The 82nd Annual Father and Three Sons Golf Classic was held on Friday, August 18th at Whirlpool Golf Course in Niagara Falls, Ontario. It was hosted by the Isaacs and Nishikawa Families.
It was the Isaacs family's 15th year in the tournament and Niskikawa's 9th, with the kids being among the youngest in the tournament when they first joined. Bringing both veteran experience and youthful energy to the planning, the two families hosted an event that was the perfect blend of tradition, originality and efficiency.
The 2017 Family Scramble/Practice round was played on Thursday, August 17th at Whirlpool Golf Course. In keeping with the Ontario summer that has been, the weather for the day was predictably unpredictable. With 20 of 29 tournament families participating in the unofficial event (a record!), it meant wide range of tee off times and depending on when a family went out, they experienced more or less of clear sunny skies, lots cloudy skies, misting rain or outright downpours.
Despite the inconsistent weather, some families were dialed in and able to go low on the day. A "New Family", the Leons, announced their presence in the tournament by going -16, but it was the Vickers family (2nd year) who carded the winning score of -17.
Following the round, golfers were greeted by the Host Families and treated to a generous spread of appetizers and finger food in the clubhouse while getting a chance to mingle, catch up and compare notes on the day.
On Friday, August 18th, the Isaacs and Nishikawa families greeted tournament families under sunny skies and very windy conditions, which can be especially fierce at Whirlpool Golf Course, which plays alongside the Niagara Gorge.
After the requisite Father's Meeting, all families were invited to line up for a light buffet lunch of burgers and sausages and snacks, after which everyone headed out to the Practice Green for the annual Group Photo.
The Ceremonial Tee Off took place on the 1st Tee. Three days shy of his 88th birthday, long-standing oldest player Sam Hisey stepped up to the tee and did what he's done for many years in this place of honour: knocked his ball straight down the middle of the fairway. Standing in for his brother, Josh, who couldn't make the tournament this year, Reid Burkholder was the youngest player at 13 years old. Drawing on his athleticism and competition experience from years of hockey, Reid calmly stepped up and showed great form in connecting with an impressive drive, which was sent right by the crosswinds blowing up from the Gorge.
After some housekeeping notes from the tournament organizer, the carts were sent out on the course for a 12:30 shotgun start. While the day was uncharacteristically rain-free, the wind almost never let up and alternated between steady and gale. One seasoned player suggested that from hole to hole, depending on whether hitting with or against the wind, there was up to a 50 yard difference for the same club. Despite the slightly inflated scores due to conditions, play remained relatively fast and all 29 families were off the course and tailgating in the parking lot well before the 6pm call to the dining room.
The dining room and tiered bar area was the setting for the banquet, which was hosted by Graham Nishikawa and Patrick Isaacs. At 6:30, the evening officially kicked off with the buffet supper, a plentiful spread of pasta, chicken, beef and assorted salads. After the Fathers tables had been called up in turn, the co-emcees had some fun playing favourites as they called the remaining tables up go through the line. The process was efficient and smooth, which was to set the tone for the remainder of the banquet.
Family Introductions were done by the 2nd son, all of whom sung the praises of the Isaacs and Nishikawa families and the course staff who ensured that all needs were met throughout the day. The prevaling sentiment, as usual, was the important place this tournament holds for many families who see it as a must-attend event. Jeff Waite took time to recognize those participants who have played in the tournament as Sons and are now contiuing the tradition as Fathers of their own team, thanking them for their commitment to keeping the tournament thriving. Darren Sketchley took a moment to ask everyone to remember and recognize the other family members who don't play in the tournament, but who recognize it as having an important place of priority among the many family commitments in a given year. The moms, especially, which was a poignant point to make as the Sketchleys lost their matriach just a few months prior.
In a promising sign of the health and longevity of the tournament, and thanks to the word-of-mouth promotion by Host Families and others, the Father and Three Sons event welcomed four New Families in 2018: Davis, Leon, Maher and McArthur. All were delighted, and maybe a little awed, by the spirited standing ovation each received when their introducing sons said "this is our first year".
Despite the long list of winners, all the awards were handed out and prizes collected by 7:45pm, after which the Hosts concluded the event by the traditional closing announcement that the 2018 Father and Three Sons tournament would be hosted by the Lancaster Family at Copetown Woods, near Hamilton, Ontario.