With temperatures dropping into the forties today in Chicago, it looks like the 2012 golf season is coming to a close at least for those of us in the Midwest. And for those not stuck in B1G Ten country, some major life developments might be keeping them off the courses over the next couple months, leveling out the playing field. To celebrate the end of another successful golf season, I thought it would be fun to look back at how some of us have (not) improved and look forward at what to expect when we start gearing back up in the spring.
White James – After a disappointing tKOVI, White James put in a surprisingly low number of rounds, carding just three rounds since after tKOVI. However, one of those rounds was a 76 from the tips at the premier golf course in Michigan, Arcadia Bluffs, so the lack of play doesn’t seem to have affected his game whatsoever. While lowering his handicap from 6.4 at tKOVI to 5.8 won’t help his Bixler Blazer odds, White James will obviously be among the favorites for the RDGC Cup at The Seven, specifically because of his tendency to follow disappointing years with showings of complete and utter dominance, as was the case at tKOV.
Mike R. – The current RDGC Cup holder certainly didn’t let his fifth championship go to his head. Mike dropped his handicap .4 points to 8.7 since tKOVI, playing seven rounds with only one score over 85. Despite being one of the few tKO-ers with the ability to play year round, it looks like Mike might not be putting in much work on his game over the winter as he is now a father. As happy as we all are for the addition to his family, I think we are even happier at the prospects of a distracted Mike R. at tKOVII. First time fathers have not fared well at past Kendallville Opens, both Curt and Brooks withdrew and Keith dropped from 17th to 19th. Only Mike C. has been able to harness his dad strength into a second place finish at tKOV.
Rich –Rich, the trendy pick to win tKOVI, has put in a quality season with 8 post tKO rounds, including two in the seventies. Lowering his handicap by nearly 2 full points, one would think Rich would again be the under the radar favorite for another solid showing next year. While he is also becoming a first time father this winter, in addition to buying a new house, sources close to the family have stated that Natalie won’t let Rich see their child or sleep in their new home, until he brings home the RDGC Cup.
Brooks – Brooks has yet to officially finish a tKO since a career best third place finish at tKOIII. After missing both tKOVI and IV and withdrawing from V with a mysterious injury, he looks to make a triumphant return next May. With an 11.3 handicap, Brooks should definitely be a factor come tKOVII, but a lot has changed since Brooks was last in the heat of battle in Kendallville. There will be plenty of questions whether or not he can handle the pressure, both physically and mentally, after such a long break from competition.
Mike C. – Undoubtedly the star of tKOVI, Mike will be looking to improve on his third place finish last year. After starting out with an 82 at Cobblestone, the wheels soon fell off and any chance at the championship were all but gone come the Saturday afternoon scramble. Kid number two seems to be the threshold when rounds of golf start to get a little scarce, as Mike C. hasn’t played since the birth of Ian and only got in 3 rounds all summer. Will the tKO gods will look fondly upon Mike C. for naming his first born son after Kendallville legend Ian of IRS Shorts? Surely, a hefty price, but seeing your name etched into the RDGC Cup will make it all worth it.
Indy Mark – After dominating the second flight for the second year in a row, Indy Mark must be looking to make the big jump into the Final Foursome this year. A steady diet of mid-to-high-eighties rounds over the summer has all but confirmed that the 100 at Glendarin Hills in round 2 was a complete fluke. The competition is fierce for one of those Final Foursome spots next year and Indy Mark was definitely a favorite to make the move, until news broke that he is expecting another child in March of 2013, merely two months before game day. Vegas is no long taking bets on whether or not Indy Mark can make the Final Foursome, as no one has ever competed in tKO that close to the birth of a child. Who knows what to expect from the Boilermaker.
King George –Tales of the King over the years have turned him into a mythical creature, but come May 17th, 2013, we’ll all get a peek behind the curtain and see what he’s really made of. There has never been a rookie tKO champion, but both Rich and WJ have come close, only to fall back to earth when the flew too close to the Sun. With a solid 13.5 handicap, King George is certainly looking to make a run at the Final Foursome. And with everyone ranked ahead of him raising little ones, his youngest child is old enough to qualify for The Kendallville Open, so he certainly should be distraction free coming into tKOVII.
Wally – While a handful of participants have the opportunity to play year round, no one is going to take advantage of this like Wally will. Averaging two to three rounds a week, practice will not be an issue here. An extremely consistent player, Wally will have to string together some low rounds in Kendallville to be a factor in either the RDGC or the Bixler. At the time of publication, he’s currently taking up the final spot in the second flight projections, but since he’ll be the only person playing over the next couple months, will he widen the gap or will he fall into the dreaded third flight where a familiar foe awaits his chance to strike?
Brendan – After a massively disappointing tKOVI, things looked to be turning around for the commissioner when he posted three out of four rounds in the 80s and was an integral member of the team that absolutely dominated the Murphy Invitational. Unfortunately Brendan was not able to close out the season strongly and will again be looking to make a big move from the bottom of the leaderboard to contend at the Seven. Rumors are swirling that his upcoming wedding will distract Brendan from effectively preparing for next year’s tournament, but sources close to the player are saying that this couldn’t be further from the truth and Brendan has never been more focused on his priorities as both a commissioner and a competitor. DO NOT TELL HIS FIANCE.
Curt – One of the biggest mysteries of the Kendallville Open has been Curt’s fall from grace. After consecutive top ten finishes at tKO’s IV and V, Curt failed to even finish tKOVI, citing a mental breakdown followed by a trip to Crazy Town. The similarities of between Curt’s breakdown and that of Tiger Woods is astonishing (speaking strictly to their on the course actions). The two time flight champion seems to have lost his way on the links and despite being a fan favorite, there certainly are doubts as to whether he will ever regain his previous form. Judging from his disappointing tKOVI and lack of posted scores, you can only think that Curt is closer to winning the fifth flight than he is to taking back the third flight he once owned.
Marty – The Bixler Blazer champion is surrounded in controversy as he hasn’t come close to returning to the form he showed at Cobblestone. After posting multiple rounds in the 100s, Marty boat raced the field in the first round of tKOVI with an 88…and hasn’t been close since. While rumors of performance enhancers have surrounded other competitors in the past, no one’s past seems to be as checkered as Marty’s. He certainly didn’t help things by attending not one but two tKO weddings and neither time donning the Bixler Blazer. Maybe the weight of shame and deceit covering the blazer is just too heavy for Marty to bear?
Austin – In what was thought to be a highly strategized move, Austin seems to have lost his focus since moving back to Columbus. Posting only three rounds since tKOVI, he has decided to devote his free time to trolling for college sophomores on the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers instead of finding his inner Golden Bear in Jack’s hometown. The final dagger was at his own tournament, when he suffered a humiliating defeat, despite stacking his own team, at the hands of a Danny D. led team. Understandably so, The Mole Killer hasn’t been seen on a course since.
Asian James – After finishing a career best fifth at tKOVI, Asian James has been jet setting across the country this year and in true Asian fashion, documenting the whole thing with his camera phone. Leading all competitors in 2012, AJ was able to get in 21 rounds this year and has to be a heavy favorite going into next year’s tournament. And not only is he playing a lot of golf, he seems to be trying out all kinds of techniques to find a catch up with controversy shrouded Marty in the race for the Bixler. In a recent round with Mike R., it’s being reported that Asian James is even trying out women’s clubs to find any possible advantages. This man will stop at nothing to win the Bixler Blazer he feels he was cheated out of at tKOVI.
Ian – It has been confirmed that tKO legend Ian will be returning for The Kendallville Open 7. And after spending an entire year in Arizona honing his craft, the expectations are high. While the move back to the Midwest would seem to be counterproductive for one’s game, Ian has built a home on a course back in Michigan where he can finely tune his trick shot arsenal, including the renowned Blumpkin. Even though he’s currently two rounds short of the mandatory five needed for Bixler qualification, he will certainly be favored to move up the list of career money leader with past domination in the long drive competition. Assuming he can squeeze those two rounds next spring and qualify, it will be interesting to see where he’ll be at end of the race for the Bixler. Welcome back, Ian.
Ben – While his swag has remained on point, last year’s best mother fucking dressed has struggled to consistently put it together on the course this year. Flashes of brilliance on the courses were followed by triple bogeys, in what is sure to have been an extremely frustrating season for Ben. Along with Brendan, Danny, and Greg, he was also a member of the Murphy Invitational winning team, but played disappointingly by his own standards. His fearless play will surely make him a high pick in the Saturday Scramble draft, but will it be a detriment when he looks to improve best ever finishes in the RDGC and Bixler?
Shane – Along with Mike R., Brooks, and Wally, Shane is one of the few tKOers with access to golf year round. But while his permanent residence is in Washington DC, it’s as though he’s never left Chicago, posting only five rounds since tKOVI, one of which being back in his hometown of Mundelein. After shooting a career low 91 to win the third flight, it appears the bombardment of weddings and bachelor parties have sidetracked Shane in his quest to break 90. If he were to utilize the relatively temperate climate of the greater DC area, Shane, with his 18.9 handicap, would undoubtedly be a favorite in next year’s Bixler. However, he’ll have to focus on what’s important, and responsibility of planning Greg’s bachelor party on the horizon, the chances are looking slim.
Mustang Mark – The days of winning the prestigious fifth flight of tKOV are long gone, as the Mustang’s body appears to have turned against him. Injuries resulted in an entirely lost year, as Mark hasn’t posted a score on FairwayFiles.com since August of 2011. It’s rumored that he was so disgusted with his performance at tKOVI that he refuses to even enter in his scores, while it’s a violation of tKO rules, it’s also a sign of where his game has regressed to. A devout Cubs fan, it’s as though he’s become one himself. There’s always next year, Mark, there’s always next year.
Bryce – Heading into his third Kendallville Open, Bryce seems hungry. Following up a disappointing tKOVI with three straight rounds under 100, including a career best 87, Bryce is looking at The Seven with a new found desire. Recently fitted clubs and an inspirational trip to the Ryder Cup at Medinah has the former BMFD focused on the future. It seems like the pressure of the tournament has always gotten to Bryce in the past, never tapping into his true potential in Kendallville, but will this year be different? Will playing alongside his father, the King, give Bryce the confidence he’s always missed when he steps on the first tee box at Cobblestone? Or will the crushing pressure of disappointing his father be too much? So many questions.
Greg – Greg might be entering the Marty zone of shadiness here, because he’s only posted one round since this year’s Kendallville Open, and as a witness to his driving prowess at the Murphy Invitational, something just does not add up. Judging on his performance at the Eaglewood Resort, Greg is going to be a major favorite to take home all three long drive competitions next year and claim the number one spot atop the money list next year. Some say that the fact that Greg wouldn’t skinny dip across the first hole water hazard this year is a sure sign of a maturing player, destined to make a leap at tKOVII. Some would say that, most would not. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. It’s yet to be confirmed, but there are rumors that Greg’s entire wedding registry is in the men’s clothing department at Golf Galaxy. Ben, that title may not be yours for long.
Kevin – tKO rookie and top five Bixler finisher, Kevin has had quite the off season, getting in a quality six post tKO rounds and finishing the year with back to back 97s. He’s dropped his handicap almost seven points since the Six and recently got a new set of clubs. While his significantly lower handicap won’t do him any favors in the race for the Bixler, Kevin definitely has his sights set on a repeat appearance in the third flight next year. He’s going to need a lot more 97s and hope that the Mundelein boys continue to hate non-tKO golf, because the tKOVII rookies will definitely be looking to take up some of that valuable Flight 2 and 3 real estate. And as a Detroit native, if there’s one thing Kevin knows about, it’s valuable real estate.
Danny – Despite some family drama, when his brother attempted to blow up a downtown Chicago bar, Danny’s put together a rather impressive year. Building off the momentum of winning two long drives at tKOVI (one official, one unofficial), Danny carded an actually legit score this summer and was a fundamental member and spiritual leader of the winning Murphy Invitational team, highlighted by his laser guided five iron into the par three eight hole. This shot led to a tap in birdie and the tournament lead that his team would never relinquish. Unfortunately for all of Danny’s clutch performances with the golf club this year, he will be most remembered for the hate crime he committed behind the wheel of his golf cart, where he tried, unsuccessfully, to run over Ben while in a sand bunker.
FNG Mark – The second tKO rookie was never quite able to repeat the 98 he shot in his tKO debut, but definitely rebounded nicely from a disappointing final round at Noble Hawk by finishing out his year with a 104 and 106. FNG Mark’s home course, Countryside in Mundelein, has often been the dividing line when it comes to tKO golf preparation. There is one school of thought that says a few rounds at this track is sure to boost one’s confidence, and given Mark’s hot start at tKOVI, this seems to hold some weight. However, the other school says that too much golf at Countryside will fail to prepare you for the challenges that await days two and three of the Kendallville Open. Again, Mark’s complete collapse come the weekend would back this up as well. It seems that Mark is suck between a rock and a hard place. Continue to thrive day one of tKO, only to fall back and eventually get passed by the pack? Or uproot his life and move closer to a course better suited for tKO training? There really is nothing to think about here. You all know the right answer.
Keith – Keith, like FNG Mark, seemed to completely fall off come the weekend at the Six. The one year old at home has definitely kept Keith from seeing as much as the training ground as he would have liked, but a season ending 112 at Highland Woods must be encouraging. The pressure will definitely be on Keith at the Seven for him to keep his streak of three straight top twenty finishes. With the return of some old faces and the introduction of some new ones, cracking that top twenty is no longer the given that it was in the past. Keith will have to make some serious strides to keep that streak alive.
Jeremy – Will 2013 finally be the year when Jeremy decides that blades set for someone 6 inches shorter than he is probably isn’t the best fit for him? After using clubs more fit to his game, Jeremy was to put together a strong showing at the Mauni Lani course while on his honeymoon to card a 108, including an impressive 50 on the closing nine. As a newlywed, perhaps Jeremy could take some tips from Brooks and create a secret checking account used solely for golfing purchases. His massively inflated handicap of 35.1 and the signs of improvement during the summer at some of Chicago’s finest municipal courses are sure to make Jeremy a lock to move up from his 14th place finish in the Bixler into the top ten.