FYI: This picture should be currently hanging proudly in our Applebee’s. Might schedule another outing this year just to confirm.
Friday night was a relatively quiet evening by tKO standards, the miserable conditions had taken their toll on most of the field by then. Perhaps a blessing in disguise, because there was a lot on the line for a lot of people and everyone needed to be a full strength for Championship Saturday.
White James had slept on leads many times before and only had one RDGC to show for it. Adding a second star to his cardigan would forever end the talk of a one hit wonder and firmly place him among tKO’s elite. Ever since tearing his Achilles before tKOVIII and winning the DFL at tKOIX, Shane has been on a mission. I hate to take credit for this, but I wore my Bixler Blazer to Kevin’s wedding (reception only, because my wife shut me down) and I could see it was going to inspire great things from Kevin. Now was the time to turn dreams into reality.
On the other end of the spectrum, Sutton admitted slept horribly, was the fear of having to introduce his new daughter to a new tetanus infested toy too much? I was terrified to see Pete, the most influential tKO-er in years, on Saturday morning. No one has brought more to tKO than Pete, and to be paid back with the DFL? Too much for one soul to bear. Thankfully when I saw him in the breakfast bar, he confidently said “I’m winning my fucking flight”.
You could cut the tension with a knife as the vans pulled into the Best Western on Saturday morning. The Board was hopefully optimistic looking at the forecast, the chance of rain had dropped slightly, but so had the temps. It was going to be another battle out there. But winning rings isn’t for the faint of heart.
For White James, this was his victory lap. A front nine 44 was more than enough to lock up his second RDGC Cup. He’d follow that up with a back nine 48, but by then the championship was mere semantics. His seven stroke victory would have been a tKO record if not for his vengeance filled fifteen stroke win back in tKOV. While it’s only his second title, this is just proof that when White James is on his game, he’s in a class of his own. Unless he tears an Achilles, from here on out White James is your RDGC favorite. Another six year gap between championships will only be seen as apathy and disrespect for the ring, White James. You’ve raised the bar, now it’s time to go higher. I’m looking forward to your speech at Applebee’s next year.
Pete’s front nine -1 not only took the DFL red dot off his forehead, it also basically wrapped up his flight (his second), just as he called it, and most importantly gave us a glimpse of the potential I was expecting to see all tournament long. While Sutton’s poor play improved slightly, he was still in last with 9 holes to play. However, he was quickly being joined by a Lloyd and a rudderless Keith who was the midst a Danny-induced freefall. Back to back net birdies on 11 and 12 kept Sutton safe, in his words “those are tough holes and I saw a blood bath all around me”. Truer words have never been spoken. Unfortunately, it was the blood of one man. Keith set some unfortunate records at tKO. Records I can’t see being broken anytime soon. A back nine 80, en route to a 149, are both numbers that will likely stand the test of time. I think it’s safe to say reaching back 20 years to find the strength blast out those opening notes took its toll on Keith, as a final round collapse led to another DFL, but the sacrifice he made was well worth it. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, Keith. In my eyes, you’ll always be first place.
Let’s just say neither Kevin nor Shane were looking to put this thing to bed early. Thru nine holes of the best scoring conditions we’d had all weekend, both were just treading water and tied for the lead coming into the back nine. Only Caravello, who started the day twelve back of the leaders, managed to make a run up the leaderboard. With a front nine net 33, he moved within 8 strokes of the leader with nine to play. In most golf tournaments, I don’t think you’d say being within 8 strokes is in striking distance. Hell, in most basketball games, 8 points isn’t in striking distance. But this is not most golf tournaments.
As the saying goes, the Masters truly doesn’t start until the second nine on Sunday. The very same can be said for the Bixler, with my blowout victory last year (shout out to me) being an outlier. Kevin opened the back nine with net double bogey, while Shane did the same on the always challenging twelfth. All the sudden, this was anyone’s tournament. As Shane and Kevin Juveniled their way through the back nine, a few more names crept into red numbers, notably Tall James and Robinson. But the real noise was coming from Caravello, who with 2 holes to play was now four under. Caravello was mere inches away from a net albatross that would’ve given him the lead with one to play, tap in net eagle would have to do. -6 with one hole left. Tiger-esque roars through the hallowed pines of Glendarin Hills, I’m sure the echoes could’ve been heard from the club house. In what had been a battle of dumptrucks in reverse all day long, Shane and Kevin finally had company. With three holes left to play, Shane sat at -10, with a three stroke lead over Kevin and a six stroke lead over Caravello. By the 18th tee box, that must have felt like lifetimes ago.
Winning a Bixler Blazer means you need to hit the shots when they count. Winning time, as it were. Caravello’s net eagle on his 17th hole put him in contention. Unfortunately, as the galleries swelled around his 18th hole to see if he could complete the comeback, the magic finally ran out. A net quadruple bogey on 18 would put any chance Mark had to rest.
Now I’ll never say that Shane lost the Bixler and gave it away to Kevin, but deep down inside, Shane knew he needed to step up on his last hole, the par 3 17th, especially after dropping three strokes over the last two holes. Listen, Shane’s come a long way since tKOIX. Tied for the lead two tKO’s later is essentially the same thing as Ben Hogan winning the US Open after getting hit by a bus. We’ve all been witnesses on his journey back and I truly believe there are new heights he’s yet to reach. Unfortunately, tKOXI was not his day. A net triple bogey would be the end of his run.
I know it sounds like I alluded to Kevin backing his way into a Blazer, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. A massively clutch net birdie on 17 had tied Kevin for the lead, leaving 18 to determine his place in history. The tee shot on 18 is far and away the most intimidating part of this hole. OB right (Kevin’s natural miss) and the remains of Cahill’s smashed 5 iron from earlier in the day to the left, the 18th fairway is essentially a minefield. And Kevin Hurt Locker-ed it. Pipe job, down the middle. I have no idea how smoothly he captained that boat into harbor, but he finished with a net par and the title was his. There was a brief moment of panic when he showed up in the gallery to watch Caravello finish. I’m pretty sure Kevin was insta-drunk (been there before!) and had Caravello not made a mess of his last hole, we could’ve seen a drunken playoff for all the marbles. Oh well, a boy can dream.
Kevin made me go to Cedar Point for his bachelor party, he loves roller coasters. Just take a look at how that final round played out hole by hole.
He’s never been on a ride like that before.