Golfer’s Diary: Walking in my grandfather’s footsteps

OBSERVER Photo by Stefan Gestwicki. Shorewood Country Club offers a ‘member-for-a-day’ program to try out their beautiful course in Dunkirk.

I always enjoy golf. That’s no secret. I can find the silver lining in any course under just about any conditions. But when I get to play an absolutely pristine course in picture perfect weather conditions, well, that’s something special.

That was my situation this past week when I had the pleasure of teeing it up at Shorewood Country Club in Dunkirk. It’s a course where my grandfather used to play. In fact, sitting right next to me while I write this article is his trophy from winning the 1966 H.K. Williams Memorial Tournament at Shorewood. Unfortunately, my grandfather died the same year I was born, so I never got to know him. I do know, however, that it sure makes my mom happy that I inherited his love of both golf and the Pittsburgh Pirates. So for obvious reasons, playing at Shorewood is always an extra special experience for me.

Last year, Shorewood got a new PGA golf professional — Rich Conwell, who brings plenty of experience to the position.

“I was born and raised in Pittsburgh,” Conwell noted. “I was the head professional at a facility in Western Pennsylvania. Then I spent some time outside of Columbus, Ohio as the general manager of a private facility there.”

For the second time in a week, I was able to play with my good friend Ryan. He made big strides in his game the last time we were out and I was excited to see if the success carried over.

If the entire round went as well as the first hole, we probably would have quit golf forever. It was bad, folks. I pulled my drive into the trees on the left. Ryan sliced his drive into a tree on the right. My punch shot almost got out, but clipped a tree and fell straight down. Ryan rolled his second shot maybe 20 feet. I bladed my third shot over the green. Ryan came up short of the green on his attempt. When we finally did reach the green, we both had three-putts. It was just ugly golf all around.

Thankfully, we did turn it around by the second hole. We both had good drives and were able to get on a little bit of a roll. I continued to miss par putt after par putt for several holes, but tap-in bogeys aren’t the worst thing in the world on a course as difficult as Shorewood.

No. 6 gave us our first true highlight of the round, which was fitting as Conwell had just named this hole as one of Shorewood’s signature holes before we started the round. It’s an extremely short par 3 — a mere 130 yards on paper. The hole is anything but easy, however. The green is perhaps the smallest I’ve ever seen and it’s surrounded by sand traps. Neither Ryan nor I actually hit the green, but both of us had gorgeous looking tee shots that landed side by side just off the green. My chip stopped within a few feet of the pin and led to par. Ryan had to two-putt for bogey, but writing a ‘3’ and a ‘4’ on the scorecard was a whole lot better than the ‘7’ and ‘8’ we had on No. 1.

The most memorable moment of the round was unquestionably on No. 9, which is a nearly 500-yard par 5 to close out the front half. My drive was stellar — a bomb down the center of the fairway. My hybrid was absolutely crushed, too, but unfortunately, I pulled it just a little into the trees off to the left. When we got up to the ball, I was happy to see it was just about pin height and I had a view of the flag. I was anything but pleased, however, about the two trees that gave me about a four-foot-wide opening to get to said flag. I believe my exact quote was, “I just have to get lucky. I’d never claim I’m skilled enough to make this shot.” The ensuing shot split the trees perfectly and rolled up on the green, passing the cup by maybe an inch and stopping two feet from the pin. I guess I got lucky. Closing out the front nine with a birdie was simply awesome. It doesn’t seem like birdies should be that rare, but they are.

I wasn’t unhappy with shooting a 45 on the front nine, especially considering I was six-over par after just three holes. That means over the final six holes I was only three-over par. I always tell people that I’m a bogey golfer and that’s exactly what I was at.

The back nine didn’t go quite as well. It started off with a strings of bogeys, but the wheels fell off a bit towards the end. I really don’t play 18 holes very often and I tend to tire out. I could especially feel it with my driver. I just didn’t have the same explosive swing as I normally do. It was a lazier swing that led to a slice. I knew it was happening and still couldn’t fix it. The tank was on empty.

Ryan had the highlight of the back nine for us. It came on No. 17, which is the par 3 that runs parallel to Route 5. If you’ve ever driven past Shorewood, this is one of the holes you saw. After I came up short and a little right, Ryan crushed his iron and put his ball right in the middle of the green. It was the best shot I’ve ever seen him make and it came at a time when we were both starting to get a little frustrated by poor play. We really needed one of those high-five moments. We won’t talk about what happened next, but let’s just say three-putts are the devil.

I’m not going to mince words here: Shorewood is gorgeous. The greens, the fairways, the rough, the sand, the water, the trees — it’s just a beautiful course. It was such a treat playing there. It’s not impossible for the public to play there, either.

“We have a member-for-a-day program,” Conwell explained. “If people do want to come play, just give me a call and we’ll set something up. Of course, we do have different membership offers. It’s easier if we get them on the property and show them everything we have to offer.”

Next year will be the 100th year of Shorewood Country Club at the current location. Last year was technically the 100th year of Shorewood, but it wasn’t always located on the lake. If you want to be part of history, I can think of no better time to jump in than a centennial anniversary.

Until next time, golf is great. Go get some.