My annual pilgrimage to the Northfield Golf Club in Northfield, Minnesota, each fall is a sacred, spiritual journey. The first “teen” Thursday each September is circled in permanent marker on the calendar at least six months in advance.
The occasion is a tournament known as The Bobby; an event dedicated to honoring the great amateur Robert Tyre Jones, Jr., as well as “the traditions of golf and the fellowship of sportsmen.” I was invited to participate in the tournament for the first time back in 2000 while authoring 100 Years of Minnesota Golf : Our Great Tradition for the Minnesota Golf Association.
Forty to fifty devotees of the game don their plus twos or plus fours and neckties and play two nine-hole matches. Those who are victorious in both move on to The Philadelphia Ballsome, a sudden-death playoff contested until a winner is crowned.
The losers of both nine-hole matches? Well, they get the “honor” of donning caddie overalls and looping for one of the playoff contenders. Two bagpipers lead the throng of players, caddies and Bobby participants down the fairways as the fading fall light peaks through the surrounding maples and pines.
While being crowned a Bobby champion is certainly a high honor, the spirit of the event and camaraderie developed over the years amongst good friends makes it magical. Conversations seemingly pick up from where they left off a year earlier during the buffet lunch prior to The Matches. And that discourse continues well into the evening during the post-golf dinner banquet and singing of the requisite golf songs.
A Julliard-trained concert pianist and friend puts The Bobby Band through its paces as modern-day songs, each modified to include golf-related lyrics, ring out into the small, quaint Northfield clubhouse. Afterwards, the group reconvenes for a nightcap at the Contented Cow, a Northfield landmark, where reminiscing about the day’s golf and the requisite what ifs and if onlys are bantered back and forth. Pints of frothy Speckled Hen and Guinness keep the conversation lively. Then it’s back to The Archer House for some well-deserved rest prior to a relaxed round of golf the following morning at an area course. The plane ride home to Denver that Friday evening is a time to ponder another wonderful two days of golf and camaraderie in the northern plains.