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Killer Bees Swarm: Maryland Clinches Potomac Cup Before Sunday Singles Begins
Steve Czaban jumped, slapped, and hop-scotched his way around the practice green at Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club shortly before the Mistushibu Skills Challenge commenced Saturday evening, but it was already too late. As another glorious sunset dove behind the Blue Ridge Mountains, turning the vale of Front Royal, Va., into an artist's palette of color, Czabe was swatting away clusters of late summer bees, while his Potomac Cup team members laughed at his ungainly efforts to escape being stung.
Virginia's squad should have offered more help swatting rather than standing around watching, because the Killer Bees of Team Maryland - their Potomac Cup members from Breton Bay, Blue Mash, Bethesda and Beaver Creek - powered through another pair of doubles matches so overwhelmingly, they clinched the Potomac Cup a day early, before Sunday singles matches were even selected. After cruising through the morning foursomes 4-2, they won five of the six afternoon four-ball matches on route to a 19.4 - 4.5 lead. They needed only 18.5 points top retain the Cup they won back from Virginia last year. The overall series stands at 5-4 Virginia.
Team Red veterans Mike Wah, Pete DeTemple, and Bill Jenner are all a perfect 4-0-0 thus far. Jenner has won two of his four matches with birdies on 18. "18's been real good to me this week," he said with his friendly, folksy aw-shucks demeanor. "I rolled in two good putts, but I also had two great partners. DeTemple was a big help Friday in a great match with Ross McIntosh and Mark Fegani. We even had to endure an eagle from Ross at the second hole, but Iwe held tough and I was grateful for the chance to getr a look at a putt to win and it went in. And yesterday afternoon I got to do it all over again with Cookie Monster [teammate Greg Roberts], who eats up every player who gets in front of him."
Maryland number 1 seed Rusty Pies also won two matches yesterday, one with Mike Wah and the other with DeTemple. Pies sank the cup-clinching putt on the 15th hole as he and Ken Lampard closed out Frank Romano and Mark Fegani 4&3.
"Rusty is just playing some of the best golf I have ever seen," said Maryland Captain Ron Thomas. "Between he and Vance Welch and the Killer Bees we are just ecstatic for the future of our team and for this tournament."
Indeed, the Potomac Cup is in its heady, halcyon heyday. If you want to find the true altruistic spirit of the amateur golfer, it's here, in all it's splendor, pride and glory. Just like the Travis Invitational, Crump Cup and Anderson Tournament attracts the finest amateur and mid-amateur players, so to does the Potomac Cup draw it's field from the finest competitors in the region. By weekday, they are clockmakers, policemen, airport engineers, sales reps, brokers, real estate salesman, even a secret service man. But on weekends, their plus-handicaps take them to the finest courses and most venerable tournaments including, happily, the Potomac Cup, the closest thing to the Ryder Cup or Walker Cup amateurs playing for state pride can find anywhere.
"We have a great time all week," said an elated Lee Flemister, one of Maryland's strongest players and author of two of the biggest comebacks in tournament history. Twice Flemister and a partner turned the tables on opponents on the back nine. On Thursday he and partner Jeff Lim Sharpe - "Cousin Itt from the Addams Family, but with golf clubs," as Flemister described his partner's long mane of hair - he and Sharpe won 10-14 to beat Tom Lantz and Chris Robb. Then last night, Flemister victimized Robb again. After Robb and Karl Keiffer went up five holes at the turn, Flemister and Chad Rowse won holes 10-15 to reverse the match and take the lead. The clockmaker - sorry,"horologist" - from Rockville then rolled in a twisting 40-footer over a swale in front of all his teammates to cinch the match in the clutch.
Shockingly, player-captain Vance Welch lost his first point of the tournament. Paired with tween-age sensation Keegan Boone, they were upset by Tom Lantz and Steve Ciliberti, Virginia's prize rookies. Dan Derisio also scored his second point of the event, teaming with Mark Fegani for a breezy 4&3 drubbing of Lampard and Martin, the only two killer bees to surrender a point. Steve "The Thing" Nolin, Chris Robb and Frank Romano also scored for Virginia.
As we go to press, Romano is fighting for some measure of redemption. After missing his second tee time - and incurring his second penalty - in as many days, Team Blue has branded him "Flava-Flav" because Captain Czaban has hung a clock around his neck like a modern-day version of the albatross to The Ancient Mariner. Undaunted, Romano shut up his critics up with a stunning singles win over heavily-favored Rusty Pies.
"It's been a hard few days," said Steve Czaban, "but I told my team, to play hard on Sunday not just for themselves, but the team, and for the state. We want to make the final score look more respectable than the lopsided rout it's been. But when you're playing a team demonstrably better in all areas, it's an uphill struggle all the way, not unlike some of the early scores in the Ryder Cup."
Then Czaban smiled and that puckish twinkle returned to his eye. "Besides, the real silver lining is that a lot of good players in Virginia will see the final score and want to avenge it. So we anticipate the guys in the section to come out and get up back in the win column."
Meanwhile, it's the Killer Bees who'll buzz back north with splendid booty. They'll have the Potomac Cup for the second consecutive year, as well as the Sheriff's Award for the tournament's most outstanding player.
"I'm gonna miss this all year long," said Jenner. "But we love it up at Breton Bay and we have a lot of great players, so we're looking forward to coming back next year and doing battle again. There is just nothing like this tournament."
He's right. You can feel it every time Steve Ciliberti jumps out of his shoes after sinking a putt. You can see it with every pair of electric pants worn by colorful Jeff Lim-Sharpe. You can sense it every time rookies like Robb and Lantz look to veterans like Thing and Waslo for leadership. Isn't it great to see grateful golfers fight for every blade of grass as though American hegemony were at stake? Isn't it refreshing to have a true-grass roots sporting event not brought to us by crass corporate vultures and mass consumer culture? It's a throwback to the glory days of the game.
"It's one of the most exciting experiences an amateur golfer can have, agreed Ron Thomas. "The camaraderie and the fellowship and the atmosphere that 'Czabe' and the Middle Atlantic Section of the PGA have created in this event is heartwarming."
"It's our Ryder Cup," said Vance Welch laconically.
Yes, Vance, it is…and it's yours for another year. In the meantime, someone tell Steve Czaban to bring some bee killer. Maybe a can or two of Mortein do-it-yourself bug bomb. Otherwise the Killer Bees will be making honey for quite some time.
Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, http://www.jayflemma.thegolfspace.com, Jay Flemma's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 220 nationally ranked public golf courses in 37 different states. Jay has played about 1,649,000 yards of golf - or roughly 938 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer (www.golfobserver.com), Cybergolf and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy and Emmy awards, won a Sundance Film Festival Best Director award, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. Jay lives in Forest Hills, N.Y., and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.
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