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 word."
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, 21, 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 E1 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?"