SoHG Prepares for First International Match

The SoHG International Hickory Cup

 

   In just a few weeks, an U.S. SoHG team led by Capt. Dave Brown of Omaha, Neb., will head for Carnoustie, Scotland for the inaugural International Hickory Cup (IHC). The 21-man roster will compete with a rest-of-the-world team captained by David Kirkwood of Gullane, Scotland, in a Ryder-Cup style match scheduled for Oct. 9-10 following the World Hickory Open (WHO), Oct. 6-8, in Carnoustie.

   The “grand match” will be contested over two days, first on the Monifieth Ashludie course, with morning fourball matches and afternoon foursomes. Ashludie is a short course, considered a “relief” course among local players. Play is to be set at about 5,123 yards.

   “A compact and challenging test of golf, the Ashludie course requires more brain than brawn, demanding accurate iron shots to the well respected greens,” says a writer for the web site of the Monifieth Golf Links. The holes to watch out for on the course are the 13th, which plays to a plateau green with a well judged second shot required to hold the green; and the 15th, a dogleg par four turning left, where good positioning of the drive is essential.

   The second day brings singles on Monifieth Medal, used by the R&A as a qualifying course for the 2007 Open Championship.

   Lionel Freedman, founder of the World Hickory Open, and a respected international SoHG member, said play at Monifieth Medal will likely be around 6,400 yards.

   This course has recently undergone a three-year recovery program under head greenkeeper Scott Rennie and is said to be in excellent condition with well grassed narrow running fairways, lush semi-rough, penal heavy rough and fast consistent greens, not to mention the deep revetted bunkers.

   As neither course features yardage markers, it will be up to the player to determine the proper club based on his own intuition and assessment, skills well honed by earlier players who had to rely upon their own judgements of distance. U.S. Captain Dave Brown, right, has already instructed his players to begin exercising their skills at estimating distances.

   Brown visited Monifieth Medal in May, hosted by Freedman. “The venues will provide a fine challenge to all players,” he said. “And I’m sure that Captain David Kirkwood will assemble as fine a group of players and gentlemen as we hope to bring. The competition for the International Hickory Cup and in the World Hickory Open will be fantastic – and the camaraderie will be even better, as that’s the hidden secret of hickory golf.”

   Brown is a skilled orthopedic surgeon who also manages the McIntyre Golf Ball Co. He somehow manages to find time to repair damaged knees, create replica golf balls, and organize an international golf team. He says he couldn’t do it without the help of two co-captains: Rick Woeckener and Mike Stevens.

   “Rick is a great guy who loves the SoHG and hickory golf,” Brown says. “He was instrumental in figuring out the handicaps as well as the pairings for the USA guys who wish to play in the World Hickory Open as well as the International Hickory Cup. As for Mike {a teaching pro at MacDill AFB in Tampa, Fla.}, he was the guy who figured out all the qualifying parameters for the international players. He developed the point system. Both guys are incredibly helpful and great co-captains.”

   Brown says it’s quite an honor to be selected as captain for the first IHC.
 
   “Playing and doing well is important, of course, but for me the most important part is re-establishing old friendship that I have made over the past few years and making new friendships,” he says. “These European and world players are great gentlemen who are truly a joy to get to know. One of the added benefits for the U.S. golfers is that we get introduced to new courses. It’s all about having a good match and sitting down with new and old friends afterward to talk about it later.”

   David Kirwood, caption of the international squad, agreed. “The grand match will be a wonderful international occasion – but with a very competitive element,” he said. “Ideally, Team Rest Of The World will come out on top – just.”

   A good friendly challenge, that, to let the U.S. players know that the fellows on the other side have the inaugural victory in their sights – just.

   Brown and Kirkwood have agreed upon a system of handicaps that they feel will work out just right. The U.S. team will use the lower of their SoHG tournament or regular play handicaps, or their GHIN number as long as the latter is hickory-only. The European players will use the British Golf Collectors Society system, which calculates a hickory handicap based upon their play with modern clubs. Brown says Kirkwood has told him this system has worked very well for European hickory matches. (This system can be seen at the following WHO web page:  http://www.worldhickoryopen.com/therules.html.)

   The IHC will travel to the U.S. in 2016, very likely in conjunction with a major hickory tournament so that European players can experience both events, according to Brown.

   As for the 2014 match, what with the World players’ familiarity with hard links fairways, a hard ground and dry conditions would weigh in their favor. The USA lads would be well advised to study the ground game, as well as something of the history and stature of the two courses to understand their historic place in Scottish golf.

   David Hamilton, in his fine book – The Good Golf Guide to Scotland (Canongate, 1982) – describes Monifieth Medal as a “rather bleak landscape” that has been “softened by the addition of numerous intelligently place pine plantations.” He notes that the course starts and ends “in a narrow neck of land between the railway and the town.” The 6th and 7th holes, indeed, come very near the railway.

   A club history, the Monifieth Golf Club, by J.A.R. Fraser, offers a well-researched look at the club and its links. Golf, according to written records, has apparently been played in the area since 1643, when local authorities banned golf on Sundays, there having been a spate of miscreants who attempted just this, especially “befor noone in tyme of preachne.” The Monifieth Club was founded in 1858. The club and its links survived land squabbles, two world wars and the departure of the Panmure Golf Club for its links, which abuts Monifieth Medal on its eastern most tip.

   An anecdote – During the Club’s interwar years, a small golfing museum was established within the clubhouse, sparked by the gift of a beautiful Hugh Philp putter. Inspired, several other members gifted the Club with a variety of golfing memorabilia, including a number of historic old golf clubs. The sizable collection was housed in two cases within the main Club lounge. After World War II, during a redecoration of the Club, the cases were removed and – wait for it – the Club Steward used them, and their contents, for kindling. In an act of exponential kindness, Fraser writes that, at the time, there was “little appreciation of the potential value of such a collection.” He adds that such an act today would be considered “near-criminal folly, if not of vandalism.”

The North American Team
   North American players earned points based on their participation and finish in the SoHG’s 2014 Championship Series. The top six qualifiers in each handicap division are invited to participate on the North American IHC team. Much depended on the player’s personal schedule and willingness to travel, etc. Vacancies were filled by Captain’s picks with help from captain assistants Stevens and Woeckener. All three worked hard to organize travel and the myriad other details that accompany such an undertaking.

Team USA
0-5 Handicap
Ben Hollerbach, Chamblee, Ga.    3
Rick Woeckener, Fredericksburg, Va.    2
Mike Stevens, Tampa, Fla.    4

6-12 Handicap
Dave Brown, Omaha, Neb.    8
Dave Ellis, Zanesville, Ohio    6
Joe Hollerbach, Southlake, Texas    6
Mark Hollingsworth, West End, N.C.    10
Jim Rohr, Pinehurst, N.C.    9
Michael Shiff, Parkland, Fla.     6
Scott McAllister, Williston, Vt.    6
Deal Hudson, Fairfax, Va.    7
Breck Speed, Little Rock, Ark.    11
Chris Deinlein, Greensboro, N.C.    12

13+
James Clawson, Charlottesville, Va.    14
Neal Cowne, Ft. Smith, Ark.    13
Ed Ronco, Wyandotte, Mich.    13
Richard Schmidt, Southern Pines, N.C.    13
Hamp Munsey, Greensboro, N.C.    18
Matt Dodds, Williston, Vt.    16
Mike Just, Louisville, Ky.    16
Scott Bowles, Temple Terrace, Fla.    18

A bit of history
   For those interested in a bit of history and background about Panmure Golf Club, site of the World Hickory Open, click on the following link:
www.panmuregolfclub.co.uk/history/  For more on Panmure, check out www.golfclubatlas.com/in-my-opinion/panmure-golf-club/,  which presents a 2009 article by Gordon A. Jones for GolfAtlas.com.

   Look for photos of Monifieth Golf Links at its website: http://www.monifiethgolf.co.uk/
   Click here for a satellite-like overview of the holes. Quite interesting, and enlightening for the newcomer. Other courses similarly viewed can be found on this site as well.

   For more information on the Carnoustie area, home to several historic and championship golf links, click the following link: www.carnoustiecountry.com.

Lionel and Beth Freedman at their garden table with the International Hickory Cup.