MONROE TOWNSHIP, NJ – For the ninth time in 12 years, the team of Philadelphia and New Jersey golf media all-stars defeated the New York/National golf writers and broadcasters to win the Writer Cup at Forsgate Country Club’s fabled Banks Course. Playing a stroke play format where the top ten net and top three gross scores counted, Philly shellacked New York by a whopping 76 shots.
Still, no matter what the scoreboard reads, the annual donnybrook between Philly and New York is always the brightest star in a golf writer’s sky: Another year of rousing cheers, of frothy beers and smiling peers, of hearts sincere and friendships dear.
“It’s Christmas in July!” gushed one happy player. “It’s our Ryder Cup and we look forward to it gratefully every year.” After all, the chance to play one of the greatest Golden Age golf courses, and the last in the portfolio of the great architectural Bloodline of C.B. Macdonald, Seth Raynor, and Charles “Steamshovel” Banks is a life event in the career of any ardent golfer. But decked out for any tournament – from USGA qualifiers to the member-guest and anything in between – a day at Forsgate becomes a walk through golf history.
Originally designed and opened in 1931, the club thrived while the Great Depression raged all around it thanks to the singular vision and altruistic mission of it’s founder John Forster. He made the well-being of the citizens of his town his personal responsibility.
Cut to In 2008, owner Chris Schiavone and golf architect Stephen Kay are cut from exactly the same mold. Kay doodled golf holes in his math class notes as a kid – that’s how much he wanted to be an architect. And Schiavone, like Forster understands that selflessness and camaraderie are not just the ethos of the game, but the backbone of a happy membership. Schiavone an team foster an atmosphere of homespun wholesomeness at Forsgate – it’s a family place! – while also getting everyone to join in the groupthink that they are stewards of the game’s traditions and the club’s illustrious history.
What Schiavone and team are doing works: To the members of Forsgate, every day is Writer Cup Day. Every meal is a banquet, every round feels like Open Championship Sunday, and everyone you meet loves the game like a +4 handicapper.
Perhaps nothing speaks more volumes than this: players from historic clubs from all across the country come to visit Forsgate..and want to come back and play over and over again. Sleepy Hollow, Bayonne, St. George’s, Winged Foot, Fenway, Inverness, Philly Cricket…the list is endless. When members of those clubs are asked, “Wanna come play Forsgate again?” they respond with a resounding,”YEAH I WANNA PLAY FORSGATE AGAIN!” and every goes running off to the first tee like the opening line of a P.J. Wodehouse story.
So as the sun began to set and everyone pushed their chairs back from their steak and lobster dinner, club member Henry Carlyle – Master of Magic and Mesmerism – spellbound the crowd with his astounding feats of prestidigitation. Watches vanished and reappeared. Minds were baffingly read (at one point he guessed a writer was thinking of the name of an obscure Norwegian rock band, and he followed that up by guessing another writer was thinking of the name of a small New Hampshire ski area). And of course his card tricks bewildered everyone. As a finale, he had me write my name on a card and hold it firmly on the table. He then disappeared in a puff of smoke, leaving only his shoes behind.
There was my card…in his shoe. When I turned over the card I was holding, it was the Ace of Spades, and written on it was the message, “See you next Writer Cup.”
[Author’s Note: It’s been a great year at Forsgate. Not only did member Matt Corcorikis play in the U.S. Amateur last fall, but Head Golf Professional Frank Esposito participated at this year’s senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill, LPGA superstar Jan Stephenson paid a visit and held a clinic, and the annual R.A. Schiavone Cup, a popular pro-am event will be held over three days in September.]