PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

The Loop

Olympic Spirit Overtakes Member-Guest

July 11, 2016

With so much bad chat surrounding the big tournament in Rio next month—the withdrawal of top players, Zika, muggings—it’s heartening to see the Olympic spirit starting to grab hold of everyday golfers. This past weekend, one might’ve expected the ordinary at the “skills-challenge” cocktail party that commenced the Country Club of Darien (Conn.) member-guest tournament. But participants arrived to the driving range under the swell of the Olympic anthem playing over loudspeakers and three Olympic-themed contests awaiting their entry.

While I’ve never represented my country as anything other than “America’s Guest,” I must say I felt my spirit bolstered.

The most enticing challenge was a break-the-glass competition in the shape of the Olympic rings. The bottom two rings were empty and the top three each had circular panes of glass you could try to smash from about 70 yards out. Twenty bucks bought three tries. After missing, I promptly peeled out another $20 and struck with my fourth ball. I was lucky. If your personality trends at all toward addictive, the chance to loudly shatter something with a golf ball will expose it. Some will argue a hole-in-one is the most thrilling shot in golf, but there, surprise is the overwhelming sensation. With break-the-glass, there’s visceral satisfaction at having met the anticipation. Itch, scratched. Two—or maybe it was three—stricken individuals purchased veritable jumbo buckets and thus contributed the majority of the pot.

In the video, don’t be fooled by my subdued reaction. The seeming non-chalance is in response to jeers from the crowd about my white pants, loaned to me at the last minute by Golf Digest Style Editor Marty Hackel (a.k.a Mr. Style) after a commuting accident involving a rail passenger’s discarded protein shake ruined my original pair. At this moment, as I bend to retrieve my beverage, I feel 10 feet tall.

Ultimately, I would lose in the rapid-fire finals, but was very happy to see my host, Bob Stelben Jr., prevail and capture the gold medal for “archery.”

For any clubs eager to put their own spin on the Olympics, the “weightlifting” event was a long-drive competition administered by a Trackman launch monitor, and “track and field” was a putting course that circumscribed the perimeter of a crowned green. Hats off to head professional Cory Muller and his staff for creative thinking in the run-up to The Games. If the IOC had adopted this format instead of 72 holes of strokeplay, perhaps McIlroy, Johnson and Day might still be in for Rio.