The LHRR weekend isn't over until the Monday Golf
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
Just because the last runners have crossed the finish line, the crowds have left The Green, and the music and dancing at post-race parties has ceased doesn’t mean that Litchfield Hills Road Race weekend is over.
Not for three dozen or so individuals who make the trek to Stonybrook Golf Course on Milton Road to take part in what has become a cherished tradition that rivals the rest of the festivities at the biggest sports party of the year in Litchfield County.
A very informal Monday golf tournament began about 28 years ago, says Brent Hawkins, the colorful (literally and figuratively) race announcer and unofficial organizer of the unofficial golf tourney. “I wasn’t living in Litchfield at the time and I needed a reason to stay in town another day,” he adds as to the reason behind starting the event.
“Hawk” says between two and three dozen “golfers” take part in the annual tournament that starts at noon. Golfers play a nine-hole “scramble” tourney, which means the best shot on each hole by one member of a foursome is used by each player after the tee shots until the hole is completed. There are no trophies awarded at the event, “That would make it too legitimate,” quips Hawkins.
Those that have played in the event include race volunteers, Hawkins and longtime race organizers Billy Neller and Rick Evangelisti, as well as an occasional runner.
Said Hawk, “We have had Olympians like Andy Ronan and Geoff Smith, play, a lot of local officials, maybe a guy from one of the bands that play on the race route. What usually happens is that I put names in a hat and draw them out. We want one female per foursome, one local guy, one guy who can golf and somebody from out of town. It’s all about meeting new people and having fun.”
Word has it that Eddy Hellebuyck of Belgium played in the tournament one year even though he never golfed and had no idea how the game was played. Apparently, he was told that you can tee up your golf ball on every shot and then mark your ball on the green with a bottle or can of beer. No one knows what kind of reception Hellebuyck received back in his home country when he went out to play the game again with his buddies.
Kevin Knox, Litchfield resident, bon vivant, and regular at the road race and golf tournament, tells a particularly amusing story.
“After the tournament (and more than a few libations) Billy and Jackie Neller got one of the newbies to the event playing a game called `spoons,’ where two people sit across a table with a spoon in their mouths, have their hands behind their backs and take turns rising and hitting the other on the top of the head with the spoon. Well, Rick was playing a guy and Jackie was standing behind the other person. Every time Rick would rise up and go to hit the other player with the small spoon, Jackie would whack the guy on the head with a big spoon. It was hilarious seeing the other person’s reaction and disbelief. The real funny thing was that Leo Paul (Litchfield First Selectman) watched the whole thing and agreed to play the game.”
Hawkins said the best story he has about the event came about 15 years ago.
“A lot of this day is about who chats the best. Jackie Neller was playing with Craig Minor, who was the First Selectman at the time (and now a State Representative), and he had Craig sign their team’s scorecard and declare themselves the winners because Stonybrook is partially on some town-owned land. Well, Billy Neller comes in an hour later and throws his scorecard on the table with a letter from the then president of the Royal and Ancient of St. Andrew’s in Scotland, declaring his team winner in perpetuity. Billy and Joe Concannon (the late Boston Globe sportswriter and driving force behind the road race in its formative years) were friends. Joe covered the British Open and had the president of the R and A write the letter. It was awesome.”
Hawkins says the players have “been rained on but not out, we just put our heads down and play on,” and Stonybrook, a daily fee course and the host site every year, welcomes the group with open arms. “After the golf we all hang out on the porch and tell stories.”
And isn’t that what Litchfield Hills Road Race Weekend is all about?