Hickories evoke the past

Published 12:01 am Saturday, April 4, 2009

Friday’s scene at Selma Country Club took on the feel of a scene from the movie, “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” as 32 hickory golf enthusiasts converged to play the fourth annual hickory club tournament.

Most of the players donned caps, dress shirts, tucked-in ties and argyle socks in view from the knee down. They teed off, chipped and putted with wooden clubs, hickory irons and spoons — often following shots with a spoonful of sand to fill divots.

After the first day, Otey Crisman III of Rainesville and Roger Andrews of Tulsa, Okla. topped the leaderboard with a 3-under-par 67 team score. Randy Jensen — widely known as the “Tiger Woods” of the hickory circuit — and Mike Stolasskyj of Omaha, Neb. finished four shots back with a 1-over-par 71. Tampa, Fla.’s Mike Stevens and LaGrange, Ga.’s Butch Wilhelm of LaGrange, Ga. will start day two in third place after shooting a 73 on Friday. Selma’s duo of Beau Boyd and Chris Searcy shot a 75 to tie for fifth with Youngstown, Ohio’s Tanner Stewart and Dave Ellis.

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For a tournament of golf purists playing the game the way it was historically played, there was only one modern day touch allowed — golf carts. Otherwise, the field is made up of players who long ago gave up the game’s technological advancements to play a simpler, more challenging style.

“It’s more challenging and more fulfilling when you do play well,” said Stewart.

“You can peel away 100 years of Madison Avenue hype,” added Ellis. “We wanted to get back to the essence of the game.”

Ellis and Stewart were not the only players who chunked golf’s advances to play with hickories.

“With hickory, you have to be very precise,” said Ed Wockener, who came from North Carolina to play in the tournament.

A day after Dallas County missed a barrage of severe weather, the tournament teed off at 10 a.m. Friday. Fittingly, the golfers played through high winds and cool temperatures that conjured memories of Scotland for tournament coordinator Tad Moore. And with the hickory version favoring the roll of the ball over distance from the tee, Moore was happy to take the tradeoff.

“We were really lucky because of the weather,” said Moore. “It would’ve been much worse conditions for us.”