Last year a group of us connected to TPS took a golf trip to Jasper and had a blast. So much fun we decided to make it an annual event and this year's trip just wrapped up.
Some of the same participants, as well as some new blood. Joining Guy, myself and the Sports Doc (who has many new nicknames now) was last year's participants Kevin "defending champ" Flaming, Derek "new champion" Millard, Shawn "Employee of the Month" Blustein of J&J Wholesale Auto, along with newcomers and buddies Reggie Hilton and George Fairbanks. It was another great time thanks to terrific sponsors like Jasper Park Lodge, J and J Wholesale Auto, and Sports Performance Analyzer, along with our unofficial beer sponsor Moosehead. Seeing as the summer slows down with hockey news (don't tell that to Ilya Kovalchuk) we'll have some fun with my top 5 moments from the trip.
5. Course high and low lites
The Putt of the week came in the final round of singles play, when Georgie boy drained a massive, maybe 60 foot putt to help close out his duel with Blustein. Reggie took me out in our match, even though he found jail on 18, he had enough of a cushion to shut the door. Guy, who wins my award for most improved golfer, outlasted the Doc in their battle for ranking. Sports Doc came up one stroke shy of equaling my 13 from last year. He sunk a 4 footer for a dozen on the par 5-13th. The title came down to a battle of show host brothers. Derek Millard Vs. Kevin Flaming, and really like the NHL draft this year, it was a 2 horse race all the way. Kev threw out darts on the first day, posting an even par 35 on route to a 6 over 78. Millard was close behind at 9 over. Over the course of the next two rounds, Master Warrant Officer Millard - who practiced his bunker play in Afghanistan this winter - closed the gap. Thanks to his own even par front 9 in round 2, Derek took a one stroke lead over DLM Consulting's Flaming. In the final round Millard increased his overall lead by 2 after the front 9. Flaming got one shot back after a par on 13, but Millard threw down a birdie on 16 that gave him enough breathing room. Congrats to the new champ, who had to play lights out to take out the defending champ. All in all there were some great shots...and not so great ones. The Par 3 7th ate Guy for lunch on all but his final round. I thought after barely getting off the tee box the first 3 days he might have aced it. Last year I put up a 13 on the 10th hole. This time I avoided big numbers, except when I put two in the water on 14 and when I hacked it around and incurred a 2 stroke penalty on 17 for a 10. Kevin Flaming and I both came close to aces...and that's exactly what this trip was...Aces.
4. Wildlife Everywhere
I've come to expect to see plenty of wildlife when I go to Jasper now, and even come away disappointed when I don't see enough. That wasn't the case this time. We saw the usual goats on our drive up, and watched the Elk walk by on our first round of golf. From our deck at Milligan Manor we watched deer cross the first fairway. But on day 2, the animals came out, likely because it was slightly cooler with some rain. First up we watched a mother brown bear and 3 cubs saunter across the 5th fairway. My group was on the 4th tee box when we saw it and made sure we took pictures from a far. The other group on our trip watched the bears cruise by from the tee box, meaning mom and her young walked directly in front of them. It was amazing. She was still poking around when we drove up the 5th fairway. Later on a bald eagle did a fly by near the 14th hole, which rides along the beautiful Lac Beauvert. On our second round, a Bull Elk with a massive rack watched as we hit tee shots on 11. He was around again during our final round. We also watched a Coyote follow a group of Elk through the trees. He wasn't taking down any of the cows, but maybe was searching for someone younger. A very successful Safari in a golf cart.
3. Grudge Match Revenge
A year ago, my then partner and I came up short in our match against Derek Millard and Shawn Blustein. We led by one on what was supposed to be 2nd last hole. The lead slipped away and we lost on 12. After pushing twice we had the now famous (in our circles anyway) "Pine Comb Predicament". This year George Fairbanks and I took on the match play champs, and am proud to say there are new match play champions. We used the Bobby Jones approach, where we let them out drive us on the first tee, but still win the hole. It was a tight match with some tough shots, like having to hit driver on the par 3 - 4th hole which plays 220 normally but with the wind was closer to 250. We were tied after 4, but a birdie on 5 gave us the lead. Things were a little quieter this year because our team actually agreed on most best ball situations. The match was close the whole way through with team Bobby Jones taking a 2 shot lead after 9, and stretching it to 3 after 12. However Blustein and Millard heated up (and not just because they had a portable heater in their cart either) Clutch tee shots and long birdie putts brought them back into the match. A terrific sand saving, Derek Millard putt from the fringe prevented us from going 3 up with 3 to play, and halving the hole on 16 meant we had them dormie (which is up 2 with 2 to go, giving us at least a push after 18 holes.) The 17th brought great tee shots with me actually out driving Derek (that doesn't happen often especially in pressure situations) but once again they came through in the clutch with Blustein and Millard making shots to halve the hole. So it came down to 18, just like last year, however no pine combs this time. Fairbanks striped one, then put us on in 2. The heaters found the bunker and almost made a long par save. Their miss gave us 2 putts to win...which we did. The match was so fun, we're thinking next year will be a Ryder Cup format the whole time!!!! Can't wait to hear team names, and hopefully I'll get to pick out our uniforms. Slacks for everyone!!!!
2. Verbal Jabs
You get 8 guys together and the jabs and insults are going to fly. Taylor was a favorite target from Reggie Hilton as the Sports Doctor received many different nicknames. Doc was pretty obvious. Someone asked if he was a proctologist, which morphed into "The ASSMAN", in a tribute to the legendary Seinfeld episode. The ASSMAN even bought a round of shooters without even knowing it. It appeared that the Doc was leading the Tour de France one day as well with a bright yellow shirt and hat, but I love golf fashion so I'm not going to critique a guy for getting creative. Now wearing a camouflage hat on the course...not so good. Medak also received the handle of Radar O'Reilly, especially when one of the helicopter tours flew overhead. However he's likely to young to remember M.A.S.H.
As you would expect there was a lot of sibling shots back and forth between the Flamings and Millards, and as mentioned I took a lot of flak for having a different outfit for each round, but playing well is only half the battle. Tell me the last golfer to win a tournament that looked like he was out gardening for hours? I also caught flak because I like to listen to my ipod when I golf. Normally I just have the ear buds in when I'm hitting, but the way some of these guys talk, I had both in when riding in the cart. You'd be surprised how soothing a pod cast of TPS is when you're trying to sink a 12 footer for birdie.
1. The Milligan Manor
Last year we stayed at Outlook Cabin. This year we had the pleasure of bunking in Milligan Manor. Both are terrific places to hang out in while you're not on the golf course. Milligan has 8 separate rooms, each a high end hotel room on it's own. The common area features a full kitchen, massive dining room table and a living room with a huge roaring fire place, perfect to relax in after a meal. We did just that after a late night BBQ, which is located on the spacious deck overlooking the first fairway. It was a great way to relax after golf. This place is perfect for corporate retreats or golf getaways like ours. Even if you're like Guy and you get up 5 mins before your tee time you can still make it out, as it's a 30 second walk from the tee box. Each day we walked over to find out clubs cleaned and already waiting on a cart for us, with a small bucket of balls ready to be hit. This happens for anyone who is playing more then one day, no matter if you're a group from Edmonton or royalty from England, the staff at JPL go out of their way to make you feel at home.
Thanks again to Jasper Park Lodge for being terrific hosts, as well as some of our trip sponsors, J and J Wholesale Auto, DLM consulting, and Sports Performance Analyzer, as well as our unofficial - but tasty - beer sponsor, Moosehead. Can't wait for next year. As mentioned if you're looking for a great golf getaway this year, JPL is the place to go. They have some out of this world deals on right now that can be found here.