Amid a crescendo of popping beer cans in the clubhouse of
Appleton's Reid Municipal Golf Course the other evening, local
schoolteacher Sam Glantzow, 32, was in high spirits. ''I am an
amateur,'' he said -- pop, fizz -- ''in the worst sense of the
Well, certainly he was a candidate. Glantzow, who teaches band at
the high school in Stockbridge, 15 miles south of Appleton, had put
together rounds of 109 and 103 for a 212 in the Fox Cities Amateur
Golf Tournament. In truth, the amateur in the worst sense of the word
was another schoolteacher, Bill Flynn, 54, of Kaukauna who had rounds
of 107 and 111 for a 218, 76 over par.
But that is hardly the point at the Fox Cities Amateur, which
attracted most of the best players from Waupaca to Oshkosh for the
Saturday-Sunday event two weeks ago. This wonderful tournament, in
which many of the players threaten to shoot their ZIP codes, is a
glorious confluence of the worst of golf and the best of times. Eat
your heart out, Augusta. This is a tournament filled with players who
are certain that a bad day on the golf course is still far better
than a great day anywhere else.
So, Bill Flynn, what seemed to give you the most trouble out
there? Flynn considers his many misadventures, then says, ''Taking
the clubs out of my bag.''
Laughing loudly, and with no standing to do so, was Steve
Brockman, a 33- year-old machinist from Kaukauna, who fired an
opening-day 112, the worst single round among the 240 men entered.
Says Brockman -- pop, fizz -- ''It was a good thing I putted really
well.'' Disappointing round, huh? ''Golf is never disappointing,''
Brockman replies firmly.
The Fox Cities is played over a municipal course maintained at
near private club standards despite suffering the abuse of more than
50,000 rounds of golf a year. Put another way, the likes of Glantzow,
Flynn and Brockman play here regularly, so the plea to replace all
divots takes on special significance.
The course ($7 for 18 holes) is an extremely easy par 71 with
almost no hills, very little water, shallow traps and short
distances (a 5,942-yard total). Almost every par 4 and 5 is a
legitimate birdie hole. Pebble Beach it isn't. Still, it's way too
hard for most of the guys in the Fox Cities Amateur. ''This is a
great course,'' says Mike Spencer, 42, ''because you can get away
with a lot of bad swings.'' Spencer knows whereof he speaks. Flat and
tight, winding through a residential neighborhood, the course
resounds not only with screams of ''fore'' but also with the urgent
screams of duffers who have sliced and hooked and otherwise strayed
from the beaten path. ''We try to hit it straight,'' says Toby
Tyler, 38, who tied for sixth with a par 142, ''and when we don't, we
just try again.''
The Fox Cities Amateur is the highlight of summer golf in
Appleton. The tournament can accept only the first 260 entrants
(including 20 women), but tourney director Michael King says he
easily could have had 400 players.
The competitors generally dress in Goodwill hand-me-downs -- or
worse. In fairness, however, it must be pointed out that the winner
of the tournament, Troy Sprister, 2l, of Appleton, who shot a
four-under 138, was resplendent in red knickers. Sprister, who is a
college golfer for Ferris State in Big Rapids, Mich., has never
considered going out on the pro tour. Now, though, with his
one-stroke win in this tournament, ''I will have to rethink my
future.'' It's heady stuff when you win the Fox Cities.
The big favorite had been J.P. Hayes, 21, of Appleton, who plays
at the University of Texas in El Paso and had won the Wisconsin State
Amateur earlier in the week. The pressure to win in his hometown must
have gotten to him, though, as he went from a first-round 66 to a
second-round 75 and a fourth- place finish. But that's O.K. Hayes is
still the biggest name in Wisconsin | golf since Bobby Brue, and he
is considered better at this stage of his development than was
Madison's Andy North. J.P.'s father, John, says of his son's pro
chances, ''He has the heart for it, but does he have the game?''
The other top spots in the tournament were also dominated by
youth. Second place went to Mark Bayer, 18, who was state high school
champ last year and is heading for Murray State in Kentucky. He was
followed by David Hackworthy, 24, who in 1984 completed a successful
collegiate golf career at Iowa State. But the Fox Cities Amateur
isn't really for these long-hitting and yip-free youngsters. It's
for, well, Bill Flynn.
Or Pete Benson, 39, who is also a Kaukauna schoolteacher. Benson
teaches, among other things, driver education, ''which keeps my
nerves permanently frayed.'' He has, nevertheless, won this
tournament a record five times, including the inaugural event in 1967
when he was a kid beating the real golfers. He won for the fifth time
last year. Nobody else has won more than twice.
Benson is totally self-deprecating. ''Guys like me are a dime a
dozen,'' he says. ''I have no illusions about being a great golfer.
I'm good in my element.'' En route to a bloody 75 and 10th place on
Sunday, he urged one observer to ''call me an ambulance.''
Yet Benson epitomizes the spirit of an Appleton amateur golfer.
''I love to hit golf balls, that's all,'' he says. To this end, he
regularly goes out behind his school, Electa-Quinney Junior High,
with his Toro lawn mower and cuts an area to tee off from. He also
trims a spot down there around the big maple. Then, in the majestic
quiet of rural Kaukauna, he swings at golf balls. ''I try to hit
between the tree and the phone pole,'' Benson says. Mostly he
practices on the school grounds because it costs $2.35 for a bucket
of 55 balls at Reid. But it sure is nice when a Cessna makes lazy
circles in the sky while he's hitting.
Though Benson and his fellow local golfers practice hard for the
Fox Cities Amateur, the tournament is actually only the runner-up
highlight of Appleton's golfing year. The really big event occurs
when all the guys drink beer for hours out at the golf course, then
turn their car lights toward the green of the par-3 17th. One of the
fellows puts on a hard hat, goes down and waves a flashlight while
tending the flagstick, and everybody takes a swing. Ah, yes -- pop,
fizz -- amateurs just want to have fun.
AMATEURS IN EVERY WAY DURING APPLETON'S VERY OWN GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP, IT WAS THE WORST OF GOLF, BUT IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES
Amid a crescendo of popping beer cans in the clubhouse of