Carey Mumford

“The Reverend of Golf”

Tradition is something that evolves over time. It evokes memories. It has a history filled with moments. It is something that we look forward to each year, just as we might look forward to Christmas or pictures of the azaleas when the Masters announces Spring. We have always maintained that the Invitational is a “celebration of golf’, and are certain in knowing that it would be special. It has now become a tradition.

As always, Carey Mumford was our featured speaker on the opening day. His Clear Key presentation was as one participant put it “just this was worth the price of admission”. This incredible and dynamic man, who has been at the forefront of the “mental game” for 30-years, is simply, without peer. Additionally, this year Carey was “The Reverend of Golf”. As part of an intricate and brilliant play put together by defending champion Don Raymond, “The Reverend” bestowed golf blessings on the participants. Don’s scheme was prefaced with a court writ from the solicitors “Drivum, Pitchum and Putum” that in essence begged for more strokes from the tournament committee. To no avail. Kind of hard to find any sympathy for people who win the event by 19 strokes (which Don and Barbara did last year!). While Don’s speech and orchestrated theatrics were the highlight of the opening dinner, they did not result in more strokes for the Raymonds.

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Don and Barbra Raymond, Sandy Cable and Stephan Strasser / John Kaw and Vic Valledor (who came all the way from the Philippines) getting a tip from US Open Champion, Mary Mills

This year, our 33 contestants came from 16 states and four continents. Day one was at the newly re-designed Blue course at the Wigwam and was a scramble. Only six shots separated all of the eleven teams. The opening day winners and thereby also the tournament leaders were the team of Doug Troxel, Debbie Lambert and Jamie Gartrell. Led by their professional, Anne-Marie Palli, they recorded a net 50 and edged out the trios of Bill Stover, Andy Miller and Carol Letcher and Mike Lowenthal, Michael Reagan and Linda Chain by one stroke.

The PING Vault

The PING Vault

Immediately following play on the first day we headed for our VIP visit to the PING factory and headquarters. Bird Golf enjoys a unique and very special relationship with PING. We believe that PING makes the finest equipment in golf and that our mutual visions and dedication to excellence allow us to be at the forefront of our respective fields. We were treated like royalty. The opening presentation by Scott Summers was dynamic. Scott gave a visual presentation of the history of PING that included rare and fascinating footage of PING’s founder, Karsten Solheim. We were then taken on a tour of the assembly plant where we learned how each set is made and put together. The highlight, however of our tour was the PING vault. Over the years, PING has made a gold plated replica of every PING putter that a player has used to win a Tour event (all Tours). These putters are stored in the PING vault (we can proudly tell you that there are two Bird Golf professionals who have a putter in there!). It is rare that people are allowed to even see the vault, much less go into it, so we are most grateful to PING for allowing us that extraordinary privilege.

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Opening presentation at PING / “Wow…look at all those putters!”

The format for the second round of the tournament was 2 balls best ball (both low net) and was at the Arthur Hills Championship course at Palm Valley. As usual Palm Valley was in perfect shape (it is fast becoming one of the best facilities in all of Phoenix). There were a great many noteworthy accomplishments on this day but in what may have been a defining moment of the tournament , there was one extraordinary feat (that I have never seen done before). On the 17th hole Doug Troxel and Jamie Gartrell BOTH chipped in. One after the other. The hole location was very difficult and a chip that would have been within six feet would have been excellent. Doug performed his magic first, and after the delirium died down, Jamie followed with his chip-in. Incredible stuff. Their team score (playing with Ewing) for the day of 22 under, left them one shot behind the day 2 winners; Chris and Astrid Bassett and Santiago Pelaez who were paired with Anne-Marie (there’s that Palli girl again!). Astrid has made remarkable strides in just less than two years. Although she “didn’t have my A game today”, Astrid shot a 95 to lead her team to the day’s victory. Bill Stover had his best round ever (an 84) and anchored his team to keep them in the hunt. There were now two teams tied for the lead after two rounds; Chris & Astrid Bassett and Santaigo Pelaez; Doug Troxel, Debbie Lambert & Jamie Gartrell. It would seem like all their hard work at their golf schools is paying off.

The crowd watching “The Ladder Shot”

Following Saturday’s tournament round, we had our inaugural Bird Golf “Big Break”. Our professional staff paired off into teams of two for a skills challenge, with one team being eliminated after each skill. Before play however we conducted an auction and sold off each team to the highest bidder. The bidding was spirited! with each team going for several hundred dollars. The first skill was a punch shot in which the pros had to hit a shot under a 6 foot ladder to a green 120 yards away. The team of Sharon Miller and Jay Ewing were in dire straights and had only one shot left when Sharon hit one of the best pressure shots you will ever see. Sharon hit their final attempt two feet (see the picture sequence below) from the hole! The professionals really distinguished themselves and played some remarkable shots. In the final skill (a downhill chip to a tucked downhill pin), Jim Samsing (whose partner was that Palli girl again!) played a spectacular shot that ended up 2 inches from the hole to beat the Miller/Ewing team by …inches!

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“What do I do here?!!” Ewing in the bunker / Kelly Olohan prepares to hit “the flop shot”

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Sharon Miller’s incredible “ladder shot” as it happened. In the first frame you see that Sharon is a picture in concentration as she prepares her punch shot. The second frame (with a great reaction from Kannan Ayyar in the foreground) is immediately after her stunning shot and in the last frame Sharon gets a big hug and high five from Santiago Pelaez. One of the reasons for Santaigo’s joy was that…..he had bought Sharon’s team in the auction!

The third and final day was also held at Palm Valley but the format was slightly different. On this day, it was a 2 ball best ball but one was low gross (without handicap) and the other was low net. As we have come to expect of our students, there were even more great deeds done on this day as well. Mike Gelinas recorded a personal best 86 (it could have been better; but couldn’t they all!) which was really fantastic when you consider that Mike routinely shot in the 100’s just a few months ago. Well done, Mike! Two of the Bird Golf professionals also played beautiful golf. Kelly Olohan shot a 68 and Anne-Marie Palli (yup, her….AGAIN!) shot a superb 66. There was a tie for Day money on the last day. The teams of Krista Katusha, Warren Dyer and Todd Thompson (who played with Kelly Olohan) and Linda Chain, Michael Reagan and Mike Lowenthal who played with Karen Davies, all played superbly to share the day’s best scores.

In the end, however, it all came down to a thrilling finish. In the most closely contested Invitational to date, the Troxel/Lambert/Gartrell team were the Champions by ONE stroke over the Bassett/Bassett/Pelaez team. Bill Stover, Andy Miller and Carol Letcher held on for third place, just ahead of the hard charging team of George and Jackie Yost and Kannan Ayyar.

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The Champions. Doug Troxel and Debbie Lambert (Jamie Gartrell not pictured) share a moment with Anne-Marie Palli

The awards dinner was a splendid affair that brought a close to a wonderful four days. We were touched by speeches made by Chris Bassett and Carl Ring (of whose eloquence we are not worthy). New friends were made. Laughter and joy were the order of the day. New golfers played in their very first golf tournament ever (Mike Lowenthal, Mimi Ring and Stephan Strasser).. We crowned our fifth champions (Anne-Marie won the professional division), but we feel that all of those in attendance are champions. Our goal with the Invitational is to celebrate golf and we believe that we accomplished that….with a bang! And you, our students, made this all possible. Thank you.

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