By: Lorne Hicks
As ardent golfers will tell you, there are major tournaments like The Masters, the British Open, and the U.S. Open. And then there is the Orchard Beach Open: instead of attracting the big money players, the Open hosts a group of veteran duffers, perennial optimists who regularly set the course on fire with scores in the 50’s — that is, for nine holes.
The historic Orchard Beach Open, sometimes referred to as the Orchard Beach Classic or the Conn Smythe Trophy Cup, has been an annual sporting event for over three years, an unparalleled test of skill and mental fortitude.
This August, six strikers, whose ages closely matched their handicaps, set out in conquest of the venerable Conn Smythe Trophy, named after the eponymous founder of the course (note: no such trophy exists; the tournament organizers simply thought it was a suitable moniker).
Playing without the usual gallery due to COVID-19, each competitor set out with an eye on the ultimate prize: a 1958 Arnold Palmer persimmon 4-wood, valued at approx. $12.95. The runner up would go home with a dozen used golf balls, most in good condition, although some appeared slightly elliptical.
Third prize, not to be sniffed at, was a bankroll of Canadian Tire money (valued at $1.25), along with a boxed set of four coloured tees. From the get-go, competition was intense, and generally speaking scores were calculated honestly; gimmies were not granted for putts longer than six feet, each was allowed only four mulligans, and players had the option of hitting from a bunker or throwing the ball out, which makes good sense.
As players came into the clubhouse after the tournament, they expressed admiration for the excellent course conditions. With fairways in such great shape, many were able to reach greens after attacking the ball six or seven times, a testimony to careful turf management.
The greens themselves, however, were subject to criticism: not only was it observed that their foxy design (by Stanley Thompson) made putting difficult, but the size of the holes was altogether too small.
This year’s Conn Smythe Trophy Cup winner was Mike Chapman, who scored 45 to lay claim to the vintage 4-wood. Runner-up Steve Mortimer was just a stroke behind at 46, good enough for the used golf balls. Mike Byrnes and Mike O’Reilly tied for third place with 47, causing some consternation among the players on how to split $1.25 in Canadian Tire money evenly.
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