Few events are more highly anticipated than the Granddaddy of them all, the COF Championship. This year there was a palpable buzz in the air—from the outsized plains of Texas to the Atlantic shoreline. Many in the Circle crew could hardly wait to wage battle over the tricky fairways and island greens at Ruffled Feathers in Lemont, Illinois.

The action started Friday, which served both as a tune-up for the weekend’s individual play and also as a team competition. Four teams squared off, including a guest team (dubbed the Shamrock of Friends) from Crystal Lake Country Club north of Chicago. For those of you who don’t know, this is a spirited bunch of our Caucasian brothers who formed a club of their own out of respect and admiration for our Circle. By the end of the day the best ball competition came to a tie between three teams: Team Superman: Alex Adams, Ron Pullie, Shaun Butler; Team Kirk: Larry Kirkwood, Frank Smith, Will Suggs and Ronnie Payne; and Team Shamrock: Tom Moran, Ed Ducett, Dave Waggoner, and honorary Shamrock Darrell James. All three posted a jaw-dropping score of … 59 … (Holy Sandbaggers! We need an umpire to keep an eye on these guys!)

The winning team was decided on Sunday when representatives from each of the teams squared off in a chip-and-putt competition. Adams, Kirkwood and the Shamrock’s big black guy, Darrell “I wanna be Irish” James waged war with their wedges. Kirk was eliminated after the first chip and putt. And in a surprising turn of events DJ (who was caught praying to the Irish gods) managed to drain a short putt while Superman rolled his 6-footer by the cup. Well, what do ya know, lads …Victory to Team Shamrock!

The individual competition was divided into four flights this year: C, B, &A players, plus an all-new A+ group. The C flight was dominated by one of our most improved players: Will “Coach” Lucas. Will is known for giving people guidance in their professional careers, but it looked like he has received some quality coaching himself—on his golf game! Will’s combined score (194) would have placed him second in the B flight! True, he had the benefit of playing from the gold “up” tees, but the fact is, this brother’s got game! He shot 98/96 over two days when many players (even A flighters) were ballooning into the 100s. Second place went to perennial C-Flight contender, Ronnie Payne and third to Circle veteran Shaun Butler.

The B flight also had a runaway winner. And this is a little bit of a sore spot. Generally the Circle does not like newcomers to step in and collect first-place hardware right out of the gate. But that is exactly what Will “Don’t Call Me Scruggs” Suggs did. Another Racine boy, Suggs adjusted quickly to Ruffled, which is not easy. He made few mistakes and played consistently—precisely what course architect Pete Dye demands. Will’s 97/96 scores for a 193 total kept him comfortably in front of Commissioner Billy Dexter. Dexter, who was trying to take home a winner’s trophy for the first time in years, got off to a good start with a 94 on Saturday but he faded under the September sun with a 109 on Sunday. It was still good enough for second place. And in third, was Larry Fields, another newcomer to the Circle, who made the trip from St. Louis. Congrats guys.

Usually the A flight is a foregone conclusion because our scratch golfers have historically run away with it. This year would be different…so we thought. We formed an A+ flight so the scratch golfers could compete evenly with one another (more on that shortly) and leave 80s shooters to battle for the regular A-flight glory. The expectation was that we would have a hotly contested battle among a handful of guys: O Ashford, Ike Carter, Thomas “Pretty Ricky” Harvey, D J Quick, Roc-It Crockett, and more. All of them had been playing well leading up to the tourney. The first day was just as advertised. Big O jumped into the lead with an 84, followed by Leon “Blade” Capers, who showed that after an off year he had regained his good form. Ike was in the mix and so was Roc-It, shooting 89 and 90 respectively.

But as they say, there’s a reason why we play the game. On any given Sunday…you never know what’s gonna happen. And at Ruffled, ANYTHING can happen! Oh how foul the play was on Sunday. Explosions were occurring all over the course. Ashford blew up with a 102. Crockett went absolutely AWOL with a 104. Harvey could only manage a 99.

Darrell James, who got Quik on everybody Friday and dropped a 76 (Note: No Circle member saw this, as he was playing with the Shamrock team) but he succumbed to the “Yeah, bruh, follow that up” pressure and carded a 91 n Saturday. To his credit he held on to post a 95 on Sunday—not his best but good enough to land the 3rd place trophy. Meanwhile, sleeper Reggie Dunlop quietly put up an 89 Saturday, and like the veteran captain he is, he steered his way to a 94 Sunday to post a 183 weekend total and claim the 2nd place trophy. First place went to the only guy in the A flight who played like he was supposed to: Turning in two consecutive scores in the 80s—with day two’s 86 better than his opening day 89. Ike Carter—who was called Black in the “Hazzard,” “Rough” and every other wayward place, before the competition—was Black in the “Champion’s Circle” by Sunday. After a year of seconds and thirds and an absurd amount of golf, Carter put a lickin’ on the field and tasted sweet victory.

It’s funny how some things just don’t seem to change. Tommy “Long Ball” Blanchard had long been the class of the Circle field when it came to golf. With his near scratch handicap and smooth stroke, he had hardly been challenged and mostly had to give strokes to the field in past events. Enter Alex “Superman Adams, a former pro player and current golf instructor. Adams is a guy who rarely shoots over 75. And so, the Circle created a special A+ flight, mainly for Superman and Long Ball to go head to head. Indeed they did. It was Blanchard who jumped out to the early lead with a sizzling 75 on Saturday. It’s rumored he was so hot that he drained 200 feet worth of putts that day. Adams, meanwhile was a bit off his game, and could only manage a 79. Sunday was sure to be a tight battle. Would Adams bolt from his metaphorical phone booth and go low on Blanchard? Well, maybe Blanchard slipped some kryptonite in Superman’s bag, we don’t know, but all Adams could muster was another, mere mortal 79. And Tommy remained steady enough to card an 83 … meaning the two tied with 158 for the weekend!

So, off to the chipping green we went. As if deflated by his sub-par play, Superman just couldn’t fly and Tommy “Long Ball” beat him with superior short shots. That meant not only did Blanchard win the A+ battle, he also amassed 1100 points, which added to his 1100 from last year’s Circle Championship victory, gave him 2200 points—enough to claim the coveted Circle of Friends Cup.

Congratulations to Tommy Blanchard!