Galloway Township, N.J. – What was supposed to be a routine six-hour trip from Sioux Falls, S.D., to Philadelphia on Tuesday turned into an adventure only the characters on Gilligan’s Island could appreciate.
It wasn’t a ride on the S.S. Minnow, but when Chris Long, Brandon Sigmund and Ben Irlbeck finally arrived in southern New Jersey in the wee hours of Wednesday morning to compete in the 2012 USGA Men’s State Team Championship at Galloway National Golf Club, it must have felt as though they had boarded that fateful vessel.
Call it a 20-hour tour.
A scheduled 5:25 a.m. CDT flight to Minneapolis was delayed six hours for mechanical problems. By the time the trio landed in the Twin Cities, it was a little before 1 p.m. The players thought they had caught a lucky break when they were upgraded to first class for the connecting flight to Philadelphia.
But thunderstorms and high winds developed Tuesday afternoon, and the flight was diverted to Pittsburgh. Following another delay, the plane taxied to the runway, only to have the captain inform the passengers that the flight had been canceled.
At that point, Sigmund, the team’s captain, decided to rent a car in Pittsburgh and make what turned out to be a more than six-hour drive to the Atlantic City area. They pulled into their hotel around 1 a.m.
Fortunately, the trio had afternoon starting times, so they had a chance to walk a few holes Wednesday morning.
“I think we saw [holes] 16, 17, 18 and 1,” said Long, who slept in the backseat during the car trip, while his teammates took turns driving. “And it showed in our scores. I was 17 over (88) and I think Irlbeck was 18 over (actually 17 over).
“The golf course is right in front of you. You’ve just got to hit shots.”
Sigmund led South Dakota with an 84.
It was Long’s second rocky experience with a USGA championship in 2012.
In July, he made the 15-hour drive from South Dakota to Utah for the U.S. Amateur Public Links at Soldier Hollow Golf Course with his parents and caddie. After shooting 82-83 to miss the cut in his first-ever USGA competition, Long and his group decided to immediately head home, hoping to arrive around 6 a.m. the next day.
But in rural Nebraska, Long hit a deer head-on at almost 80 mph, causing $12,000 in damage to his brand new Subaru, which had just 1,100 miles.
With the car inoperable, Long needed to rent a car to finish the journey.
“I’ve had zero luck traveling to and from USGA events,” said Long. “I think someone up above might be saying stay at home.”
NOTE: The South Dakota team wasn’t the only late arrival. Charlie Blanchard of Rhode Island didn’t get to his hotel until 3 a.m. on Wednesday after spending about eight hours on a train. Blanchard, the men’s golf coach at Bryant University, couldn’t get to Galloway National until Tuesday night because his team was competing in the two-day Adams Cup in Rhode Island. Unlike the South Dakota players, Blanchard had a 7:28 a.m. starting time. Playing without benefit of a practice round, the left-hander shot a respectable 7-over 78, a score that was not counted in the team total in the 3-count-2 format.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.