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Tuesday night fun

Caption
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Dan O'Connell tees off Tuesday evening followed by Harvey Turner, son Dan and grandson Brian. The group plays regularly during the men's league at Shady Oaks in Sublette.

Five days a week, my dad had the same routine.

He was part of a group of local businessmen in Amboy who would gather at Koehler's Drugstore at 7:30 a.m. for coffee, then it was off to work at 8 a.m.

At 5 p.m., when the workday ended, the same group would meet back at Koehler's to discuss that day's events, before heading home at 5:30 p.m.

The only variation to this was on Tuesdays during the summer. Dad would rush home at 5 p.m., take a quick shower, grab a sandwich and head to Shady Oaks Country Club for the Tuesday Night Men's League.

I played a lot of golf at Shady Oaks as a kid, but not on Tuesday nights, as that was reserved for adults. With that being the case, it was a big deal to me the first time dad asked me to come along with him to play with the older guys.

I'm guessing I was about 11 or 12, and it was a thrill. The person who had the low score won a golf ball, and that was always my big goal. Occasionally I'd throw in a 37 or 38, win a shiny new Club Special, and my week would be made.

It's been quite a while since I'd been back for Tuesday Night Men's League, but I rectified that 2 days ago with a full day of golf at the Shady Lady. During the day, I played with Dave Kemp, the current top dog at the course; his 12-year-old son Clayton, who has the goods to be a player, if he chooses to get serious about golf; and Ed Dunn, a very good senior player.

I found out the league has changed a bit over the years from when I played, and it has changed for the better. In the old days, teams were formed by a blind draw, using a deck of cards. Now, groups can make their own foursomes, and attendance has increased dramatically.

A good night 15 years ago might have had 35 or 40 golfers competing. On Tuesday, there were 77 golfers, and there have been as many as 99 in previous weeks.

The playing format has not changed. Golfers play their own balls, and earn one point for a bogey, two points for a par, four points for a birdie and eight points for an eagle. Point totals are tabulated each week and averaged, so each golfer knows going into each league night how many points he needs to reach his average and earn points for his team.

Each golfer in a foursome usually has to earn his minimum point total, or have one team member get really hot and carry the team, to be in the money. On Tuesday, two groups (not ours) finished at +5 1/2, and earned $9 per man.

Entry fee is $6 per week, with 1/4 of the pot going to the winning team, and another $50, in the form of a gift certificate, going to the winner of a blind draw at the end of the night.

A dozen golf balls are also given away, again via blind draw. The first name chosen on Tuesday was mine, eliciting a few groans that the drawing was fixed, but I can assure everyone there the drawing was legit. And besides, I gave the bright yellow Titleist I won to Kemp, to pass along to Clayton.

The rest of the weekly money goes to the men's association, which puts the funds to good use. League regulars get a steak dinner at the end of the year. Money has also been donated to the course to pay for a fairway mower; to defray costs of club members playing in the Lincoln Highway or Rock River Classic tournaments; flowers at funerals for long-time club members; and Amboy High School golf team expenses.

Most golfers don't just play and scram – they play and stay. The grill gets fired up about 7:30 p.m., with the meal of choice being a specially-cut pork chop by Shady Oaks pro Jim "Sparky" Larkin for a mere $7.

"We've got a great men's league here," said John Klausen, who has overseen the league for much of the past two decades. "It's competitive, but the main thing is we just have a lot of fun with it. That's what keeps people coming back."

•••

Last week, I solicited reader responses to this question, "What is the best golf course you've played, and what made it so special?" Responses will be printed in the Friday, July 5 paper – a way to keep this golf page rolling along when I am on vacation.

The initial solicitation resulted in one response (thank you Ryan Marshall, owner of The Stables, one of my favorite watering holes), but I'm looking for many, many more.

Send to me via email (bweidman@saukvalley.com), fax (815-625-9390), in person at our Sterling or Dixon offices, snail mail, carrier pigeon, Pony Express – whatever works for you.

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