The 26th Annual Penn Classic
Reagan Light said it best, “this is not a $*@%^!& golf tournament”. But I could see such a write up appropriately placed on a billiards blog, a tennis blog or heaven help us, a bocce blog. Yes, those are the four major ‘athletic’ events which comprise the Penn Classic. The athletic aspect of this has always been secondary to the comradery and friendship which is pushing almost 30 years now. The following article will provide the reader a more detailed history of this event. And I acknowledge we really have not created anything new or terribly exciting for those who do not participate in friends’ weekends or reunions. But for me and my friends the Penn Classic is important. And as our 26th Annual has just wrapped up in the 1000 Islands region of New York State, here are some important reflections on this boys weekend which will transfer well to golf trips:
1. It’s all about the people
The one thing I appreciate about the Penn Classic and it’s subtle but extremely important is that I would be happy to golf, eat breakfast or share a beer with any of the guys who attend. Our event has grown from three to four to now 20 when we can all attend. The extension to family and good friends has enriched our boys’ weekend and I am pleased that after all these years we make this weekend a priority. Make no mistake, we’re a competitive group and we all try our best. But this is a gathering of friends above and beyond anything else. The chance to share some quality time with best friends who are like brothers to me makes this weekend important and one of my favourites of the year. I have learned that great golf trips, like great guys getaways start with quality people.
2. It’s all about the vacation
In 26 years you learn some things. We now have managed to stretch a weekend over 4 days and three nights. We no longer tee off at 7:00 am. We bring just as much water as beer now and we no longer chastise guys who go to bed before midnight. With Darwegian Wood playing some tunes at night, quiet conversations going around the bonfire and our uncanny knack to locate ourselves near water almost every year, the Penn Classic has a relaxed feel to it. Golf trips which I enjoy have this feature too. It’s a deliberate pace which values social time, blended with intermittent moments of athleticism.
3. New friendships
The Penn Classic has enjoyed an expanded ‘invitational’ component for about 15 years now. Last year, good friends whom I had met through the Classic, took two extra days and played Highlands Links and The Lakes courses following a superb stay at Osprey Shores in Guysborough, Nova Scotia and a featured round at Cabot Links. Sharing a passion for golf, Greg Allworth, Andrew Stoakley and Joel Gregory and I are now planning a golf trip for fall 2015 to PEI, following the success of our brief junket post 25th Penn Classic in Nova Scotia. I value the new friendships I’ve been able to develop over the years through this annual weekend.
4. “We’re on a canoe. So look, listen and reflect”
I won’t speak for others but my life can get hectic and days become weeks become months become years far too easily if I allow it. Speaking with a friend with a young family and a demanding career, Mr. Goat (not his name, but one very, very cool handle) shared the incredible pace of his life and how the Penn Classic allowed him pause to relax and enjoy some quality time for himself. I shared insight from a friend of mine early in my career, where she essentially said to me it’s not about the destination but the journey. Lessons can come at the strangest time and I was pleased to be able to share this with a good friend who actively seeks balance in his life. To me, it’s no different than a quick but meaningful lesson or tip from a playing partner (like when my stepson gave me a 3 second putting lesson that transformed my putting and my confidence with the flat stick).
5. Have fun.
I look back on my golf experience and as someone who is prone to taking himself too seriously, I have made an effort to have fun and enjoy myself more on the course. OK, it’s a work in progress. But fact is, and Jack Nicklaus said it, ‘Golf is meant to be fun’. This is one area in which we have nailed it at the Penn Classic. I know everyone has fun. In golf, the competitive aspect takes a back seat to balanced and enjoyable foursomes that make the game equitable. Good players can play a stroke play round together; others can enjoy a relaxed scramble format. Fact is I smile more on a golf course at the Penn Classic than any other time.
So to my 19 brothers and my longtime, dear friends, I want to express my thanks for a weekend that means more to me than you know. You have all helped me, supported me and encouraged me – both in terms of golf and in other important areas of life! I’m blessed and look forward to the next 26 years. I’ll be 47 years old this month and in a golf metaphor, feel like I’m enjoying some time at the halfway house before starting my back nine. Golf means a great deal to me. One reason why is the quality time it affords me with you!