NCGA Golf

Fall 2018

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38 FALL 2018 | NCGA.ORG holes and walks off the last green in posses- sion of the rabbit. Alvarez, who has a rugged and weath- ered face, quietly serves as game's leader and elder statesman. He commands wide- spread respect, partly for his sporting chops: He once was an all-city football and baseball player at Lowell High. Alvarez played in a prep all-star baseball game against future Hall of Famer Joe Morgan at Candlestick Park, and he might have played Division I football except for a busted knee. Before long, he picked up golf and be- came hooked. Alvarez once coped with a torn Achilles tendon by drilling holes in his walking boot and attaching golf spikes, so he could keep playing in the games at Gleneagles. That worked until a rainy day left him with soaking-wet feet. "Joe brings it all down to earth," Hall says. "It doesn't matter who you are, what you are. He treats everyone the same. There's no class distinction out here. Doc- tors and truck drivers all play together." Hall hopped aboard in 1983, never expecting he would still be playing in the game 35 years later. He's attracted by the cost ($37.50 to walk 18 holes on week- ends), convenience (no need to call ahead for the Saturday morning tee time) and camaraderie. "You just roll out of bed, show up and there's a game," Hall said. "Half the time, I'm home by noon." The lead group, which includes the low- est-handicap players, carries a business- like vibe – conceded putts, compliments for good shots, a swift pace. That doesn't stop Hall from good-naturedly chiding Camozzi on No. 3, after he bemoans get- ting greedy when his putt from the fringe zooms 6 feet past the hole. "When are you not greedy?" Hall says, smiling. "You've been greedy on the golf course since the '80s." Some players in the Saturday game, such as Coughenour, also show up for the Wednesday afternoon skins game at Gleneagles. That requires $20 to enter and tends to become a bit more serious, given the stakes. On this particular Saturday, the game ends when Jimenez misses a 5-foot putt on No. 18 (they play the course twice), costing himself $15 but prompting laughs and handshakes from his friends. Each four- some typically plays its own game of Rabbit, within the larger group game, so money is flying every which way. All the players gather in the quaint clubhouse for post-round drinks, where Hall examines the scorecards and doles out $65 to Yeadaker, today's big winner, though he doesn't keep the money for long. Consider what happened when Coughenour, asked about his biggest win- nings at Rabbit, estimated it was $200. Townsend instantly interjects, saying with a chuckle, "Try getting out of the bar with that." Ron Kroichick covers golf for the San Francisco Chronicle. The game of "Rabbit" at Gleneagles is only one example of the ways peo- ple add enjoyment to their golf experience. Take, for instance, the Half Moon Bay Women's Golf Club. This group consists of about 140 members, plays every Tuesday (usually on the Old Course) and finds various creative ways to enliven its 18-hole journey. Tournament director Chris Goethals leans on her background as a pre- school teacher in often adopting weekly themes. One player might be tapped as the reindeer, snowman or gingerbread girl on the scorecard. Or maybe a "ghost" is set up by one green, and each group checks the ghost to see whose score counts on that hole. "It's just different," Goethals says. "There are decorations everywhere, and lunch has a theme." Goethals has been involved for 12 years, but these Tuesday outings started long before she joined. The club typically attracts more than 80 players for its shotgun events (roughly once a month), and anywhere from 20 to 40 for the regular weekly games. One game the women sometimes play is "ABCD," in which the groups are organized by skill levels, with one player from each flight in every foursome. That game is popular because it allows players to meet new people. There's not much betting involved, though the club gives out certificates and sleeves of golf balls to winners in the best-ball competition. As one long- time member, Stacey Baba, put it, the motive really is bragging rights among friends. And much like the men at Gleneagles, the social element is ultimately what keeps the ladies coming back to Half Moon Bay – to catch up and trade friendly banter while playing golf. "We're all getting older," Goethals says. "Why not laugh?" –Ron Kroichick At Half Moon Bay Women's Golf Club, Games as Easy as ABCD Regulars in the Rabbit Game at Gleneagles boast that the safest bet is that money is riding every time a ball is in the air.

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