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CSGA Members Take on Scotland

As part of a unique partnership with Sullivan Golf and Travel, sixteen CSGA members are traveling to Scotland April 24th – May 2nd to take on some of the world’s most famous courses, culminating wiith a round at the Old Course at St. Andrews. Brent Paladino, Director of Competitons and Communcations for the CSGA, will be posting a daily blog and pictures documenting this exciting once-in-a-lifetime trip.



Friday, May 1st

When the concept of a CSGA member trip to Scotland was first proposed, there isn’t much doubt that the Old Course at St. Andrews was the marquee attraction. Having grown up playing and watching golf for most of my life, there is a certain allure that comes with St. Andrews, the “Home of Golf”. The history and tradition that surrounds the Old Course is something that can’t be built – it is acquired through hundreds of years of storied championships being played on the hollowed grounds where the game first started.

First, a little bit of history about the Old Course. It is a public course held over common land in the city of St. Andrews. There are, in fact, six eighteen courses plus a par-three course on the property, and for residents of the town, it costs a mere 200 pounds to be a member of all seven courses. The Old Course at St Andrews is considered by many to be the “home of golf” because the sport was first played on the Links at St Andrews in the early 1400’s.  In 1754, twenty-two noblemen, professors, and landowners founded the Society of St Andrews Golfers, and this society would eventually become the precursor to the Royal and Ancient which is the governing body for golf everywhere outside of the United States and Mexico. The course evolved without the help of any one architect for many years; however, the more significant people to its design were Daw Anderson in the 1850s and Old Tom Morris (1865–1903) who designed the 1st and 18th holes. Originally, it was played over the same set of fairways out and back to the same holes. As interest in the game increased, groups of golfers would often be playing the same hole, but going in different directions.

One of the unique features of the Old Course are the large double greens. Seven greens are shared by two holes each, with hole numbers adding up to 18 (2nd paired with 16th, 3rd with 15th, all the way up to 8th and 10th), and only the 1st, 9th, 17th and 18th holes have their own greens. Another unique feature is that the course can be played in either direction, clockwise or anti-clockwise. Along with that, the Old Course has 112 bunkers which are all individually named and have their own unique story and history behind them. The two most famous are the 10-foot deep “Hell Bunker” on the par-5 14th hole, and the “Road Hole Bunker” on the par-4 17th hole. The Swilcan Bridge, spanning the first and 18th holes, has become a famous icon for golf in the world. Everyone who plays the 18th hole walks over this seven-hundred year old bridge, and many iconic pictures of the farewells of the most iconic golfers in history have been taken place on this bridge. The Old Course has hosted a total of twenty-eight Open Championships, the most of any course, and will host its twenty-ninth this July.

If you’ve had a chance to read my previous posts, it’s no secret that the weather was a significant factor every day, with high winds, chilly conditions, and even hail. But fortunately, we saved the best for last. For our 1:10pm tee time, we were greeted with sunshine, light winds and near 50* temperatures, a near perfect day given what we had experienced all week.

Today also marked the conclusion of the 1st Scottish Cup, an inter squad three-day team competition between our group. Heading into the final round, Gene Fappiano of Crestbrook Park GC and Jack Macauley of Redding CC held a narrow two shot lead over two other teams. Answering the call, they teamed up shot a blistering nine-under 63 on the Old Course for an eight shot victory. Their score of 63 was the lowest team score recorded over the three rounds, and was the low score on Friday by four shots! Below are the full results from:

1st )    Gene Fappiano / Jack Macauley – 67-65-63–195
2nd )    Bill Cosgrove / Kevin Murray – 65-69-69–203
3rd )    Charlie Cicchetti / Mike Goodwin – 68-67-69–204
T-4th ) Charles Lasher / Pete Kecher – 74-69-68–211
T-4th ) Stan McFarland / Brian Debroff – 74-70-67–211
6th )    Gregg Tortora / Seb Lanteri – 72-70-73–215
7th )    Jay Smith / Bill Begina – 70-76-71–217
8th )    Brent Paladino /  John Romanow – 74-78-69—221

Needless to say, it was an amazing trip filled with once-in-a-lifetime memories! Hopefully everyone has enjoyed the collection of photos and stories, and it was a true pleasure to be a part of such a great group of avid golfers. Now it’s time to take a quick hop back across the pond and get ready for the first CSGA championship of the season, the Two Man Team Championship at Black Hall Club on Monday. Thanks to everyone for reading!


Thursday, April 30th

Many of the locals refer to Kingsbarns as the “Pebble Beach of Scotland” and it’s easy to see why! The course is laid out in the old town of Kingsbarn just north of Saint Andrews, and has roots that date back to 1793. A nine-hole course played over the current property, but was commandeered by the military for World War II and disappeared until American architect Kyle Phillips came along at the close of the 20th century. The course opened in July, 2000 and is annually ranked as a top 100 golf course in the world.

The wind was blowing a steady 20-25 mph throughout the day, which made our 9:10am tee time a bit chilly in the morning. But by the back nine, the sun was out and it was by far the warmest we’ve been since our arrival in Scotland. Of course, we couldn’t make it through the round without a brief hailstorm on the 8th tee…as they say, you get all four seasons in one round here!

We played the course from around 6,400 yards, which played quite a bit longer given the wind, but the nice thing about this course (other than the views) is that there is always a place to miss. Most of the tee shots border another hole, and the fescue is pretty light. A wayward tee shot on the safe side of the hole will likely just be in the rough, making it easy to navigate and avoid losing a ton of golf balls. The greens were the fastest we’ve played so far, and also the most severe with several tiers and valleys on many holes.

An interesting aside, the course annually hosts the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship (along with Caroustie and St. Andrews), and will host the 2017 Women’s British Open. But even more impressive, Peter Uihlein (formally of Massachusetts and now a European Tour player) holds the course record with a round of 60!

Today also marked the second day of our three day, inter-squad competition, appropriately nicknamed “The Scottish Cup”. Teams were drawn based on high/low handicap, and the competition is a Net Better Ball of Partners over the three days. Gene Fappiano of Crestbrook Park GC and Jack Macualey of Redding CC fired a seven under-par 65 today in brutally difficult conditions to jump out to a two-stroke lead heading into the final round.

1) Fappiano / Macauley – 67-65–132
2) Cosgrove / Murray – 65-69–134
3) Cicchetti / Goodwin – 68-67–135
4) Tortora / Lanteri – 72-70–142
5) Lasher / Kecher – 74-69–143
6) McFarland / Debroff – 74-70–144
7) Smith / Begina – 70-76–146
8) Paladino / Romanow – 74-78–152

Tomorrow is the day the entire group has been waiting for since the trip was finalized back in November – a chance to play the Old Course and walk the historic fairways of unquestionably the world’s most famous course. The weather is looking dry, a bit chilly at around 48* but the wind looks relatively light. Based on our streak of seeing hail for five straight days at some point, a dry round will be a much welcomed change!

Wednesday, April 29th

After a three hour driver across the beautiful Scottish countryside, we arrive in the “Home of Golf”, the famed town of Saint Andrews on the east coast of Fife. It’s hard to describe the atmosphere around St. Andrews, but with a mere 16,000 residents, the town is truly centered around all-things golf. Casual spectators frequently gather around the 18th green to see groups finish, and there isn’t a store or pub that doesn’t have golf paraphernalia in it.

Situated adjacent to the New Course (in fact, many of the holes border the outgoing nine), the New Course at St. Andrews is far from new. In fact, the locals refer to it as the oldest “new” course in the world. Built by the Keeper of the Green Tom Morris in 1985, it was the second course at St. Andrews and was built and paid for by the R&A after visitors began to flock via the trains to the Old Course. In exchange for building the New Course, the R&A received a number of allocated tee times each day, the rights of which are still enclosed in an Act of Parliament passed in 1894.

The course was very different from the course we played the first three days, and has many of the same characteristics of the Old Course – double greens, shared fairways, rolling terrain and of course, deep pot bunkers. There are a plethora of great holes, including the difficult par-4 10th hole which measures a stout 464 yards lined with gorse on both sides of the fairway. The tee shot, which overlooks the water, is a semi-blind one over an aiming post, and the multi-tiered green tucked away behind sloping hills.

Tomorrow’s round takes us to Kingsbarns Golf Links, another course ranked inside the top 100 golf courses in the world and is by far the newest of the courses we have played, although golf at the property dates back to 1793. A nine-hole course played over the current property, but was commandeered by the military for World War II and disappeared until American architect Kyle Phillips came along at the close of the 20th century. The course opened in July, 2000 and is annually a co-host of the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship. One of the many delights of Kingsbarns is that you can see the North Sea from virtually every part of the course. Weather pending, there will be plenty of great photo opportunities.

And last but not least, our accommodations at the Rusacks Hotel sit a mere 100 yards from the 18th green at St. Andrews! Needless to say, it’s a true pleasure and honor for our group to be in the heart of a place with so much history and tradition! 

Tuesday, April 28th

Today marked the groups final day on the west coast and our travels brought us to Prestwick Golf Club, certainly one of the most famous golf courses in the world. Not unlike our days before, we awoke to the sound of rain and wind pelting the windows, and a snow squall on the way to the course. After it was decided that we wait thirty minutes to see if the weather improved, the skies parted ways and we were able to play our round unimpeded by rain. However, that didn’t stop the wind from blowing the hardest it has over the past four days, which made navigating around the narrow and difficult Prestwick Golf Club even more challenging.

A little history about Prestwick Golf Club – it was formally organized in 1851 and the original twelve hole course was designed by famed Old Tom Morris. The original course measured 3,799 yards, with 578 of those yards on the first hole. Old Tom Morris was also the club’s “Keeper of the Green, Ball and Club Maker” from 1851 to 1864. Prestwick was also the initial originator and sponsor of the Open Championship which was first held in October 1860. The course hosted the first twelve Open Championship’s – three trips around the twelve-hole course to complete a 36-hole championship. Prestwick was expanded to 18 holes in 1882 and remained in the Open rotation until 1925, hosting the championship 24 times in all (second only to the Old Course at St. Andrews). 

The course sprawls a fairly large area of sandhills and dunes flanked by the Irish Sea on the western boundary, but many greens and tees are within close proximity to one another. In the last Open Championship there in 1925, over 20,000 spectators flocked to the course and crowd control became such an issue that it affected the outcome of the championship. There were too few marshalls to handle the large amount of people, and thus many players’ balls deflected off spectators who were situated around the green.

One of Prestwick’s unique features is the quality and variety of the holes throughout the course. The first hole is one of the more intimidating holes I’ve ever played, a par-4 called “Railway”. The railroad tracks run all the way down the right hand side, with the out of bounds wall no more than two feet off the fairway. Needless to say, the majority of our group elected to hit a hybrid or driver instead of a long iron! The par-5 third hole is famous for its deep, cavernous bunker (The Cardinal Bunker) that it proper up by railway ties, which bisects the hole at 300 yards. The fifth hole is a blind par-3 called “Himalayas”, which requires your tee shot to carry over a massive sand dune to a green that sits well below. 

And last but not least, the par-4 seventeenth hole, nicknamed Alps, requires a player to play to the fairway and then hit a blind approach shot over a thirty-foot dune (The Alps) to a green that is guarded by a seven-foot deep bunker in front of the green (The Sahara Bunker). The hole so impressed famed designed C.B. Macdonald that he  incorporated it as a template hole into some of his best designs, including National Golf Links of America.

Tomorrow we head off to the Royal and Ancient Club of St. Andrews, where we will play the New Course Wednesday, Kingsbarn Golf Club Thursday, and culminate with the Old Course on Friday. It will also mark the start of the “Scottish Cup”, a three day, inter-squad competition…more details to come!

Monday, April 27th

After taking on the brutal challenge that is Royal Troon Golf Club, day three of the trip is in the books! Much like the first two days, the wind played a dominant factor, gusting a steady 25-30mph off the water. However, despite the forecast calling for heavy rain, we made it all the way to the 18th tee before it started to rain….and of course by rain, I mean hail. After all, a trip to Scotland wouldn’t be complete without experiencing all four seasons!

Royal Troon Golf Club is set to host the Open Championship in 2016, which will mark the ninth Open Championship played at this historic course, and it was a true privilege to play. The club was founded in 1878, initially with five holes, and was redesigned by William Fernie (Winner of the 1883 Open Championship). The last championship played at Troon was in 2004, won by Todd Hamilton, and at the time the course played at 7,175 yards. The course has since been lengthened another 33 yards, and will play to a staggering 7,208 yards for the 2016 Open Championship.

In my previous posts, I failed to mention the esteemed players in our sixteen person group. They are:

Bill Begina, New Haven Country Club

Chuck Lasher, PGA Professional

Charlie Cicchetti, Crestbrook Park Golf Course

Jack Macauley, Redding Country Club

Bill Cosgrove, Manchester Country Club

Stan McFarland, Manchester Country Club

Brian Debroff, New Haven Country Club

Kevin Murray, Manchester Country Club

Gene Fappiano, Western Hill Country Club

Brent Paladino, New Haven Country Club

Mike Goodwin, Elmridge Country Club

John Romanow, New Haven Country Club

Pete Kecher, Candlewood Valley Country Club

Jay Smith, Manchester Country Club

Seb Lanteri, Farmington Woods Country Club

Gregg Tortora, Candlewood Valley Country Club

A couple of interesting stories we learned today from our caddies:

In the 1982 Open Championship at Royal Troon, Bobby Clampett was 11 under-par after two rounds, and heading into the par-5 sixth hole, he had a six shot lead. After hitting his tee shot into one of the many fairway pot bunkers lining the fairway, he tried to hit a five iron out, unsuccessfully of course. After a few more tries, he went on to take a 9 on the hole, dropping back to 7 under-par and a four-shot lead. From then on, he never recovered, shooting 78-77 on the weekend to finish in a tie for 10th. As our caddie noted, this was the hole he went from a good golfer to a great announcer.

The par-4 11th measures 482 yards from the back tees, with out of bounds (train tracks) lining the right side and heavy gorse lining the left side. Both continue up to the green, where the out of bounds abuts the fringe by no more than five yards. Throw a 30+ mph crosswind in, and it becomes one of the hardest holes I’ve ever seen. Jack Nicklaus recorded an eleven on the hole in his first Open Championship in 1962 

The 8th hole at Royal Troon is famously known at the “Postage Stamp”. A mere 123 yards from the tips, the hole plays slightly downhill to a green carved out of sandhills on the left and severely sloping on the front, right and back. It was Willie Park Jr, winner of the Open in 1889 and designed of many famous courses including New Haven Country Club, Shuttle Meadow Country Club and Shorehaven Golf Club, who said of the reconstructed 8th in 1909 that it had “a pitching surface skimmed down to the size of a postage stamp”, and so it has been called ever since.

Tomorrow, we are off to play Prestwick Golf Club, the initial sponsor and host of the first three Open Championships. The club was formally organized in 1851 as a 12-hole course, and hosted the Open twelve times from 1860 to 1881. 

Sunday, April 26th

The second day at Trump Turnberry, is complete! Having not personally played Pebble Beach, I can’t speak to this fact, but several of the players on our trip said that the Ailsa course was miles above it. It might sounds like a cliche, but the pictures really don’t do it justice. Every hole is a unique picture, with the ocean and lighthouse on one side, and the scenic Scottish countryside and Turnberry Hotel on the other.

Only two of the sixteen players have been to Scotland before, so heading into the trip, there was much anticipation and mental preparation for the conditions, particularly the wind. After today, I think it’s fair to say no amount of mental preparation could have equipped you for what we faced today. To give you a slgith taste, the weather for the day looked like the following:

8:00am (wake-up): 35* and snow/wind
9:30am (warm-up): 46* and bright sunshine
11:00am (tee off time): 41* and hail
12:00pm (Hole #4): 45*, cloudy and 30mph winds
12:15pm (Hole #5): 40*, rain and 35mph winds
12:50pm (Hole #8): 48*, sunny and 15mph winds
1:30pm (Hole #9): 38*, rain and 30mph winds
2:00pm (Hole #13): 45*, sunny and 25mph winds
3:45pm (Hole #18): 48*, partly sunny and 35mph winds

Being so close to the water, the change in the weather happens almost instantly. We were standing on the 9th tee in bright sunshine, and by the time we got to the 9th green, we were fighting through sideways freezing rain. Truly amazing to say the least! No question the big story of the day was the pure difficulty of the course. With the wind blowing so hard, even a slightly wayward shot was heavily penalized, and as one of the players in our group described, the bunkers looked like “black holes with no bottom”.

We also got to see the site of Tom Watson’s famous “Duel in the Sun” where he emerged victorious by a single stroke over Jack Nicklaus in 1977, and perhaps even more famously, the site of his near miss in 2009. If you recall, Watson hit it over the green on the 18th needing par to win the Open Championship at 59 years of age. After failing to get up-and-down, he eventually lost in a four-hole playoff to Stewart Cink. Today, the 18th played downwind and with the green only being 25 paces deep and a deep pot bunker in front, it’s easy to see how he could hit it over. 

Tomorrow should be another interesting day as we pack up and head to Royal Troon Golf Club, site of the 2016 Open Championship. The weather forecast calls for lots of wind and some rain, but we are starting to learn that that’s the forecast every day!

Saturday, April 25th

In what feels like one long day sretched over 36 hours, the 2015 CSGA Member Trip has finally arrived In Scotland. Our travels took us on a seven hour overnight flight from Newark to Glasgow, where we were greeted by Cathal O’Sullivan of Sulilivan Golf & Travel. For those that are wondering, everyone made the flight and all of our clubs and luggage safely arrived, so we are already off to a great start! After an hour bus ride south, we arrived at Turnberry Resort for the first leg of our trip, where we took on the Kintyre course at Trump Turnberry, the secondary course to the famous Ailsa Course (site of four Birtish Open Championships, most recently in 2000). 

When we arrived in Glasgow this morning, it was what I would call a typical Scottish day – cool, rainy and windy, Not exactly ideal golfing conditions to say the least. However, by the time our 12:30pm tee time rolled around, we were greeted with 50* and sunny skies! Of course, the wind was what our caddie Jimmy deemed a “light breeze”, meaning a steady 20-25mph. Smiles were abound when the first tee shot was struck under the shinig sun, even despite the lack of sleep.

The Kintyre Course at Turnberry shares a unique history that dates back to its founding in 1909. However, a landing strip used to train pilots for World War II was built across the old course, the remnants of which still exist today, and it wasn’t until 2001 when Donald Steel rebuilt the course based on old aeriel photography. The course presents quite a unique challenge, with fairways lined with thick gorse and a plethora of pot bunkers awaiting a wayward shot. Needless to say, with the wind and little sleep, our golf balls found plenty of both.

Tomorrow’s round at the Ailsa Course at Turnberry kicks off our rotation of previous Open Chamionship venues. The Alisa course features a grueling par-70, 7,211 yard test, although its a fair assumption we will all be “teeing it forward”! The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and a high of 50*, albeit with a blustery Scottish wind of 25-30 mph. Looking forward to a great test and more spectacular photos!