Sports

Meadowmeer takes trophy

Nick West chips out of a bunker onto the fifth green at Wing Point. - RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo
Nick West chips out of a bunker onto the fifth green at Wing Point.
— image credit: RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo

No matter how hard people try to make it a team sport, golf is still about one person striking one ball with one club.

So the engraving on the Fred Schaffer Memorial Trophy will show that the Meadowmeer team captured the annual Helpline House benefit tournament that matches duos from the island’s two golf courses.

But what made that possible was the virtuoso solo performance by Meadowmeer’s Tom Mueller, who put on one of the better displays of ball-striking seen on the island in some time.

His 5-under par tally for the first 14 holes at Wing Point provided just enough of a cushion to weather back-to-back bogeys and give Meadowmeer a one-shot win, 139-140, in the best-ball stroke-play match.

“I felt really solid over the ball today,” said Mueller, “and I hit my driver better than I’ve hit it in a couple of years.”

Mueller’s driving was something to behold, particularly at Wing Point. On the relatively open front nine, Mueller was consistently 20 yards or more longer off the tee than any of the other competitors.

And on Wing Point’s tight back nine, where Mueller’s occasional wildness has cost his team in the past, he throttled back when necessary, turned the power on when he had the opportunity to do so and turned a four-man competition into a one-man show.

Mueller and amateur partner Pat Fowler took an early three-shot lead Sunday morning at Meadowmeer when Mueller birdied the first hole and Wing Point representatives Dave Tunkkari and Nick West both hooked their tee shots out of bounds on the second.

But that margin dribbled away over the next seven holes, largely through unproductive putting, and the teams made the turn tied at one over par.

“The greens were in good shape,” said Tunkkari, “but the pin positions are really difficult here, just like they’ll be at WIng Point.”

The back nine at Meadowmeer belonged to West, the Wing Point general manager and former golf pro. He hit a monster drive on 10, and tapped in for a bird after a short pitch shot, then added birdies on 12 and 16. Meadowmeer was one under for the back nine, with Mueller’s birdie on 12 putting Wing Point up two shots after 18 holes.

Mueller, a big hitter with a streak of wildness, has always said that he likes playing Wing Point, where he can let it rip, especially on the front side. And he showed why as soon as the afternoon round began.

On the first tee, he pulled his drive left. The bad news was that he was in the rough, under a small evergreen and behind a rock; the good news was that, perhaps with a long bounce off the cart path, he’d hit the ball almost 350 yards. He improvised a nifty little punch shot with a choked-up wedge to reach the green, then two-putted for a birdie to match West.

On the second hole -- the longest par four on either course -- Mueller launched another monster drive, knocked a wedge to within eight feet and dropped the putt. West and Tunkkari both found trees with their tee shots, and both bogeyed the hole, temporarily evening the match.

Mueller and Fowler gave the lead right back, as both bogeyed the par 3 third, while Tunkkari recorded a routine par. Mueller played par golf on the rest of the front side, and the match squared again when the dome-like seventh green frustrated the Wing Pointers.

With nine holes left, the match was dead even on the scorecard. But with Meadowmeer’s history of mediocre play on that nine in past matches, Wing Point appeared to have the edge.

Then came the table-turner. Mueller, Tunkkari and West all hit ideally placed drives, but all missed the deep and heavily trapped green. From a downhill lie in the rough behind the green, Mueller hit a perfect chip shot that struck the pin dead center then fell in for an eagle 3. Although West very nearly matched the shot, ending only a couple of inches from the hole, Meadowmeer took its first lead since early morning.

“I had been stopping short with my chip shots, but I got my hands through that one and it felt real good,” Mueller said.

The lead was still at one at the 13th, a treacherous par 5 with out of bounds along the whole left side and around the rear of the green, which is tucked behind a wetland. After another huge drive, Mueller had only a short iron second shot into the 497-yard hole, and stuck it safely on the center of the green. He two-putted for birdie, West and Tunkkari had to settle for par, and the lead was two.

For all practical purposes, the match ended at 14, where Mueller has pulled his drives out of bounds in the past. This time, though, he hit a mid-iron off the tee short of the creek that cuts across the fairway, lofted an iron onto the green and knocked down a 20-foot birdie putt for a three-up lead.

At 17, with Meadowmeer still three strokes up and West in perfect position, Tunkkari pulled out his driver in an effort to fly the ball the necessary 290 yards to clear the pond. He fell short by about five feet, spectators said.

Meadowmeer bogeyed the hole when Mueller dropped his second into the drink, but West hit a line drive second shot that ran through and past the green, so Wing Point couldn’t gain ground.

Wing Point closed things up on the final hole when Tunkkari chipped in for a birdie and Mueller and Fowler both three-putted, leaving Meadowmeer three under for 36 and Wing Point one back.

Mueller credited his 12-year-old caddie for a swing tip that got him going.

“He said I was leaning too far to the left, which got me pulling the ball,” Mueller said. “I put more weight on the right side, and started hitting the ball really solidly.”

While admitting that in retrospect the decision to go for the green on 17 was suspect, Tunkkari said he would do the same thing again.

“My partner was in great position, we needed birdies, and the way I was putting, I didn’t think I could make a birdie if I was on the green in two,” he said.

“But you’ve got to hand it to them,” Tunkkari said. “Tom played great, they deserve the trophy, and it will give us some incentive to take it back next year.”

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Sep 12 edition online now. Browse the archives.