Bragging rights stay with Wing PointTunkkari and Hansen card 72 and 68 to win the tourney.
June 9, 2008 · Updated 7:48 PM
"Yogi Berra to the contrary, it wasn't deja vu all over again at Sunday's Fred Schaffer Helpline House Memorial Golf Tournament, the 10th annual charity event that pits the pros at Wing Point and Meadowmeer in a 36-hole, best-ball format.Last year, Meadowmeer head pro Tom Mueller's second shot at Wing Point's 10th hole hit a tree on the right side of the fairway. The ball took a fortuitous bounce and landed on the green, giving Mueller a putt for a possible eagle.This year: same shot, same tree. But the result was a vastly different species of bird, more akin to a duck as it splashed into the water. With Meadowmeer assistant pro Drew Azure having arboreal problems of his own - his tee shot rolled under a heavily branched fir tree and he had to chip out onto the fairway - both men wound up with bogeys.And with Wing Point assistant pro Bill Hansen carding his second straight birdie, Meadowmeer went from a stroke back to a three-shot deficit.The whole match swung on that hole, Mueller said, as Wing Point went on to its third straight title. Forced to play aggressively for birdies, the strategy came back to bite them hard four holes later. Gambling after less-than-ideal Wing Point drives on 14, Mueller and Azure lost. Both triple-bogied the hole, removing any suspense about the outcome.Wing Point finished one-over-par 72 for the afternoon round, after shooting a three-under par 68 in the morning to finish with 140. The Meadowmeer duo carded 75 and 70 respectively for a 145 total.But the real winner was Helpline House - the beneficiary of several thousand dollars in pledges and a silent auction that accompanied the tournament - and the spectators. While only a handful were on hand for Meadowmeer's morning round, the gallery swelled to more than 50 by the time the golfers began the back nine at Wing Point on an ideal afternoon for golf.It was the kind of afternoon where Azure could race his four-year-old son Coleman down Wing Point's eighth fairway, and after Wing Point pro Dave Tunkkari nearly bounced in a chip shot from a bunker, Mueller would turn to the gallery and say, He's the best sand player I've ever played with.Meadowmeer got off to a promising start. Mueller parred the opening hole as Wing Point head pro Tunkkari's four-foot putt for par bounced off the back edge of the cup and began a tournament-long trend in which the four players collectively caught more lip than a 14-year-old whose phone privileges have just been revoked.But Hansen's 20-foot birdie putt on the second hold evened the match and Meadowmeer never led again.The deadlock continued until the eighth hole. Hansen's par-three put Wing Point into the lead for the first time as Mueller's 25-foot low chip missed by an inch and established another trend: Meadowmeer missing medium- and long-range putts by mere millimeters.Hansen gave his team a two-stroke edge on the par-five ninth, as he dropped his third shot within four feet of the pin and rolled in the succeeding putt.Azure sliced his tee shot to open the second nine onto the ninth fairway, but hit a fine second shot to within 10 feet of the pin to save par and keep his team within two.On the 12th hole, Mueller laid his second shot within three feet of the pin and his birdie putt cut the margin to one. Meadowmeer drew even on 14 as Mueller's chip landed within a foot of the pin for a par, while Hansen, on his own after Tunkkari hit three consecutive out-of-bounds drives, ran his third shot eight feet past the hole and just missed right coming back. Wing Point quickly regained the lead on 15 as Tunkkari drained a six-foot putt for a birdie.He went for the jugular on par-four 16, sinking a 25-foot putt for the day's only eagle to give Wing Point a three-stroke lead.Mueller birdied 18 to cut the deficit to two. But in previous years Meadowmeer had carried two- or three-stroke leads into the afternoon session at Wing Point. Now they had to play catch-up on the road.Although they quickly fell another stroke off the pace on Wing Point's second hole, the third provided the first clue that the spirit of Yogi Berra hadn't made the trip west.No deja vu Last year on this hole, Tunkkari holed out from a sand trap in what observers concluded was the turning point of that match. Tunkkari popped his drive in the sand again and Mueller joined him. After watching Tunkkari's sand play, Mueller blasted directly at the hole. But indicative of the bad luck that seemed to dog his team throughout the day, the ball bounced off the pin and came to rest beside the hole, and he had to settle for par. But Tunkkari - as Mueller was destined to do seven holes later - did his own deja vu denial by twice duffing his own efforts to escape from the sand. The consequent Wing Point double bogey reduced their margin to a single stroke.And the match evened on the next hole as Mueller's 50-foot putt got to within two feet of the hole for a par as Tunkkari and Hansen both bogeyed.The deadlock continued for four holes until Hansen's 15-foot birdie putt on nine gave his team an edge it would never relinquish.After the Meadowmeer disaster on 10, both teams had easy pars on 11. Mueller and Azure missed birdie putts on 12 by a collective six inches, and Mueller's golden opportunity to pick up a stroke on 13 misfired as his two-foot birdie putt lipped around the hole and spun out.Then came the duffer's delight on 14. Hansen and Tunkkari appeared to open a window of opportunity with tee shots that left them with difficult approaches. But Mueller drove out of bounds to the left and Azure wound up in a thicket of weeping willow on the right. Things spiraled downward after that as spectators watched the foursome score a collective eight over par.Ten and 14 have ruined many a member's round, quipped one Wing Point regular.But the foursome quickly redeemed themselves on the par-three 15th with outstanding tee shots, and Tunkkari drove the final stake into Meadowmeer's heart by converting a 20-foot birdie putt for a six-stroke edge with three holes remaining. After pars by both teams on 16, Mueller made perhaps the most spectacular single shot of the match on the 296-yard, par-four 17th. He not only drove the extensive pond guarding the green, but also the green itself as his shot landed several feet beyond the rear edge and some 60 feet from the pin. He wound up with a birdie after chipping to within three feet.The match ended with textbook golf on 18. All four drives were well out in the fairway, all four second shots landed on the green, and all four golfers two-putted. Though typically for Meadowmeer, Mueller's birdie putt missed left by two inches and he pool-cued it in. Azure's was even closer, gently rolling to a stop just one inch to the left of the pin's dead center.Coming back from Meadowmeer with the lead was huge, Tunkkari said of his team's triumph. Apart from 14 on our course, we really ham-and-egged it - when one golfer was off, the other one was on.I thought that Bill played well, he said. I helped out a little every now and then.His partner quickly countered that Tunkkari did more than just help out.It was the first tournament of any type for Azure, a relative newcomer to golf.At first I was tense and got all serious, and it really showed, he said, I played like crap.But as soon as I relaxed, I started playing well and enjoyed it. I really had a blast.He was quick to credit a major key in his ability to let go of the tension.My son helped me to realize that it's just a game, he said. "