October 15, 2004
There are some distinct categories of golfers at golf courses like Shawnee Country Club.
There are the weekend players, who show up on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but who don’t often play during the week.
The ladies meet each other on Thursday mornings.
Then there are the Ball Tossers, who show up Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings all year round.
This week I took some vacation time and played a couple rounds with the Tossers to see why they’re so devoted to their time together.
The group earned its name because originally that’s how they formed their teams for each day’s friendly competition. With between 24 and 40 golfers competing in each round, however, that method was soon replaced by a pack of cards.
After each round’s sign-up with Dave Adams or Milton resident Jim McLamb, most of a deck is spread out face down on a table. As players pick cards, those holding the aces are put together, along with the kings, queens, jacks, and so forth. Depending on the number of players, the teams are set in threesomes or foursomes.
Each golfer has to score points, with bogeys counting for 1, pars for 2, and birdies for 4. There are no minus points, so many Tossers pick up after they’ve gone past double-bogey on a given hole. I’m an 18-handicapper right now, so I had to make 18 points. On the other hand, because I haven’t played at least ten rounds, I was limited to an official score of up to 21 points. That rule tends to diminish the risk that some sandbagger will come in and ruin a given round.
Once a Tosser has at least 10 rounds in the detailed playing records Adams keeps, his required points are based on the most recent 10-round average point total. For example, Steve Jebo of Broadkill Beach carries a 14, but he said that his point requirements with the Tossers are a bit higher.
Each team score is based on how much below or above the required score totals each player achieves during the round. For example, our combined team total on Wednesday was -2, meaning that our threesome missed “making our points” by that amount.
Tee-offs begin at 9 a.m. from the first and tenth tees on Wednesdays and Fridays, and at 10 a.m. on Mondays. When the rounds are completed, Adams and McLamb review all the scores, collect the $2 per player, declare the winners, and distribute the prizes. In the winter when there might be fewer than 20 players, only one winning team is announced. When there are 30 or more players, however, the “winnings” are split among three teams.
Jebo says he enjoys the experience because “It’s team golf. Every week you’re with a different team, and the teams are determined by the luck of the draw. Since there are only positive points to be scored, you end up rooting for each other. You also see a wide range of ages among the players. We have a young police officer who comes to a lot of these depending on his schedule, and there are guys in their 80s. And it’s only two bucks. Of course, the real action is the side betting,” he laughed.
Curt Rayner plays with the Tossers in the spring and fall, when he’s not so busy with his E.C. Shades business in Rehoboth. “I like playing with the guys. There’s a lot of horsing around, and nothing’s real serious.”
Lewes resident George Elliott looked at his friend Roland Marshall and said, “It’s a place where even left-handers can compete.” Marshall just smiled.
Head golf pro Devon Peterson said, “It’s a good group. Their matches are a great way for new members to get to know the long-time members. It’s mostly retirees and seniors, and since they play a modified Stableford system, that really takes the pressure off. They have a lot of fun together.”