Amateur White joins the pros

"When the golfing gladiators from Meadowmeer and Wing Point square off this Thursday in their annual benefit challenge, the teams won't be even. Wing Point is temporarily without an assistant pro, so club champion Neal White will pair with pro David Tunkkari in an effort to keep the trophy in Wing Point's pro shop for another year.But it's by no means clear whether the presence of an amateur will help or hurt.For me to compete with those guys, they've got to be off a little bit and I've got to be playing fabulously, White said. But on the other hand, you do get to play a lot more as an amateur than as a pro, he added.And precedent is on White's side. The shoe was on the other foot in 1997 and 1998, when Meadowmeer amateur Ed Jonson teamed with pro Tom Mueller. And Meadowmeer won both of those matches, capping a string of five straight victories. Neal's a pretty solid player, Meadowmeer's Mueller said. If he gets on a roll, we may have to cut a hamstring in his leg to keep him from shifting his weight.'The annual competition, formally known as the Fred Schaffer Memorial Helpline House Tournament, raises money for Bainbridge's one-stop social-service organization through pledges and a silent auction. Tournament organizer Grant Winther said the largest proportion of money raised comes from the 800-plus members of the island's two golf clubs.The tournament is a 36-hole, best-ball team format. Contestants play 18 holes Thursday morning at Meadowmeer beginning at 8 a.m. After lunch at Wing Point, which is open to the public, the players tour that course's 18 holes.On each hole, the team takes the best score registered by either of the players.White, the athletic director at Bainbridge High School, says he's been playing a lot recently in amateur tournaments, and playing pretty well.Golf is White's grown-up game. He played four years of football and baseball at Central Washington University, then coached in Shelton before coming to Bainbridge in 1984.When he joined Meadowmeer in 1987, he was a 15-handicap player, but after a decade of playing there, he had lowered his handicap to five.That course really helped my game, he said. It's a narrow course, so I had to learn how to control the ball. And they have a men's club golf tournament every Saturday, so you learn to play under a little bit of pressure.Two years ago, he had a chance to join Wing Point at a price I couldn't refuse, so he transferred to the 18-hole layout.There is a great group of people at both courses, he said. I know all these pros, and I've played with them all, so I'm really honored to have a chance to play in this competition.Meadowmeer has dominated the competition, winning six of the eight matches. Wing Point's lone victories came in 1993 and 1998.And even though it's all in fun, competitive pride is at stake.It's a friendly rivalry, but they've dominated in the past, and we want to beat the socks off those guys, Tunkkari said. And we want to hit some good golf shots for the fans that come out and watch."

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