Forsgate and he Banks Course Ready for 9th Annual Golf Writer Battle Between New York, Philly
–Special to AWITP by Correspondent Rodney Zilla
MONROE TOWNSHIP, NJ – There’s Giants-Eagles, Mets-Phillies, Rangers-Flyers, and Knicks-Sixers, and each one of them has iconic moments. Remember?
“It’s a fumble! Herm Edwards picks it up! Oh no! He’s running it in for a touchdown! The gun has sounded, the game is over, and I don’t believe what I just saw!”
Or perhaps you’re a hockey fanâ€¦
“Save Richter! The rebound comes out to Mark Recchi! Save Richter! Lindros is alone on the dporstepâ€¦he’s hacking at it! Save Richter! He has it between the pads!”
No matter what sport it is, New York vs. Philly is a donnybrook. Ragnarok. Armageddon. Sauron vs. Gandalf. Take your pick. At any level, even high school, it’s the one game you have to win, I don’t care if it’s Dalton vs. Haverford or Friends Academy vs. Xavier.
It’s a matter of civic pride.
Even the golf writers get a chance to get into the act, and I don’t mean metaphorically. Each year Forsgate Country Club, equidistant from both cites, hosts the region’s finest golf writers in a New York vs. Philly battle. 36 golf writers from each region will tee it up on the stately, venerable Banks Course. Top 15 scores count, add ’em all up and the lowest score wins.
“It’s really neat that every year a bunch of friends and colleagues from the two neighboring sections can have such a friendly competition,” said Philly team captain Mike Kern of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “That being said, I am excited to brat the crap out of the New Yorkers. It’s a pride thing.”
Kernsy talks the talk, and his team walks the walk. They hold a 6-2 advantage over the New Yorkers, though the teams have split the last four matches. Philly won the Cup last year, but they will defend their title without Kern, taking a well-deserved vacation in the Carolinas from his globe-trotting international golf coverage. He earned it. and though the void will be hard to fill, it’s thought that Vice Captain Joe Juliano will cover admirably in relief, while golf architect Steohen Kay will slide into the Vice Captain’s role. Hank Gola, formerly of the New York Daily News and Jay Flemma of the Golf News Net carry the battle standard into the fray for New York as Captain and Vice Captain respectively.
The Banks Course proves both a spectacular backdrop and stern test. Stephen Kay restored the course to its Golden Age glory in 2008 and since then it’s become the stuff of holy whispers, the last American design of the quintessential architectural Bloodline of Charles Blair Macdonald, Seth Raynor, and Charles “Steamshovel” Banks, definitely a bucket list golf course for any avid golfer.
All the great template holes are here – the Double Plateau, the Valley, the Punchbowl, and many more. There are striking features like the Chocolate Drop at 15, Purgatory bunker guarding the 18th green, and thumbprints in almost every green. Most of all there’s a museum piece-quality collection of par-3 rivaling any course on Earth: the hardest Eden hole in the World at three, the treacherously guarded Reverse Redan at seven, the absolute perfection of the Horseshoe at the short 12th, and of course, the Grand Dame of them all – the Biarritz at 17 with its 99-yard deep green and 12 feet long by seven feet deep swale bisecting the green perpendicularly.
“When you tee off on one you start a journey 100 years back in time and thousands of miles across the ocean to the great Heathland links of the UK,” explained Jay Flemma. “Forsgate is a course of national significance as the swan song of the Macdonald-Raynor-Banks Bloodline of golf architecture. It’s an important milepost in golf design history, and one of the most intelligent golf courses in the country, That’s why it’s so much fun to play over and over again.”
“It’s the hardest 6,400 yards you’ll play because there’s a right side and a wrong side to these greens, and if you’re in the wrong bunker, you’re 20 feet below the level of the green in mortal terror of taking a triple bogey,” added golf expert Bruce Moulton.
The club has hosted some of the game’s biggest names, Hollywood starlets, and prominent politicians throughout the decades. Everyone from Jackie Gleason to Paula Creamer has graced the Banks Course. Now its place in golf history has been re-established under the wise stewardship of golf course magnate Chris Schiavone and Stephen Kay’s formidable architectural prowess. Memberships are reasonably priced, and the club has not only grown in number, but is renowned for its cheerful morale.
“It’s a fun family place. Everybody has a great time here,” said Flemma. “it’s the perfect place to call your home course, and your game travel well to other courses after sharpening it on the Banks Course.”
The Writers will tackle the course from the member tees, the 6,400 yards made more difficult by the severely sloped greens, gargantuan chipping swales greenside, and cunning diagonal hazards off the tee.
“It’s a challenge, to be sure, but it’s playable too, except for a few bunkers you do not want to be in,” explained Kern. You have to have some semblance of a game there. But no matter what your score, the hospitality from the club and the people who run the tournament is second to none.”
Besides the aggregate score format, Captain’s and Vice captain’s matches are hard-fought for city pride. Both Gola and Juliano are sterling golfers. The Daily News vs. the Inquirer? That’s a marquis match right there. Meanwhile if you want to know what two hobbits having a pillow fight looks like, follow the Flemma – Kay Vice Captain’s match. Bring your ear plugs, though, as neither one of them stops talking long enough to hit the ball with any consistency.
And so as the sun sets over the first fairway, golden and reddish hued clouds melt into a velvety purple and finally fade to black, the course awaits the scribes. Like eager gun dogs who just heard the owner draw the firing piece from over the hearth, they’ll be ready at sunrise, the smart ones taking putts on the section of the practice green designed to mimic the multi-level tiers they’ll see all day on the Banks Course.
“Tell Jay and the rest of the New York team I said have a great time, but don’t win,” quipped Kern, a puckish smile spreading across his face.
“Thems fightin’ words, Kernsy!” Flemma retorted with a grin. “Thems fightin’ words!”