Hugh Ahlering, 77, and Bob Titzer, 76, have been brothers-in-law, friends and golf rivals for more than 50 years. Both are 17-handicappers who play every week in Evansville, Ind., for 25 cents a hole. Their career record? "It's about even," says Titzer, who has six sons. "I whup him every time," says Ahlering, who has five daughters.
In 1996, Titzer invited his sons and Ahlering later invited his sons-in-law on a golf trip to Crossville, Tenn., the state's "golf capital." There are 10 public courses within a 30-minute radius.
The event became known as the Tennessee Masters, and this year was the 12th gathering. "It's a tradition like some others," wrote Steve Borse, 31, who submitted the itinerary to Golf Digest. The buddies play six rounds in four days. Ages range from 30 to 77, handicaps 5 to 36. They play for a $4 green jacket bought at Goodwill, a 24-inch red-oak trophy and an oversize cardboard check for 16,601 Vietnamese dong, the equivalent of about one U.S. dollar.
I ambushed them in July at Bear Trace at Cumberland Mountain, a Nicklaus course that charges $60 during peak-season weekends. I treated them to balls, hats, drinks and a $400 range finder that they awarded to Borse for his trip-planning efforts.
"This thing really took off when Borse got involved," says Ahlering. Before Borse, there were only 12 players; now there are 16. When Borse joined the group in 2005, he and his mom formed Mother Borse Enterprises. The two designed a Tennessee Masters logo that they stitched to hats and hand-knit headcovers. They also made bag tags and trophies. "I learned how to knit for this trip," Borse says. "But don't write that."
Borse sends out newsletters leading up to the trip. He has computerized the scoring system, and he projects a leader board on a white wall at the end of each day. One suggestion from the tough crowd was to replace the wall with the back end of Frank Ehrensbeck, who was wearing white shorts.
If Ahlering and Titzer are responsible for starting the trip and Borse for managing it efficiently, then Ehrensbeck gets credit for the camaraderie. "I've culled the group. That's what I manage," says Ehrensbeck, one of two Ahlering sons-in-law who still make the trip. "We have five or 10 guys on a waiting list. We're here to have fun. No club-throwers are allowed. But you can't believe how competitive we are for a stinky $4 jacket and some Vietnamese dong."
COURSES: Bear Trace at Cumberland Mountain, Dorchester Country Club, Stonehenge Golf Club (group favorite), Druid Hills Golf Club and Heatherhurst Golf Club (Crag and Brae courses).
LODGING: Bertram Golf Packages reserved tee times and condos at Country Club Villas in Fairfield Glade (www.tennesseegolf.info).
ALL IN: $472 a man for three nights and six rounds.--Matt might ambush you. Submit your buddies-trip itinerary.