Updated: Jun 1, 2020
We were due. It’d been too long since we had a match. So long in fact, I’m not even sure who needed revenge for the last time we played. We just knew that we needed to make it happen.
We set it up over the weekend and set the date for Tuesday. But when Tuesday morning rolled around, we still weren’t sure where we’d be teeing it up later that evening. There were a couple issues: 1) there aren’t a ton of golf courses between Abilene and Wichita, especially ones that we haven’t played a few times already, and 2) men’s leagues. We talked through the options but weren’t super excited about playing a course for the umpteenth time, or getting booted off the course to make way for a men’s league teeing off when we were twelve holes in.
We found one option that we hadn’t played yet, but again, the threat of getting kicked off the course for men’s league was pretty real. By that point, we had enough and said the hell with it: we were going to play Wedgewood Golf Course outside Halstead and hoped to hell they would let a couple out-of-towners crash their league party.
I got there first and the parking lot was already fairly full. I was greeted by a very nice woman in the clubhouse and told her my friend and I were wanting play. She informed me that the trucks in the lot belonged to other golf course superintendents but they’d be gone by the time league started. She also said we could join their league for the night. There was a catch though: their credit card machine was down and they were only taking cash.
When my buddy arrived, we loaded up and headed into town to grab some cash. Two Gatorades, a few stories with the pleasant cashier at the local convenient store, and sixty dollars cash later, we were on our way back to the course. The supers were just finishing their afternoon round so we basically had the entire course to ourselves. We stepped up to the first tee and let it fly.
First off, the course was in immaculate condition. Found out later that the super, Sam, spent a few years working at Prairie Dunes. From the looks of the place, he learned quite a few things from the famous course down the road. Sam had this place tuned up: the fairways were lush, the greens were fast with some of the gnarliest slopes I’ve seen on a small-town course. Sam was a younger guy; probably the only other person there apart from the two of us on the southern side of age forty-five we'd see all evening. He seemed a little guarded at first; two out-of-towners, asking questions about his course, and buzzing the clubhouse with their drone. It took a little conversation but found out he was a historian (like me!) and played college golf at Sterling. He broke into the golf business while student teaching but decided to give up the classroom for a life caring for beautiful places like Wedgewood. Can’t say I blame him there.
Secondly, while the course isn’t long, don’t let it fool you. This place has some tricks up its sleeve. On the long par four number second hole, it’s the south wind and an elevated green with one of the steepest false fronts I’ve ever seen. On the short par four fifth, it’s the hole running straight up a hill to the highest point on the course. On the par four seventh, it’s the dogleg that is split by a huge water hazard that leaves you scratching your head on the tee. There are some straight forward holes sure, but don’t let your guard down. Believe me, I know.
I won’t go into too much detail on our first nine holes, when we had the course to ourselves, other than I won fairly comfortably, despite going five over on the last three holes to finish with a three over 38. You do the math. #stripeshow
We didn’t have enough time to get another nine in before the league started but did have enough time to spin the drone up in the air and get some great shots of this unique Kansas setting.
We chatted up some of the locals as they arrived. I’m sure they were wondering what these two dudes were even doing at their little oasis among the milo and corn fields. They were all super nice and welcoming. Several made it a point to come over and talk to us directly and made me feel like they really appreciated seeing some new faces. There were enough players to have four three-person scramble teams with one team of four. We drew for teams and, as luck would have it, my friend and I were split up.
I was paired with a couple great guys, Dennis and Dane. Not sure what their ages are, but both had me by a few trips around the sun.
Dennis was kind enough to let me hitch a ride in his rig. The fading of his Nebraska Cornhusker golf bag told me it’s been on the back of that cart for several thousand rounds. He had a stick with a suction cup on the end mounted on his cart. It was covered in Jayhawk stickers and helped him pick his ball up without having to bend over in the cart. I pointed out the fact that his college sports fandom was all over the place but he was missing something very important: a purple Wildcat. Dennis didn't seem too amused with that idea but laughed it off. He moved the cigarette ash tray in the cup holder and threw it in the bin behind the seats to give me a spot for my beer. Dennis didn’t walk too fast but moved with purpose; no wasted motion. His salmon colored shirt and red golf glove told me he had a little swag too.
Dennis was retired from a manufacturing plant just down the road. He lived about twenty miles from the course and drove by at least one pretty good course just to get here. He said he liked Wedgewood better and it was cheaper to be a member here. When I asked him when he started playing golf, he said he couldn’t remember but didn’t really pick it up until his kids were older. Said he was always too busy hunting and fishing growing up to give a damn about golf. He lamented that the course cut down two trees along the pond on hole number seven. Those were his favorite trees to fish under, at least before the fish kill last year and all the rain they got through this spring and summer.
Dennis played a low cut, bordering on a slice at times, but played it well. He knew what he was doing. He told me he aims for the cart paths in order to keep up with some of the younger players out there. He didn’t hit paths on this night but I fully embrace his bold strategy. Get any and every edge you can get, my man. We chatted it up through a tough bogey on our first hole, followed by two pars, but didn’t really hit our stride until we birdied the fourth. That seemed to loosen him up a bit and by the time we reached the next fairway, Dennis broke out the jokes. That’s when I knew he was getting comfortable.
Dane was still working and said he was a regional sales manager. He was tall and slender with an athletic build. He told me he plays most of the time up the road at Sand Creek Station in Newton. It showed. He hit some towering drives and had great touch around the green, including chipping in for eagle on our eighth hole. He said he was going to hurt himself trying to out-drive me after I hit a bomb on the fifth tee. His ball ended up about eight yards short of mine on the same line. He could have done it if he wanted to. He out-drove me on the next two holes. Dane showed me the line to take on hole number seven instead of laying up short of the pond. Needed that type of local knowledge when I rolled through there at two under earlier in the evening and my score went all to hell.
I called “bullshit” when Dane said that he knew my hometown of Isabel. He said life as a salesman in one job or another took him there, probably more than once. I called “bullshit” on him again on our ninth hole when he said he was “due” for a birdie. Guess he forgot about his miraculous chip-in eagle on the previous hole… Dude had some game and I was glad he was on my team.
The jokes kept coming, we told some lies, we laughed a lot. We hit some great shots, and a few shitty ones too, as we high-fived our way through nine holes in just over an hour with a three under 32. Not great, and we certainly had our chances, but Dennis and Dane both felt pretty good about it. They both figured we’d be in the money. I wasn’t sure I believed them but honestly, it didn’t matter. The real prize was getting to be out there; playing an entirely new course, with entirely new people and enjoying every damn second of it.
When the scores were tallied at the rustic clubhouse, my squad ended up in a tie for first. We claimed the first-place prize of $13.25 per player (actually think it was $40 split three ways; they didn’t bother being too exact on the change) on a scorecard playoff with a birdie on hole number seven, my nemesis from the first nine a couple hours earlier. My friend’s team won third. We both turned our winnings back in to the course and they put it in the jar on the counter with a taped-on label that read “Wedgewood Senior League Scholarship Fund.”
A few handshakes and business cards later, we were both back in our vehicles, driving the dirt roads that took us back to pavement and our real lives as darkness took hold over Harvey County.
That was it. What started out as an opportunity for the two of us to stoke the competitive fire we both posses ended up being something completely different. It was new and strange. But also, a shitload of fun. Hope those guys enjoyed having us as much as we appreciated being there and their acceptance in letting us be a part of their little group, even if it was just for one night.
Look up the nice woman at the clubhouse, Sam, Dennis, Dane, or any of the other dozen folks there that night, when you’re rolling through that part of the state. Wedgewood is worth it, not only for great nine-hole course they have, but because of the people there. Just make sure you let us know when you go. We might just join you…
Glad you're here. - tMP