Tour de Golf Tours: The Futures Tour (Part II)
Lost Marsh Golf Course in Hammond, Indiana is a modern marvel of civic engineering and land use. Built entirely on a landfill in the industrial corridor southwest of Chicago, the course is truly an oasis in every sense of the word. I get the sense that the course is always kept in good shape, but on this particular week each year, when Lost Marsh hosts the Futures Tour’s City of Hammond Classic, I arrived to find it in impeccable condition.
The fairways were lush, the tees were neatly manicured, and the greens rolled quick and true. Most impressively, given the plot of land to work with, the course routing is surprisingly interesting (and I mean that in a good way). Sure, water comes into play on a lot of holes, but then again water on one hole proves to be a formidable challenge for me.
To cap it all off, work on a majestic new clubhouse was recently completed, resulting in a building that puts most private country clubs to shame in terms of beauty and lively atmosphere. All of this on a parcel of land that would otherwise have gone unused and blighted.
I was at Lost Marsh GC to take part in one of the two ProAms that preceded competitive play in the City of Hammond Classic. And while I expected to be recognized by some people, I never anticipated how warm would be my reception. From Tournament Director Carole Jo Fremouw, to my former colleagues on the Tour’s staff, to many of the talented and charismatic pros that make the Futures Tour the most fan-friendly sports property imaginable, everyone made it a point of stopping by to say hello and check up on me. It was like having about 100 additional sisters for the day, without the requisite battle for time in the family bathroom.
A surprised Aimee Cho greeted me as if I were visiting royalty. Selanee Henderson and I relived our team’s championship run in January’s “Amazing L.A. Race”. And two of Indiana’s favorite golfing daughters – Ashley Prange, a past champion of this event, and newlywed Danah Ford Bordner went out of their way to tell me how much they enjoyed the blog.
I had played previously in a charity golf tournament with Ashley, so she knows quite a bit about my game. Thankfully she didn’t pass along this knowledge to my team’s pro, Mo Martin, or she might have thought seriously about faking a sudden and mysterious disease shortly before play was scheduled to begin.
I’m not the most talented golfer in the world, but what I lack in natural skill I make up for with a practice regimen that includes…OK, well it includes nothing. Or at least nothing that anyone else would identify as “practice”. Take my warm-up routine for today’s tournament:
• 11:15 AM: Arrive at course, turn bag over to course staff to whisk away
• 11:20 AM: Change into golf shoes
• 11:22 AM: Begin socializing
• 12:38 PM: Locate putter, head to practice green to putt
• 12:41 PM: Resume socializing
• 12:56 PM: Remember that I haven’t registered for the ProAm yet and sprint to do so
• 12:59 PM: Begin stretching regimen
• 1:00 PM: Hit first tee shot into lake
We started on the back nine of the tournament course, which brought water into play on the first six holes. I lost eight balls in that stretch – playing a scramble, mind you. Fortunately, the team-based scramble format allowed me to shamelessly piggyback on the contributions of my amateur teammates, Bill Sokolis and Aaron Moore. Bill is the Owner of the women’s professional fastpitch softball team, the Chicago Bandits , and Aaron is the General Manager. They must be doing something right, for the Bandits are two-time defending NPF champions – but somehow they each find the time to play golf enough to look like they know what they’re doing.
And then of course, we had Mo, for whom a “miss” consisted of a ball that varied 0.673 degrees off of its intended line. I feel badly for her. I mean, how much adventure is involved in a golf game that involves only fairways and greens? When almost every putt you look at is for birdie, doesn’t that get old? Hopefully she can take some solace in her two previous tournament championships and current rank inside the top ten on the Tour’s money list.
I’m frankly stumped as to why I can’t get any better at this game. But I’m open to suggestion. And bless her heart, Mo took it upon herself to suggest. After yet another tee shot of mine adopted the classic left-to-left ball flight and landed deep in the marsh, she called time out to show me that I had been lining up with my feet aimed significantly right of where I thought I was aiming. This forced me to swing across my body, causing all kinds of problems. Curiously enough, right after Mo realigned me, I hit a straight, solid tee shot. Coincidence?
I happily told Mo that it was worth losing eight balls in six holes to earn free professional instruction. And if I had it to do over, I would’ve just thrown eight balls into the water on the first tee and moved directly into the lesson.
The weather, as it can do in Midwest summers, took a quick turn for the worse, and we were unfortunately summoned back to the clubhouse having completed only 14 holes. At the time, we were seven shots south of par, prompting us to declare ourselves the ProAm champions. And who could dispute it? Our group included both the Owner and the GM of a professional sports franchise, as well as the Commissioner of the internationally renowned “It’s Game Time Somewhere” Tour. I think that collectively we know how to spot a winner.
Under the category of “They Thought Of Everything”, Carole Jo and her staff had arranged to cap the day off with the excitement that only a tornado warning can provide. What followed was more or less a scavenger hunt for windowless rooms within the spacious clubhouse – the most popular of which was the cart barn, where non-Midwesterners unaccustomed to those types of scenarios huddled. Being the Californian that she is, Mo was the first in line there. Nice girl. Great golfer. Certified Scaredy Cat.
When all was said and done, my takeaway was this: With the Futures Tour you can go home again. And not only will you feel at home, you’ll be able to put your feet on the coffee table AND control the TV remote. But chances are you’ll still be a crappy golfer.