Coach: Glenview golfers ready for battle in the Lake Geneva Cup
It started out with just a causal discussion.
A few Glenview residents had just watched the golf spectacle known as The Ryder Cup while gathering at a local restaurant when they had an idea: Why not get a group of friends and do a local version of the Ryder Cup? (for non-golf fans, this is when European golfers compete against American golfers in a rivalry filled weekend competition).
Lead organizer Pete Langas, who was part of that casual early discussion, decided to pursue the idea. He called up a couple of his avid golfing friends, Dale Sailer and Kevin Kachmarik, and ran the idea by them. They listened and they loved it!
Now that quick, somewhat spur-of-the-moment, off-the-cuff thought has developed into a traditional gathering of 16 of Glenview's top recreational golfers, ranging in age from early 50s to recent Medicare card carriers, who now compete in their own version of the Ryder Cup, which has come to be known now as The Lake Geneva Cup.
Tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 15, it all begins yet again. The fifth annual version of what has become a recreationally epic adventure, complete with male fraternizing, plenty of trash talking, lots of food and drink, and two-and-a-half days on the golf course far away from wives, children and any other Glenview chores they might (or should) be doing instead.
It starts somewhat calmly on Friday with a practice round. "A little brotherly fellowship," says Langas, who then adds "before the real competition starts on Saturday and Sunday."
Teams are divided into Team Black vs Team Blue, with most golfers staying on the same team every year. Team affiliation -- and the rivalry -- builds each year.
They may be friends in the neighborhood, (Interestingly they all met in one way or another through their days with Glenview Youth Baseball), but when the Saturday sun first shines and they step onto the lush greenery of the Oak Grove Golf Course in beautiful Harvard, near the Wisconsin border, that friendship takes a temporary back seat to some intense competition.
"Oh yeah," says Langas. "It gets pretty heated; most of these guys are pretty competitive, and there is a lot of verbal jabbing going on."
Actually, the trash talking begins a lot earlier, about a month before, where through group texts and an app known as "group meet," the ribbing and teasing and challenging intensifies as the days near. Workdays become distracted, and functional daily production diminishes during these lead-up days, but such is the price they pay for participation in this spirited competition.
Glenview resident and original Cup participant Dan Garvey takes it even one step further: "It's really a year-round verbal battle," he says. "Anytime during the year we see each other, the golf outing definitely comes up and a little friendly trash talking almost always happens."
Thus far The Lake Geneva Cup has been split even at two wins apiece for Team Black and Team Blue. So this year's play figures to be particularly intense.
Especially after missing last year, delayed due to the pandemic, although they did conduct an "unofficial" version of the Cup playing in Glenview and at Vernon Hills.
It should be noted Team Black currently holds the Cup and is the defending champion. (Although The Blue Brigade will be the first to tell you that they did win last year's "unofficial.")
The actual play is structured similarly to the actual Ryder Cup. Saturday is a grueling 27 holes broken into 3 segments. The morning session is two-man teams playing best ball, the midday is for singles match play, and the final nine holes is conducted with two-man alternating shot rules.
Sunday, day 2, they're back at it with 18 more holes, beginning in the morning with another round of two-man best ball, followed by the often dramatic, pressure-packed conclusion with mano a mano singles matches down the stretch in the final nine holes.
These guys may be recreational golfers, but no doubt, the competitive gene runs strong throughout. The desire to bring home their team to victory is both present and real. The Lake Geneva Cup is most certainly not for the faint of heart.
What also is not for the faint of heart is the postgame "festivities" each day.
After each days play they head to a house in Lake Geneva where all 16 gather and stay the entire weekend. That's 16 semi-Type A men. All in one house. After an entire day of vigorous and competitive golfing. A recipe for trouble, to be sure. The trash talking, and the friendly, if not-actually-so-friendly, ribbing continues late into the night.
"Most of us are getting older, and we try to get to sleep at a decent hour," says Langas, who then adds with a little smile, "But there are a few guys, who let's just say apparently don't get out that much."
Card games, dice games, a few friendly bets, and just a little bit (hey, their wives might be reading this) of partying and drinking are all part of the evening festivities. Where everybody sleeps is about as haphazard as some of their golf shots, but all pieces of furniture including couches, chairs and, if necessary, the carpet can serve the purpose.
You might wonder how you feed this many hungry men in one location after a long day of competition? Not a problem. They have that tradition down pat as well.
"Friday is fish fry night," says Langas, "then Saturday we do pizza, and every morning we have a complimentary continental breakfast available. So everybody stays pretty well-fed."
Where will the Cup end this year?
And yes, there is an actual Cup (you can see it in the accompanying picture), that travels from year to year to the winning team. The winners proudly display it at their homes for the next 365 days, until the next Cup challenge.
On the final day of competition, that fateful Sunday, Team Black typically brings out their black golf shirts, while team Blue does the same for their color. Both in hopes of ultimate victory and sweet bragging rights for another year.
But only one set of colored shirts will walk off the course victorious.
And as soon as they do? The trash talking for next year's competition can then begin.
• Jon Cohn of Glenview is a coach, retired PE teacher, sports official and prep sports fan. To contact him with comments or story ideas, email firstname.lastname@example.org.