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Catching up with an old buddy

Some last-minute scrambling reaped a nice reward for this week's Links With Locals feature.

A host of inquiries netted zero golf games, and as of late Tuesday night, I was still without a partner. That's when this new invention (at least for me) called Facebook came through.

I noticed a couple of pictures featuring Dan Becker, a high school friend of mine, playing golf at Shady Oaks Country Club near Amboy on Tuesday. Dan resides in Tempe, Ariz., but has been back in the area this week for a wedding.

I called him up, checked on his availability for Wednesday morning, and it worked out just fine.

Dan and I last played golf in 2005, when I visited him in Arizona. We teed it up twice in the desert, attended three spring training baseball games, one LPGA Tournament, and just generally goofed off.

We watched the first two Illinois basketball games in the NCAA Tournament at Tempe watering holes during its run to the 2005 Final Four. One of my fondest tournament memories that year (or any year), a 64-63 Kansas loss to Bucknell, occurred while Dan and I were engrossed in a heated game of drink Monopoly – a favorite game among our circle of friends.

Teeing it up Wednesday morning allowed us to get caught up. He's worked at the Phoenix post office for the past 16 years, and has about 5 years remaining until his retirement.

He still stays in touch with former co-workers at Commonwealth Edison, where he worked in Illinois for 13 years before heading west, and planned to visit those workers today before flying back to Arizona on Friday.

Baseball was, is and will continue to be Dan's sport of choice. He's attended more than 1,000 professional games in his life, many of them trips to old Comiskey Park to cheer on the White Sox, along with the 20 to 25 spring training games he's gone to each year since moving to Arizona in 1997.

On Wednesday, however, it was about the golf.

My electric golf cart at Sunset Golf Course in Mount Morris is adorned with a Calvin and Hobbes sticker in which a Cubs-based Hobbes whizzes on a White Sox-based Calvin. I informed Dan I preferred a Bear doing that to a Packer, but the store selling them – in Wisconsin no less – was all sold out.

"That doesn't offend me," Dan said, "the way the Sox have been playing this season."

Dan golfs maybe once a week in Arizona, or perhaps every 2 weeks, and hadn't planned on teeing it up much in Illinois. Wednesday was the third day in a row he played, however, and the extra play was paying off.

Using my clubs, which were a bit short for a 6-foot-6 man like Dan, he finished with a more-than-respectable 52. It included the shot of the day, when he drained a 40-foot putt for bogey on No. 3. Me, I had a rather boring 36 – a score which I posted in three of the six rounds at this past weekend's Lincoln Highway tournament.

•••

Speaking of the Lincoln Highway, I've had a few days to reflect on this year's event, which Sunset hosted, and the one word I keep coming back to is proud.

I'm proud of the way I played, going 4-under par for 54 holes for a runner-up finish individually. Only four-time champ Mitchell Homb was better.

I'm proud of my teammates for their performance. Going into the weekend, I targeted +80 as a team best against bogey score to potentially win a title. We hit that score exactly, only to be overtaken by an unbelievable comeback by the six players from Timber Creek.

And last but not least, I'm proud of the way our club conducted the event. The course was in great shape. There were plenty of volunteers all over the place taking on all kinds of tasks. The waiting time on some holes or between rounds, inevitable with 60 players spread over nine holes and a big pre-tournament concern, was minimal.

It was a great LHT and, in my book, more enjoyable than some of the events played on 18-hole courses. I heard that from golfers from other courses, as well.

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