Wendy's Three Tour Challenge

by Ed DeBell

Golf is a fascinating game because there are so many unusual situations which present themselves to the golfer. I can think of any number of them, but one in particular stands out in my mind.

Quite a few years ago I used to travel to the South Shore of Lake Tahoe in order to play the Bijou Golf Course, a relatively short nine hole expanse which is almost as natural as a golf course could be. The terrain upon which it is located is an open meadow with several small brooks, quite a few coniferous trees, and an Alpine grass which is very resilient. It is truly a rustic course.

Designed in 1920 by Virgil Gilcrease, it was conceived with the golfer in mind and not the real estate developer. If it weren’t for the flags in the cup, a passerby would think it was just a large grassland or a glen or what the Scots also call a ‘shieling’. The greens are small and not elevated, very few traps, and the distance between tee markers (red, white, blue) is rather slight. And that brings me to my story.

On the occasion in mind, I had driven over to Lake Tahoe on the old mountain road from Genoa to the State Line, and consequently I arrived in the early afternoon before most of the ‘twilight league’ players arrived. I anticipated that I would be playing alone, but after I had paid my modest green fees and gathered my stovepipe bag I came upon an elderly gentleman and his wife who were warming up on the first tee. They very amicably invited me to go along with them, and I could scarcely refuse their genial offer. Thereby began the “Three Tee Odyssey”.

On the first tee we elected to let the lady tee off first from the red tees, the gentleman next from the white tees, and me tee off last from the blue tees. But it wasn’t always going to be that way. As the round progressed, it became apparent that there was a variety of combination concerning who would tee off first, next, and last. We decided who had the honor solely on merit...not on age, gender, or lack of length from the tee. So, as a consequence, the order of teeing off was different on every hole. And that made for a stimulating round of golf, wondering who would be hitting away first and from which tee. But we weren’t the only ones who would be doing that.

In December, on the weekend before Christmas, Wendy’s will sponsor the Three Tour Challenge at the South Shore Golf Club in Lake Las Vegas, Nevada. The tournament will be staged by Golden Bear Productions, which prefers to take the event each year to a different site that shows off the architectural abilities of the Golden Bear himself: Jack Nicklaus. Past sites have included the New Albany Country Club and the Colleton River Country Club.

This event was made specifically for television, and the unique format brings together teams from the PGA, LPGA and the SPGA. tour. Only nine players are involved - three from each tour in each group. Nine holes are shown on Saturday and nine holes on Sunday, and the scores for each tour’s threesome are added together, the lowest score becoming the winning score. The format is head-to-head medal play, and the competitors are chosen on the basis of their play in the major championships of each tour. Consequently it is rare the same player will ever appear more than once.

And that brings us back to the red, white, and blue tees again! In order to make the game more equitable for the ladies and the seniors, they do the same here that was done at Bijou: they have three sets of tees. And they let the players decide who has the honor...or who hits first, next, and last. (I can understand why it takes two days to play eighteen holes.) The ladies’ course is about 900 yards shorter than the championship course, whereas the seniors’ course is about 300 yards shorter.

Since there are three players’ scores to be reckoned and not just one, the position of the teams can change very quickly. If all three players on one team do well on a particular hole and all three players on another team do poorly, on the same hole, then obviously that hole will significantly affect the total score. Usually, however, the overall scores on any one hole average out so that the difference is very little, or none at all. It is the infrequent eagle or buzzard that makes the difference. A good team strategy would be to concentrate on making low scores on certain specific holes. Success at doing that would help them a great deal.

With more very young people playing the game and junior golf becoming so popular, I foresee the day when there will be a “Four Tour Challenge” that will be sponsored by some eager and enterprising organization. The junior players could compete for trophies and not for money and they could be referred to as the Junior Players’ Golf Association: the JPGA. There are a great many tournaments for juniors now, and there will surely be more in the future. If they were included in a “Four Tour Challenge”, there would then be four teams of four golfers representing the PGA, the LPGA., the SPGA, and the JPGA. I hope I am not getting ahead of myself.

But, seriously, if I am not, then where will they put that fourth tee, and does anybody have any idea what color it will be?