Foursome lands trip to Pebble Beach

"Two fabulous golf shots produced one fabulous vacation for four Bainbridge golfers Sunday in the first annual Bainbridge Junior Golf Tournament.Terry Olson, a 15-handicapper, aced Wing Point's 15th hole with an eight-iron. That powered his foursome into a playoff.And on the third extra hole, Brad Maier, Olson's teammate, hit his tee shot to within three feet of the cup, giving his group the first prize of lodging and a round of golf at Pebble Beach in Carmel, California, site of this year's United States Open.The other members of the winning team were Vince Lanza and Gerry Adams.I didn't see the shot go in, Olson said, referring to the fact that the green is much higher than the tee. I saw the ball hit on the right-hand side and bounce, and I thought it might have gone off the green. But Vince said no, it was too close. So we looked in the cup, and there it was.The tournament was the final event of a two-day fund-raiser benefiting Bainbridge's Babe Ruth baseball and junior golf programs. An auction Saturday night at the St. Cecilia Church Conger Hall raised some $25,000, according to tournament organizer Lee Jorgensen.I'm glad we won it this year, Olson said, because I think it's going to get bigger and bigger in the future. It was great fun, and for a great cause. The weather was beautiful. It just reminds us of how lucky we are on Bainbridge Island.Take a swing for Helpline June 29The pros from Meadowmeer take on the pro and a stand-in from Wing Point June 29 in the annual Fred Schaffer Memorial Helpline House Golf Tournament.As always, the tournament uses both island courses. The competitors tee off at 8 a.m. at Meadowmeer. Then after breaking for a barbecue lunch, the match resumes in the afternoon at Wing Point.Last year, the Wing Point team of David Tunkkari and Bill Hansen recaptured the trophy, which Meadowmeer had owned for several years. But Hansen left Wing Point this spring to attend qualifying school, and the club is without an assistant.So Neal White, Wing Point's club champion and Bainbridge High School athletic director, will team with Tunkkari.Other than bragging rights, the participants have one financial incentive. A hole in one on Meadowmeer's tough eighth hole or on Wing Point's equally long third is worth $10,000 to the golfer.The almost 1,000 combined members of the two clubs have received pledge forms asking them to make donations to Helpline House, the island's one-stop social-service organization. Last year, Helpline House provided some form of assistance to over one quarter of Bainbridge's households.This is really a way of focusing two significant groups of people on Helpline House, tournament organizer Grant Winther said. But he said that everyone is welcome to attend, and, of course, to make a pledge. Although the lunch is at Wing Point, Winther emphasized that it is open to the public. During the lunch, a silent auction will take place for golf equipment, meals, sports tickets and other valuable items.Pledge forms are available at the course pro shops and at Helpline House in Winslow.Expatriate starts driving rangeLike a real-life Kevin Costner, Brian Bignold looked at a field and started dreaming. And he acted on it. He bought the 10-acre pasture that had been Woodall's Driving Range in Kingston, remodeled it extensively, renamed it Kitsap Country Greens, and determined to make himself and his business an essential part of the Bainbridge golf scene.I've been playing golf since 1980, said Bignold, who played on the Bainbridge High School golf team for three years. And I've been an entrepreneur all my life. Then one day, I saw a driving range and just thought, 'this is something you can get excited about.'Because golf practice requires a lot of land, it's not surprising that facilities on an island are limited.Meadowmeer has nets that one can hit into, and areas to practice putting and short shots. Wing Point has a putting green and a short-game range, but at least for the nonce, lacks a full-length range.Which means that island golfers who want to swing away generally head north.I knew from growing up on the island that Bainbridge would be a key for me, Bignold said. At least half my business comes from the island.Bignold is a Meadowmeer member, and has promoted his range as a teaching facility for Meadowmeer's pros. And it's working. I'd guess that 30 per cent of the lessons we give are at the range, Meadowmeer head pro Tom Mueller said.For Bignold and his wife Kim Prisk, also from Bainbridge, this was a $375,000 leap of faith. The range and the two houses came as a package. They live in the smaller house and rent the larger one.Kim has drawn the early-morning ball-pickup duty, but takes it philosophically, according to Brian.Kim used to spend her summers on a farm, so she sees it from an agricultural perspective. She says we're harvesting golf balls.The range hosts free golf clinics each Saturday morning. In the summers, the clinics are conducted by former Port Ludlow head professional Ted Wurz. In the winter, Meadowmeer's Mueller takes over. Although Bignold's immediate priority is a facility where golfers can work on all aspects of their game, he ultimately wants to go beyond that.I want to offer the good aspects of a country club, where I know everyone's name, and how their golf game is going, he said. But I want to do that without the exclusivity element, and get everyone involved.With its well-seasoned sofa, television set and free coffee and donuts (on weekends), the office looks as much like a den as a business. And that's no accident.This is my living room, Bignold said. The house next door only has 500 square feet, so I live here. And I want my guests to feel welcome."

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