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Summer Camp

A first-hand account of The Broken Tee Society’s epic July 4th at Sand Valley
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The following is an unsolicited email sent to TGJ from a guest of our July 4 event at Sand Valley Golf Resort. It has been edited for clarity and length. 

I wake up at 2:30 a.m. in Houston on Thursday to get ready for the 4:50 flight to Milwaukee. The only two things I’m worried about are where I can get a sugar-free Red Bull and will my partner Chris—a giant ex-Marine who I met just a few weeks ago at a poker game and wears a cowboy hat with his Puma slides—have his ass ready on time. An abundance of golf is on the horizon, and I cannot wait.

The flight goes great, we land in Milwaukee, and then hit the trip’s first snag: the F-150 we rented had been replaced by an apple red Jeep Gladiator. Just to give you an idea as to where I come from, let’s just say I ain’t pulling up on a single person I know in a red jeep or truck. Just not happening. But hey, it’s about to get the job done. So, after we literally get asked if we plan on robbing a bank by the rental car associate, we load up the wagon and hit the trail. 

Ninety minutes later (the ex-Marine pees a lot) we pull up in Kohler. Not a drop of fear in me at this point, but I feel something starting to poke its head up. Unaware of what it is, I painfully push through the 18 for a solid 111.

We make it back to the hotel for showers, massages, dinner and bed. I toss and turn for an hour. How can this be? I slept two hours the night before and haven’t stopped until right now. Is Whistling Straits that terrifying to me? Absolutely not. I’m the guy that recently played the Kiawah Ocean Course after only playing golf for three months. By myself. I don’t qualify as a guy that gets worried about a golf course. So what is it? Why can’t I sleep?

Two words: Summer camp.

It’s not fear, anxiety, or worry. It’s excitement in one of its purest forms: Laying in bed on Christmas Eve, on the night before the first day of seventh grade, or the night before summer camp. Who will I meet? What should I wear? No bedtime, three meals a day, and a bunch of activities: nobody conquers this type of excitement.

Finally, the clock hits 7:30. Let’s get it. We top off the jeep, throw on a nice blend of Nipsey Hussle, Van Morrison and George Jones, and we are on the road for a three-hour drive to Sand Valley Golf Resort.

We pull up and I was right: cabins, trees, lakes, and peace everywhere you look. It’s perfection. It’s summer camp. Get checked in, unload our luggage, pop on some shorts and the Linksoul pullover that’s awaiting us on our beds, and off to dinner.  A food truck and night golf. That’s how this trip starts. I need a fried chicken sandwich, fries, two White Claws, a shot of Fireball, a 56, 52, and a putter. Let’s go meet these grown-ups who obviously love this game as much as me.

First guy I meet is another Brody. What are the chances?! Very small for those who don’t know.  Then Tim, Z, Casey, Foster, Zack, Team Rhino, and the list goes on. All of them are as welcoming as the next. We are playing the Sandbox covered in glow sticks and everyone is having an absolute ball! But this is just the welcome reception. Tomorrow is what we all came for.

Breakfast sandwiches, screw driver, one 1942, and wouldn’t you know, the guy dressed like the Trailer Park Boys meets Hacksaw Jim Duggan gets paired with Casey and Tom. Two of the big dogs out here. We get the money straight on the first tee. I’m a 17, so I stroke on almost every hole. I start par-par. The glares are starting to make a few appearances. Then I put up a solid 9 on No. 3. Tension is gone, and the rest of the way around the beautiful hills of Mammoth Dunes it’s nothing but laughs and stories. The course is exactly what a 17-handicap that struggles to keep it in the fairway needs: WIDE OPEN. 

Don’t mistake it for easy, though. There’s plenty coming at you once you get to your second shot. Not a blade of grass is out of place. Every bunker is where you don’t want it. And every green giggles at you as you read your putt. It’s a true golf course. Beautiful and mean. Loving and vengeful. We finish all-square at the end of 18 (93) with two new friends. A quick bite of lunch and it’s off to Sand Valley for a quick 18.

This round we get paired with a father-son duo. A software developer, and a retired NICU doctor, Marty. Perfect for a gold salesman and a firefighter like Chris and I. Again, we get the game figured out on the first tee and then out of nowhere Marty starts talking trash. And I mean real-deal trash. And he never stops. So much so that by the end of the round my abdomen and face both hurt from laughing so hard. Doc was great. A wealth of knowledge and wisdom. And pretty dang good with his fairway woods. My dad passed away a little over three years ago. He was an avid golfer. This is something I never got to enjoy with him like these two do. So it was such a beautiful experience to watch these two knuckleheads walk such a beautiful course and go back and forth picking on each other. Both legit golf nerds. And I soaked as much up as I could! After a fun 18 (another 93) we head back to our rooms. We walk out on the shared back porch and there are Marty and Doc with beers waiting for us. We didn’t even know we were neighbors for the weekend!

Dinner goes great and now it’s time for a Sunday morning 18 at Sand Valley. Fourth of July.  Independence Day. I walk in wearing red, white, and blue from head to toe. From the red golf cap, to the knickers and red, white, and blue socks, to the navy blue gator-tipped shoes Ric Flair meets Payne Stewart. I need a sandwich and a repeat of the drink order from the previous day. 

Tee shots crushed and Tim, Mark, Chris, and I head out to play the match of my golfing career.  These fellas are long. Real long. With everything they take out of the bag. It’s a battle. Mark starts off just a tad slow, but Tim tells me to get him a Coors Light. He failed to mention it was the equivalent of Michael’s Secret Stuff. One sip: Bombs. Tim hits the best 6-iron I’ve ever seen in my life. EVER. And he does it over and over again. But somehow my strokes keep tying or winning. I’m not even really paying attention, I’m just in awe of their games and the beauty that surrounds us. These guys are the whole reason we are all here. And for some reason they give off the vibe that they are lucky to be able to spend this time with us. That’s the type of periodical this is. These guys love golf and love golfers that love golf. I found that out on my way to an absolutely crazy 89. Yeah, they weren’t thrilled about losing, but I’ve never been congratulated more and been told anyone was proud of me for how I played golf than by these two gentlemen after our round until the moment we parted ways later that night. And I can tell you right now, they meant it. It was an amazing day. With amazing people. At an amazing place.

As I’m writing this, I am lying on my couch at home, holding my daughter, watching The Match and all I want to do is tell all these guys that work so hard at The Golfer’s Journal, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for showing me that golf is really a game that is for anybody at any age. And that even a middle-aged man can still get excited about summer camp.

Brody Lafitte

Sent from my iPhone