2012 KGA Senior Four-Ball Championship
“Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology.”
Television’s Oscar Goldman set the plot for viewers of the ‘70s series “The Six Million Dollar Man” each week. Scientists gave injured test pilot Steve Austin a new lease on life with high-tech parts that enabled Austin to perform incredible feats and become a crime stopping “machine.”
Human re-builds -- admittedly to a lesser degree -- are occurring all the time these days. When our parts begin to break down surgeons give us new ones that improve our quality of life – and sometimes our golf game.
One such replacement surgery gave Baldwin City’s Mike Grosdidier a new knee this off-season and that procedure helped the Alvamar Golf Club player and partner Bob Hartmann win the 2012 Senior Four-Ball Championship earlier this month at Firekeeper Golf Course near Mayetta.
“I’d like to thank my orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bob Gardner,” said the 57-year-old Grosdidier, moments after he and Hartmann had bested the Four-Ball field by five shots. “He’s a member at Wolf Creek Golf Links. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have been playing here today.”
It was a great way to start off the season for the long-hitting Hartmann, who saw his team shoot rounds of 65-66 on the highly regarded par-72 Firekeeper layout and become the first entry not named Andy Smith/Steve Groom to win the event since 2008.
“It is very gratifying to win an event on the state level because of the quality of the field. I really enjoy being able to compete in events like the Senior Four-Ball,” said Shawnee’s Hartmann, 55. “It’s just a pleasure. It was a good field and to be able to come out on top is just great. When Mike and I talked about the possibility of being paired together I was excited about the opportunity because of what Mike brings in terms of competitiveness. Having played with him in the past I knew that he can play great golf when the stakes are high and I was confident that we could compete for the championship.”
Riding the wind
Grosdidier and Hartmann entered the final day at the Senior Four-Ball with a share of the lead at 7- under par. Joining them in the final group were 2008 Four-Ball champions Dakin Cramer of Wichita and Andover’s Randy Vautravers. Parkville, Mo.’s Scott Richey and Overland Park’s Mike Houtteman stood just one shot back and two teams, including three-time defending champions Groom and Smith, were just another stroke back and 5-under.
But the conditions at Firekeeper had changed. Gone were cool, cloudy and abnormally calm conditions of the first day. In their place were sun and the more typical winds gusting to 20 mph and higher.
But Grosdidier and Hartmann weren’t going to go backwards despite the challenging conditions. The former made birdie from about 10 feet on the first hole and added another on the par-5 fourth with a nifty knock-down wedge that nestled within 3 feet of the cup.
“I had about 55 yards and just kind of knocked a little sand wedge down and got it in there fairly close,” said Grosdidier, a State Farm Insurance agent in Lawrence. “Every time I’ve played this course, other than yesterday, it’s been like this. The wind is its protection. It’s got to be there to protect the golf course and it did. And the course was in tremendous condition. They’ve done just a fantastic job out here at Firekeeper.”
Shawnee Golf & Country Club’s Hartmann then got to the par-5 fifth in two with a 244-yard second shot and two-putted for another birdie from about 10 feet above the hole. Grosdidier had given him a free run on the eagle putt, draining a 25-footer for birdie.
“It was hole-high, coming right down the hill,” said Hartmann, senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Shawnee. “I just misread it a little bit. If I remember right I hit a pretty good putt there it just didn’t go in. We just played very solid. I don’t remember a time on the front nine where we needed to get up and down for par or anything like that. We were close for birdie eight out of nine holes.”
The two turned in 33 and had a two-shot margin over Cramer and Vautravers, who’d suffered a bogey at the par-3 fifth but got the shot back with Vautravers’ tap-in birdie at the sixth. Cramer’s 4-footer for birdie at No. 9 got the Flint Hills National golfers to red figures for the day at 8-under.
“I played the ninth hole well and other than that I wasn’t in the conversation,” joked the 63-year-old Cramer, who faced several long putts during his round and suffered at least two severe lip outs for birdie. “I enjoyed yesterday more than today. But for them to shoot 65 yesterday and then back it up with a 66 today is phenomenal.”
In similar fashion to what had happened at the par-5 sixth, the leaders extended their margin at the par-5 11th, as Grosdidier played the hole in three shots and rolled in a 4-footer for birdie. Hartmann reached the surface in two and two putted from about 12 feet.
“It was just 100 yards in, a good number and I hit it close,” Grosdidier said. “I was lucky enough to make the putt.”
Grosdidier’s fine up-and-down par from in front of the green at the par-4 12th, which was playing right into the stiff breeze, gave his team a four-shot lead. Hartmann then took dead aim at the 202-yard, par-3 13th and the margin swelled to five strokes.
“I hit a 6-iron and hit the straightest putt I hit all day,” Hartmann said of the tap-in birdie that got him and his partner to 12-under for the championship. “I hit a very pure 6-iron, as sweet as I can hit it.”
Grosdidier moved the team to 13 under par for the championship and a bit closer to its first title with a 35-foot birdie putt at the par-4 15th hole. The two closed out a six-under 66 with three straight pars and their 131 total was five ahead of second-place Rj Opliger of Olathe and Council Groves’ Tim Tyner. Opliger and Tyner had opened the event with a four-under 68, which included seven birdies. They added a bogey-free 68 on the second day.
“It’s always a tough course and the wind makes it that much tougher,” said Tyner, 53 and in insurance sales. “The back nine, to get through it without any bogeys…we did it. We had four birdies (for the round). My partner birdied (No. 1) as he did yesterday. Then he birdied four and then he had a really, really nice birdie on five. Then I birdied No. 11…I birdied that from 211 on my third shot.”
Another shot back were Salina’s Bob Vidricksen and Frank Roth at 137. The 2007 Senior Four-Ball champions had rounds of 68 and 69 at Firekeeper.
Vautravers and Cramer settled for a three-way tie for sixth at 139 after a double-bogey at the home hole ended a 39 on the back side and a second-day 74.
Net Division winners at the 2012 Four-Ball were Topeka’s Randy Forbes and Tecumseh’s Craig Cooper at 59-55-114. Topeka’s Bill McDonald and three-time KGA senior player of the year Don Kuehn of Kansas City claimed the top spot in the Super Senior Division after 68-72--140.
Off and running
Grosdidier and Hartmann, playing in their first KGA team event together, got off to a fast start during the first round of the 2012 event. The two made five birdies in a 31 front side and that led to a 7-under 65. Each player contributed a pair of birdies as the team birdied the last four holes on Firekeeper’s front nine.
“Bob shot 32 on his own ball and it could have been better than that; that’s how good he was playing,” Grosdidier said.
Cool, cloudy weather the first day included little or no wind and that made for fine scoring conditions. Grosdidier and Hartmann took advantage, especially on the greens.
“The putts were going in; we made putts,” Hartmann said simply.
Joining them at 65 were Cramer and Vautravers who had a nice birdie string on the front side of their own in route to a 7-under round. The team birdied Nos. 3 through 6, including three by Vautravers.
“We missed some short putts early then we made four birdies in a row,” recalled Vautravers, 56. “We went on and played really solid. We left some strokes out there yesterday. We played well yesterday. We left some out there on the back nine, but we played solid all the way around.”
Cramer and Vautravers saw a few early chances slip away on day two and that removed any real chance of threatening for the Four-Ball title.
“We were right there. I hit it 8 feet right below the hole on (No. 7) and hit a good putt and it didn’t go in. That was probably our chance right there to at least get back within one shot of them and at least be in the conversation,” Vautravers said. “You’ve got to get the ball in the hole. (But) we had fun. Dakin and I are still speaking to each other…”
Smith, Groom see streak end at three
Few times in the history of the Kansas Golf Association has one entry won the same championship three times in a row.
Four times would be almost unthinkable.
Kansas City’s Andy Smith and Raytown, Mo.’s Steve Groom came into the 2012 Senior Four-Ball as the three-time defending champion, having secured titles in 2009 at Sycamore Ridge, 2010 at Salina Country Club and last year at Tallgrass Country Club. This year they put themselves into contention with a 5-under 67 on the first day.
“Steve played great yesterday and I just kind of held it in there a couple times,” said Smith, 57. “Steve played really, really good. I felt better about actually getting to play golf. I haven’t been playing very much.”
The 53-year-old Groom birdied the par-3 seventh hole and added four more on Firekeeper’s back nine, including one at the last hole to get the team within two of the lead.
“I really felt like yesterday we could have shot a couple lower,” Groom said. “I’ll say this again, the winner usually comes from the last group and we couldn’t get there.”
Playing in the third-to-last group in the final round, the three-peaters could not muster much of a charge in the wind of day two. They carded a 71 and settled for a tie for fourth at 139.
“I really expected today we’d come out firing and we just really didn’t make much happen,” said 2007 KGA senior player of the year Smith. “That was the story. We made a birdie and a bogey on the front and that was it. We had some really good opportunities to make some birdies at (Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 9) and we just didn’t make it happen. We kind of buried ourselves on the front side.”
Groom, the 2011 KGA senior player of the year, was able to keep things in perspective after seeing the streak end.
“We’re good friends and our friendship is more important than how we compete on the golf course,” he said. “We’ll start another streak.”
“When you win one it’s fun. Two is even better and when you can win three…,” he said. “Steve and I are good friends. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. Four would’ve been great. We’ll start another streak the next tournament. That’s what we’re going to try to do and that’s the way we play golf.”