perfectly!
As we reached the 12th green and prepared to swap cart partners, Joe pointed out the little building near the putting surface. "I used to caddy here in my younger days and I spent many hours sitting under those pine trees waiting for a loop." I was informed that the building located across the roadway used to serve as the clubhouse. I was learning a lot about the history of Mohawk and it was fascinating.
When we reached the par-3 15th I studied the plaque in the rock near the tee. It honors the late Joe Lucius for scoring a world record 13 aces on the hole. Again Joe had information that I was not aware of. He had caddied for Mr. Lucius and passed on the fact that he always wore two golf gloves, both black. PGA touring pro Tommy (Two Gloves) Gainey is doing nothing new, he pointed out. He also said it was easy to follow the ball while looping for Joe Lucius as he always hit it straight. Now there's a concept I should consider.
The 15th hole only measures about 135 yards, but the green is just nasty. I watched two members of my group putt up the hill only to have the ball come back to them. I wasn't going to make that mistake. I hit my putt hard enough to stay on the top shelf - until the next putt of course. I then proceeded to hit it past the cup and right back to where I was previously. It's no wonder Joe Lucius had so many aces here. He didn't want to have to putt the tricky green.
By the time we got to the 17th tee, Brad had seen enough of his ball heading to the right rough. He blasted a tee shot that went well left which happens to be out of bounds. After chuckling about his change of direction, he teed up another ball and promptly drove it into the right rough. Well, what did you expect?
I spent the first six holes talking with John about his college days at Heidelberg and mine at Hiram. Brad and I discussed local sports when we were cart partners. Joe and I talked about a number of things including how disappointed we were in how we were playing.
Despite not hitting the golf ball very well, it was an awesome day. Any time one gets to play a course the caliber of Mohawk it is wonderful. Add to that the chance to meet a couple of great new guys and it produces a day that will not soon be forgotten.
Thanks, John, for your invite and hospitality. Thanks also to Brad and Joe for their cheery companionship. I should point out that the scores shot on this day have been intentionally left out to protect the innocent. The course took my measure on this day, but you could not erase the smile on my face.
Al Stephenson is The Advertiser-Tribune's golf columnist.
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