The excitement was palatable as the largest group of golfers ever showed up for the fifth annual Western Montana Military Officers Golf Championship. There were past champions such as Gary Sorensen and Will Deschamps and perennial runner-up Gary Swartz with high expectations; actually, the field was loaded with long, straight hitters chomping at the bit to unleash towering shots down the fairways of the Highlands Golf Course in Missoula.
The three foursomes were composed of Will Deschamps, Don Malerk, Dean Pond and Doug Heyer. This talented group lead things off by having all four drives solidly down the fairway. They were followed by the Bitterroot Bunch; Ike and Brenda Slaughter, Tracy Pohl and John Nolan. In a similar fashion, this group all found the first fairway and were off to challenge the course. The last foursome was headed up by Gary Sorensen, Jim Hamilton and Holly and Gary Swartz. They quickly found that most of the good tee shots had already been used up. It was indicative of things to come.
As the foursomes hacked their way over hill and dale, thru canopies of trees and creeks, at least the weather was great. The first hole prize was closest to the pin on hole number three, a short par three. The last group was shocked to find that no one had hit the green! Despite several close calls, Jim Hamilton claimed the beautiful prize with a well struck seven iron.
Play continued as the players approached the second prize hole; Longest Drive on hole number five. Don Malerk set the pace for the first group with a beautiful drive down the fairway. Little did Don know that Ike Slaughter was following up with “the longest drive I have hit all year”. The marker was moved so far down the fairway that the last group couldn’t even see the stake. Despite a massive drive Gary Swartz had to settle for third place in the long drive contest.
The golfers struggled with the hilly, tree lined course but persevered in true military fashion. As the groups stood on the ninth tee, they could see several things; the water that they had to drive over, the clubhouse with its’ bar (and restrooms) and the final prize for longest putt. One last chance for glory! Exhausted, the final group arrived at the green to find the early golfers sipping beer and the long putt stake with Dean Pond’s name on it. Both Jim Hamilton and Gary Swartz faced longer putts and the pressure was on to capture the final prize. Swartz putted first and confidently rolled in a ten-footer to claim the prize.
The tally of the score cards was done around a group tables with drinks, tall tales and laughter as is our tradition. Jim Hamilton continued his stellar play this spring by capturing the Championship prize with a 46. One stroke ahead of Don Malerk and Will Deschamps. Brenda Slaughter had the best score for the ladies.
Ike Slaughter has volunteered to run the Championship next year at the Whitetail Golf in Stevensville.
Come join us and be prepared for a great time!