Don Drehoff congratulates 2019 SPAM Champion Frank Mejia
The 2019 Spam — A Story to Tell Our Children and Our Children’s Children …
We will tell stories to our children and our children’s children …
“Father, tell us about the man that landed on the moon …
“Pop, tell us what happened when the Berlin Wall came down …”
“Granddad, tell us why our youngest sibling looks like the mailman …”
And now … “Tell us about the great Frank Mejia …”
Ah. The great Frank Mejia. Born to an itinerate farmer in Puerto Rico. Raised harvesting the sugar cane. Toiled in the local spice factory, picking fly poop out of pepper while wearing boxing gloves.
Then one day — was it boredom?, was it fate?, was it destiny? — he fashioned the golf club he could not afford, attaching a conch shell to the end of a sugar cane stalk …
Well, that’s where the story we know begins.
From there to local caddy. From there to local club champion. From there to America, stowing away on a Pan Am jet — and to this day, he still claims he was actually employed by that airline of yesteryear.
From there to the BGA. From there to BGA major champion. From there to the Godfather of the BGA.
Still, there was something missing. Something food could not fill. Something drink could not quench. Something doctors could not cure. Something women could not soothe by saying, “that’s ok, Frank, I know your tired and had a long day, we can try again tomorrow …”
The Spam. Frank had never won the Spam. Frank’s only blemish on the greatest of BGA careers. He had not won the Grand Slam.
Until Sunday, June 23rd, 2019 … when he sunk a 15 foot putt on the final hole to make par … to win the last six holes for 18 points … to finish with 34 points … to win the 2019 Spam and complete the career Grand Slam.
Oh, I know where I was. In the group behind, watching the pandemonium on 18 from the fairway, knowing that grabbing five of the last six holes myself would not be enough (27.5 points).
Oh, I know where Mark Chester was. In the final group, finally not having to be “Buddha” to Don’s on-course histrionics through the first 48 holes … but folding like a cheap suit down the stretch, unable to pull off what would have been his 4th Spam title and first in nearly 20 years (22.25 points).
Oh, I know where Tommy Nelson was. In the final group., thinking “could this be my first major?,” only to have his hopes dashed by the surging Spaniard (17.25 points).
Oh, I know where Matt Schwam was. All alone in third place entering the final round, only to be frustrated over the last 18 holes, having to listen to Don belly-ache and complain (12.5 points).
Oh, I know where Pat Keough was. Playing, grinding, sweating, spoiling, solid off the tee, taking just enough points from everyone else to contribute to the miraculous (9.25 points).
Oh, I know where Leon Anderson was. Looking back at everyone from the fairway, almost every drive, longest in the field … but could not make a putt. Could Not Make A Putt :-(8.25 points).
Oh, I know where Chuck Petrilla was. Praying to the porcelain gods, not only for better health, but a Frank Mejia victory, too (hope you are felling better, Chuck).
But all of us were there — not only to watch history in the making — but the making of history, too (isn’t that saying the same thing?)
Anyhow, another story to tell our children and our children’s children: we were there when Frank Mejia won his first Spam to complete the career Grand Slam. Congrats!!!
Three original BGA members — Don, Frank and Mark — spent Friday with the fourth founding member, Tom Clement, enjoying golf together for the first time in probably a decade. The Kohler weekend officially started with an 18 hole Captain’s Choice match, Army (Frank and Tom) versus Navy (Mark and Don). Navy was hoping to repeat and win, like the match from ten years earlier, but it was not to be. If we had forgotten Tommy and his clutch putting, we remembered Tommy when he holed an impossible 25 foot putt from off the green (that damn Tuttle 2) on hole number 6 — to take a lead that Army never relinquished.
Unexpected sleet and hail forced an early adjournment … with Army declared the winner, 2 up.
These same Four Horsemen then shared the first Kohler Champions Dinner at Don’s house (Broughman, Harris and Ruppel were unavailable). Wine, steaks, wine, veggies, wine, dessert … did I say wine? Then we reviewed together the 25 years of the BGA, match by match, story by story, embellishing one after another … from what we could or tried to remember. Truly we are in the September of our years. However, it might actually be October or November for Mark … as he was unable to recall a single detail from ANY of his four BGA major victories.
And can someone tell us … what in the world ever happened to Larry von Arx?!?!?! (who won The Spam in 2013)
I mean, that’s what they tell you to do, when you’re hitting your first tee shot into a 20 mph wind, right? Well … some did … and some did not. Good swings and scoring were hard to come by during the first round on Saturday at Queenstown Lakes; however, a few players managed the elements and their bogey’ness well enough to score well and get into the final group for Sunday — Elkins, Hoff, Chester and Mejia. They were followed by a true bogey round by Solis, Nelson, Scott and Clement … then by Keough, Cummings, Kuhlmann and Drehoff, who gave bogey golfers a bad name that day.
Went straight to dinner, eating wonderful Maryland seafood, drinking wonderful cold beer, in a perfectly local restaurant overlooking the calm and chilly Chesapeake Bay. Then “home” to the “Chester Cottage,” right on property at the Queenstown Harbor Golf Course. Excellent accommodations, right?
Or at least it used to be that way. Back in the day, we played 36 a day and stayed up to well past midnight. Saturday night (afternoon?), the first guy announced “I’m going to bed” at 9pm … the next at 9:30pm … two more at 10pm.
However, we were able to celebrate the first round, along with two timely and heartfelt nomination ideas from Tom. First, renaming the Wellman/Dos Equis after the late Dale Lay (unanimous) … and the second, naming Frank Mejia as the first member of the BGA Hall of Fame (again, unanimous … but Mark and Don thought they were already “in” 🙂
I did not have the privilege of playing in the final group … but by all accounts from the players themselves and several thousand spectators who were following the leaders … it was a major for the ages.
Andy and Bob were tied at 20 points starting the day, followed by Frank with 15 and Mark with 12. Chester started with three pars on the first three holes to truly get back into the mix … Frank scored well, too … and with Andy and Bob trading identical front nine scores, the match drew ever tighter.
As the back nine wore on, with Andy and Bob played steady and well. But Mark parred three holes over a four hole stretch … then Frank birdied two holes in a row … and all four players arrived at the 18th hole where mathematically, ANY ONE OF THEM could have won the championship!
The final hole on Queenstown River is a brute: a 567 yard par five from the blues, shortened by 100 yards on Sunday because of the cold and breezy conditions, but still with two forced carries over environmental areas and a narrow green, Sunday back pin, and fronted by a cavernous bunker.
Chester made par to finish with 33 modified Stableford points — and would have at least tied for the lead to force a playoff — if the other three made triple. Frank made double to finish with 34 points. Bob scored strong with a solid bogey and 36 points. And Andy was wobbly off the tee, found the penalty area on two, stumbled and bumbled from there to the green … and had a four footer to save double bogey to win.
Before the ending, first, a word. Both are former BGA Rookies of the Year, having shined in previous Dos Equis Challenges. Bobby bombs and is the prototypical player every BGA’er wants to be … hit it long, get it to the green, chip/putt to get your 4 or 5. Andy, the youngest of the new BGA players, is more crisp on his irons, can putt like a fiend, and is quite exaggerated when stating his handicap 🙂
Both players acknowledged the final round and final hole pressures of playing for history … and a toilet seat trophy that no one will sit on … for a tournament that Queenstown Harbor forgot to put the right names on the carts and had to be reminded to construct the closest to the pin markers.
And both men acknowledged the life-changing importance of winning their first major, this, in the 25th anniversary year of the BGA.
I shed a tear of happiness when I think back over these past 25 years of the BGA: seeing Frank get off the boat from Cuba, with nothing but a makeshift 7 iron, the shaft made out of sugar cane, wearing nothing but the Bugle Boy clothes on his back. Or when Tom had more testosterone and would not concede two inch putts to anyone (or know the names of these anyones). Or when Mark used to hit these big banana left to right slices off the tee (ok, he still does that today). Or when Steve was elected to the Cart Girls Hall of Fame (first ballot, unanimous). Or when Dietrich promised to get us all a 1% home equity line of credit if he ever left being an Navy Admiral to go work for NFCU.
To the present today. Great guys added through the years — Bob, Al, Tom, Pat. Great guy added this weekend — Terry.
And to the future of the BGA — congratulations to Andy Elkins, winner of the 2019 Kohler, the first major of 2019, this in the 25th anniversary year of the BGA.