For the average golfer, the warm days of spring motivate players to haul their clubs out of the utility shed, dust them off and head out to the driving range. It’s golf tournament season once again. The golf professionals’ phones ring off the hook as players race to iron out wicked slices and short games whose consistency could be more accurately compared to a dice game.
Each course in the greater Cape Fear region holds a few or even dozens of tournaments each spring. The majority of tournaments are a scramble format, also known as “Captain’s Choice,” where players are grouped into two to four man teams. Each player hits every shot, but the team only plays the best of those four shots on each stroke.
Typically, with these tournaments, there are just a few teams who are really competing to win the tournament. For the vast majority of the participants, the goal of these tournaments is to just perform well enough to not embarrass one’s self in front of one’s friends. If the ball finds the woods or the pond a few times, it’s usually just fine, as there are three more shots to bail you out.
But what about the players who don’t have to dust off their clubs — whose clubs never saw the utility shed over the winter? What about the players who want their own personal shots to count, who want a tournament with a winner and a loser, and who aren’t satisfied with just a beer buzz and an afternoon outside?
As of May 2012 there is such a tournament for these more serious golfers. It’s called the North Brunswick Cup. In the fall of 2011 the management of Magnolia Greens and Cape Fear National approached some of their more avid players to see if they would be interested in forming a tournament that would pit players from each club against one another in a head-to-head, winner-takes-all golf tournament. Since that initial meeting, a group of golfers from these golf clubs held meetings each month in order to line up a tournament that will continue on for years to come.
The tournament is selective. Players cannot just decide they want to play, pay their entry fee and show up to compete. Players have to go through a qualifying process, where they have to post four qualifying scores. The lowest 20 players from each club make the cut.
“We decided on 20 this year because that’s about what we thought we would be able to get and have a good tournament,” says Magnolia Greens Head Golf Professional Rick Ferrell. “Magnolia Greens is an older course, so we had more than 20 who were interested in playing. I’m sure this will grow. We will probably have around 24 next year.”
“The idea came from watching TV,” says John Jenkins, one of the tournament’s organizers. The tournament is modeled after the Ryder Cup. The Ryder Cup is a biennial competition between golfers from Europe and golfers from the United States, with the best players from each group selected to compete. The course location is alternated between courses in the United States and courses in Europe.
“This (matching Cape Fear National against Magnolia Greens) seemed natural,” says Ferrell. “We are close in proximity, and we thought it would be a natural, good-natured rivalry.”
Starting on Thursday night, May 18, all the players gathered at the clubhouse of the hosting course (which was Magnolia Greens this year) for the main event: the pairings. Teams were announced, followed immediately by heckling and good-natured trash talking.
Just like the Ryder Cup, the North Brunswick Cup features a series of match play competitions (in match play, the total individual strokes are not tallied together. Rather, teams earn points on a hole by hole basis). Also, just like the Ryder Cup, the matches take place over a three-day period.
On Friday, the first day of the tournament, teams of two played together against another team of two from the opposing team. Each two-man team alternated shots, posting one score between them.
Day two featured two-man teams playing their own shots, but the best score of the two players was counted.
On day three, the play got even more intense with individual match play. On this final day of play, the golf pros from each course were also included, going up against one another to try to help their home track pull out the victory.
In the end, host team Magnolia Greens defeated Cape Fear National 23 to 18 to win the North Brunswick Cup. A good time was had by all, and the tournament will be back in 2013, this time at Cape Fear National.
“We think this tournament is kind of special,” says Ferrell.