Surprise Victory in McNabb Cup Has No One Talking

I have raised a monument more lasting than brazen statues, and higher than the royal pyramids, a monument which shall not be destroyed by the wasting rain, the fury of the north wind, or the flight of ages.
Horace: Carmina III, c. 20 BC

   How fleet is fame. How invigorating the laurel, but how fickle the adulation. This year’s champion is next year’s castaway. From fame to infamy is a beaten road, saith the poet.
   And yet, we find that men regularly strive for a certain measure of immortality. Fame puts spurs to the mind, according to Ovid. For the golfer, it is to see his, or her, name upon the silver trophy, sharing space with the greats of yesteryear. No stone for Ozymandius the Claret Jug, no crumbling pyramid the Ryder Cup, no rusting heap the Wanamaker Trophy. On these trophies and others of similar rank and stature are names become immortal, reminding of great deeds and heroic measures that rendered such champions beyond the pale of ordinary fame.
   Such is the allure of the McNabb Cup, played on the White Lake Golf Course in Whitehall, Mich. Its original nine was designed by Tom Bendelow in 1916.
   After one year of application, of trials both severe and soul-wrenching, 11 men came forth to contest the Cup. Eleven stout hearts remained to enter the field, their colors ablaze, their eyes fired with determination, their chins set firm, their weapons cleaned and ready.
   The day was Sept. 7, 2013. Under skies of unnatural grey, with great clouds that fumed and boiled, the 11 came forth:

  • Tim Stroshine, a fearless man who once raced cars before breakfast
  • David Ramos, a gambler’s eye with a keen edge
  • Roger Hill, the steely veteran, a McNabb Cup champion, formidable foe
  • John Mullock, a dark horse rambler with a cutthroat reputation
  • Todd Riker, the doctor with a skill for dissecting weaknesses in an opponent’s game
  • Larry Pinchback, uncannily quiet, or quietly uncanny, he had his eyes on the trophy
  • Wally Bills, the Detroit sharpshooter with a deadly mashie
  • Scott Staudacher, wee in stature, big on game, a shrewd taste for victory at all costs
  • Paul Carlson, background unknown, but for those rumors from out east…
  • Joe Bodnar, reputed kingpin from a Detroit organization, known for tee blasts of exceptional length, a man to watch… carefully
  • Jim Davis, unsteady, unimaginative, unremarkable – yet, somehow disquieting

   Ramos, Bodnar, Davis, and Hill led the charge, playing from the front tees of the long first hole. Davis, playing crisply, took 5, leaving his nearest competitors to grind out 7s and 8s. Thus was notice served. The great scoreboards rang up the initial volley and the game was on. Though he stumbled to a 7 on the Schmidt Hole – the 252-yard 12th guarded by a reedy pond and a small bunker between green and pond – Davis carefully, unimaginatively played to a 91. Hill, however, rebounding from a woeful 49 on the front, scorched the back with a 37 for a wonderful 86. Bodnar, whose gallery included carloads of buxom cheerleaders who swooned at every drive, carded 95, perhaps distracted. Ramos, gambling all on the tricky par-5 14, was stunned by a 10. His face drained of color, he nonetheless parred the next two and finished with a 92.
   Mullock – the gentleman (we voted later on this) from England, Bills, Staudacher, and Pinchback were next to enter the lists. Perhaps owing to his unforgiving travel schedule and the rigors of cataloging a collection with the meticulous Roger Hill, Mullock could not find his game and came home with a spiteful 101, plagued by a spate of triple-bogies. Pinchback, the quiet man, squabbled with the long first, the narrow 4th and the heartbreaking 14th to card a not-too-bad 94. Bills and Staudacher, however, fought tooth and nail, mashies and jiggers red hot from dead-eye shots that gave flagsticks reason to seek other employment. While Staudacher carded a birdie on the 129-yard par 3 3rd, he stumbled on No. 9 with a 7. No damage, as Bills also marked a 7 on his card at this hole. And, while the Detroit strongman came in with 42 to Staudacher’s 44 on the back, it was not enough. The Wee Mon would have the day with an 86 total to equal Hill, while Bills, with back-to-back 7s on 13 and 14 would have to settle for an 87.
   The final group – Riker, Stroshine, and Carlson – left nothing to chance. Rumors from the roaming crowds and surreptitious glances at the course leader boards led them to believe they must go all in or face the heartbreak of seeing the Cup fall into the wrong, meaning someone else’s, hands. Stroshine, last year’s runner-up, and a man of mettle when it comes to competition, had to face down a trio of 7s and a 9 on the front, but lowered his score by six on the back to turn in a 96. Carlson logged a heavy 7 on No. 1, but two fine 5s on 8 and 9, tough holes in anyone’s book – 8 a 393-yard par 4 and 9 a 449-yard par 5. Had it not been for those 7s and trouble on the dogleg right par 4 16th that resulted in an 8, Carlson might have been whistling the McNabb Cup Waltz. Riker played fine golf, including a birdie on No. 9 after a pin-seeking missile of an approach shot and snaking putt. However, he was unable to overcome three 6s and three 7s on the card and could do no more than 87. Thus, a repeat champion was not to be for Belle McNabb in 2013.
   Tired, wet and steaming, for it was a muggy day and a light, but steady rain fell during several holes on the back nine, the field retired to the McNabb cottage on Lake Michigan for restorative beverages and the consoling conversations that only a true golfer knows how to deliver.
   Drinks in hand, the men retired to rockers and sofas on the front porch while Davis was left alone to tally the day’s action. Short pause here to repeat that Davis was left alone to tally the scores. He checked his shaky arithmetic twice, three times, but there was no doubt.
   Tim Stroshine, who had second place last year, took the third place honors with a net 70.
   Roger Hill, the 2011 and inaugural winner of the Cup, placed second with a net 68.
   In first, following a scorecard playoff with Hill, was Davis – the guy who was left alone with the scorecards. To his credit, the fellow begged for others to recount, to verify and authorize, but, such was the victor’s acumen – waiting until the guys were settled into chairs with two or three drinks already underway – that no one volunteered for this duty.
   Instead, cheers were offered, medals were awarded; the previous year’s victors were given handsome pilsner glasses with “McNabb Cup Champion” engraved upon them, toasts and photos were taken. And the night proceeded apace with dinner, more drinks and an appreciation for good company that is the hallmark of the Cup.
   Long may the fame of Belle McNabb’s Cup reign!

In a nod toward sobriety, we here give great thanks to our sponsors:

  • Mrs. Chris Hill, whose delightful desserts and breakfast quiches were perhaps the highlight of the whole weekend.
  • The staff of the White Lake Golf Club who, as always, were generous and very helpful.
  • The various competitors who brought sundry delights, not the least, Joe Bodnar whose eye-opening gift of a fifth of 14-year-old Balvenie was beyond words.
  • And, of course, the owners of the McNabb Cottage who allow our gentlemen crew overnight quarters for this great contest near the shores of Lake Michigan. (And a couple of neighbors, Charlie Deupree and Jim Schmidt, who also offered overnight accommodations for McNabbians.)

Look for a return of the McNabb Cup in September 2014.