Most of the time, professional tournament golf is a small game. The four Majors are small golf events – individual, medal-play tournaments.
In amateur golf, there are two other popular small formats – there’s “partner” golf and there are four-man team events. I like both individual golf and partner golf. Although a mid-handicapper like me (currently a 13 from the regular men’s tees) favors match play, medal play is a test that you should take on regularly.
Then there are BIG golf competitions. The Ryder Cup is a BIG golf event – 12 American versus 12 Europeans who play a total of 28 matches (8 fourball/best ball; 8 foursome/alternate shot and 12 singles) over three days. The pressure – and the fun – in a BIG team event is so much different than small golf. Yes, you are playing to win your own matches, but what you really care about is whether or not your team wins. After missing a short par putt on the 17th hole of the 1993 Ryder Cup, 36-year-old Italian rookie Costantino Rocca said, "The team is sorry for me. They all pat me. I miss putt because I go to look too quickly the ball go at the hole. … "The tension, the tension." Davis Love III won that match 1 Up and the U.S. defeated Europe 15-13.
On Masters Saturday at The Kansas City Country Club, we had our own BIG golf competition, The 1502, which is an event that salutes Scotland, the home of golf, and one of its kings, James IV. The Fourth lifted the ban on golf that had been put in place by his grandfather, James II, in 1457 and reaffirmed by his father, James III, in 1471. James II and III both saw England as a threat to the homeland and believed golf was interfering with the need of the citizenry to hone their skills as archers.
Of course, Scotland wasn’t immune to internal problems, including the rivalry between Clan MacGregor and Clan Campbell. “Clan MacGregor is one of the oldest clans in Scotland. They are said to be descended from Kenneth MacAlpin, the king who united Scotland back in the 13th century. But the inexorable rise of Clan Campbell is an often told tale, and it was they who by the 14th century were beginning to overtake the fortunes of the MacGregors. The MacGregors and The Campbells, not surprisingly, became enemies.”
Compared to the Ryder Cup, The 1502 is really BIG. This year, there were 40 men per team and the format was nine holes of fourball, nine holes of foursomes and nine holes of singles. And while the competition is always keen and the pressure quite real,The 1502 is probably best compared to a backyard, pick-up football game with 10- and 11-year-olds. In other words, The 1502 is all about “play.” There is haggling over the pairings. There are team parades, chants and verbal challenges. Lunch features beef, wine, oaths and men in costumes. After the singles matches are complete, both sides go the Men’s Grill to wait for the final tally, which results in more barbs, speculation and a much needed drink or two. American humorist James Thurber got it right when he said, “Boys are beyond the range of anybody's sure understanding, at least when they are between the ages of 18 months and 90 years.”
The Campbells won this year by 12 points due to a strong performance in the singles matches. Being a Campbell, I am proud to say that The Men In Blue now lead the series 6-5. Every year, however, I leave the Men’s Grill thinking about our wonderful club, my old friends, my new friends and the fun of being on a BIG TEAM -- not the score. For one day any way, I am back in 5th grade playing a backyard team game with my buddies.