At 7:10 am on Saturday, April 26th, under the bright Arizona sun, the inaugural Circle of Friends Phoenix Open was officially launched with a high, curling drive down the fairway. Sixteen brothers gathered in the desert for what turned out to be a stone cold, er…uh, make that stone-hot, desert blast. Perfect, near-90-degree temperatures, luxury

Like every Circle event the festivities started with a practice round on Friday at the We-ko-pa golf club in Fort McDowell, AZ—a picturesque oasis of plush fairways and greens carved beneath the jagged bluffs of Scottsdale. If you weren’t there, the fact is, you had to see it to believe it. We-ko-pa is a spectacular place that certainly deserves its lofty ratings by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine. The course we played on Friday, called Cholla and built in 2001, was a great track. But most agreed that the tournament course, the newer Saguaro, was even better. Its lightening fast greens, elevation changes and stunning views made for memorable rounds Saturday and Sunday. This course was like a super fine sistah—a treat for the eyes but intimidating enough that you had to bring you’re “A” game to make a successful move on her.

Many of us had trouble steppin’ up to the challenge. Day 1 ended with 11 scores of 100 or higher. But Tommy “Long Ball” Blanchard shot an impressive 84 to snag the trophy that went to the Round 1 A Flight winner. Meanwhile, Lonnie “L.J.” Jones shot an even 100 to claim home the Round 1 trophy in the B Flight.

On the final day, a lot of golfers came out in their Sunday best. Reggie “Capt. Reg” Dunlop sported some lime green kicks, a green and navy Kangol cap and a matching green Footjoy glove. Billy “Billy D” Dexter was GQ clean as always, rocking a red and gray argyle sweater, cool gray slacks, matching belt and a gray Kangol cap. Roger “Roc-it” Crockett wore a Sunday plum-red shirt, black pants with gray pinstripes, a red Stacy Adams belt, a matching red glove and black and red Adidas shoes. But the brother that took home the trophy for best dressed (again!) was Isaac “Ike Turner” Carter. He was decked out in black with dark gray tailor-made slacks (these bad boys had little pockets on the thigh for holding golf balls and tees!) black-and-white wing-tip shoes, and a hat with a custom logo: a slimmed-down silhouette of him swinging and the motto, “Black in the Game,” printed on the back. Talk about stone cold!

Unfortunately, the impressive outfits didn’t help our golf games much. Carter did manage to rebound nicely from his Day 1 106 with a strong 92 on Sunday. But it wasn’t enough to catch the leaders. Crockett started well, with some pars on the early holes and a birdie on No. 9, but he couldn’t maintain any consistency and posted a 95 Sunday. Still, that was good enough to tie him with Ron “Brown Suga” Pullie, who (unbelievably) had complained about being in the A Flight. Pullie posted his second sub 100 day in a row, shooting 98 Sunday to match his 98 on Saturday. He and Crockett both shot 196 for the two days, but Pullie walked away with the second place trophy by winning the tie breaker: shooting lower on the course’s toughest handicap holes. Congrats to Pullie, whose nickname must now be changed to Ron “I’m a Legit A Flighter” Pullie.

Speaking of new nicknames, let’s call Blanchard, Tommy “Can’t Catch Me” Blanchard. In 2005, he took home the top prize in the inaugural Circle of Friends tourney in Chicago. Evidently, he has a thing for inaugurals. Despite stumbling to an 89 at We-ko-pa on Sunday, due largely to a humbling battle with a greenside bunker, Blanchard spotted the field 10 strokes a day (because of his 2 handicap) and still escaped with a tournament total of 193. That was good enough for a decisive 3-stroke victory in the A Flight.

The B Flight was just as tight. After Round 1, Billy Dexter (101) and Reggie Dunlop (102) were close on Lonnie Jones’ (100) heels. On Sunday, Jones remained consistent shooting 101. Dexter, though, was fighting his swing all day. Maybe it was the Kangol cap, or maybe it was the pressure of being matched with rival “Capt Reg.” Whatever it was, Dexter recorded a 104 and came in third behind Jones and the guy who literally lit up his victory cigar on hole 16: B Flight winner, Reggie “Red Auerbach” Dunlap.

Footnote: Leon “Blade” Capers would want it to be known that he wasn’t locked out of the trophy picture. Capers won the Long Drive contest on Saturday. And Reggie “The Cincinnati Kid” Ware bombed one by Blanchard for the Long Drive on Sunday. Isaac Carter got closest to the Pin on Saturday while Dexter captured the prize on Sunday. Pullie and Jones split the Longest Putt winnings.

Finally, it wouldn’t be a Circle of Friends outing without a skins pot: $700 over two days. Blanchard got the most loot, winning three of five skins on Day 1 and two of five on Day 2. Walking away with one a piece were Jeff “Fly Mo” Moore, Capers, Pullie, Carter and Crockett.

Special thanks goes to ‘Billy D’ for organizing another fantastic event, and to Roger C for his ongoing assistance. An absolutely great time was had by all! Please remember to mark your calendars for the Circle of Friends Championship in Chicago this September and the Crockett Classic in the S.F. Bay Area in October. Check back at www.circleoffriendsgolf.org for more information on these future events.

 

Don’t miss the “Circle of Friends Championship” in Chicago, Sept. 5-7 2008, and the

“Crockett Classic” in San Jose, CA Oct. 16-19