The relationship between the New Jersey State Golf Association and the St. Kitts Tourism Authority reached a new level when the SKTA sponsored the Third NJSGA Ultimate Team Event at esteemed Metedeconk National Golf Club in Jackson on Monday, August 28, offering a free trip to the winning team.
Mike Decker and Jim Schulz of Mercer Oaks, who combined for 65 points, are the champions of the 2017 Ultimate Team Event and won a free, all-expenses paid trip for four – including their club pro – to St. Kitts. Other sponsors were Lincoln and PUnzone' Organic Italian Vodka.
A year ago, Decker and Schulz won at Upper Montclair Country Club and took home glassware and pro shop money. This year, the first-place prize packed a lot more punch.
“We’re both very exciting about winning the trip. Neither of us has been there before and we can’t wait,” Decker said.
Decker and Schulz will be playing in the St. Kitts and Nevis Admirals Cup Pro-Am, which takes place this winter, Feb. 3-8, 2018. The prize is for a four-man team, so the Mercer Oaks pair can invite two friends.
Decker and Schulz are also members of Old York and each play Metedeconk National several times per year. Each golfer owns a five handicap. Their 65 bettered the 59s attained by Ryan McCoach and Michael Walter of Howell Park, and Dean DeLisa and Michael Flabane of Princeton.
“You’ve got to keep it in the fairway at Metedeconk. The course is visually intimidating and you can’t overpower it. Neither of us were ever out of a hole,” said Decker, 54, a resident of Princeton Junction who leads the team that writes the CPA exam.
It was Decker who sank two putts over more than 30 feet and a 60-footer on Hole No. 14 during the Pinehurst portion of the event. The pair thanked their caddie, Matt Wissenfeld, for his reads.
“I feel very comfortable on this golf course. It fits my eye well. Mike has great speed on the greens. I feel very confident looking down at virtually every shot on the golf course,” said Schulz, 48, a resident of Hamilton who is a lobbyist for New Jersey dentists.
“I feel the New Jersey State Golf Association does a wonderful job. There is no other event like this anywhere in our area,” Schulz said. “It is a great experience for anyone who has the opportunity to play in NJSGA events like this.”
“The NJSGA does amazing things to promote the game of golf. It’s a great opportunity to play in events like these,” Decker stated.
For the first time, a full-field of 72 teams graced the Ultimate Team Event, and it was very gratifying to NJSGA Director of Handicapping and Member Benefit Services, Rich Kennedy.
“The event is growing in recognition and notoriety. The word is getting out about what a great event this is and what a great day it is,” Kennedy said. “The icing on the cake is the free trip to St. Kitts. It’s great to be at Metedeconk National, a golf course that is in spectacular condition.”
“Everybody loves this golf course. The teams seem intense. They are grinding, trying to compete for the trip to St. Kitts. The Ultimate Team Event gives the everyday golfer a chance to compete in a high-level event, no matter what their handicap is.
“We have nearly half the field that has played in the UTE before. They enjoy coming out to a unique event. It’s challenging to the golfers in a number of ways. The opportunity to win a trip to St. Kitts adds to the excitement,” Kennedy said.
The exciting event included clubs from throughout the State of New Jersey, pitting twosomes from member clubs in a unique 27-hole format. Twosomes had been designated by their clubs to participate.
In the event, the teams play in three nine-hole different formats over the 27 holes in a series of three shotgun starts. One set of nine holes is played in four-ball format, with each partner playing his own ball and counting the low ball on each hole. A second nine-hole set is in a Pinehurst format, with each member teeing off, then playing the other’s second shot, and then playing the best shot the rest of the way.
A third set of nine holes is played in a Shamble format, with each member teeing off, selecting the better second shot, and then each partner playing a separate ball from that point the rest of the way.
The event is scored using Stableford (points) scoring for the entire event which is one point for Net Bogey, two points for Net Par, three points for Net Birdie and four points for Net Eagle and a hole-in-one on a Par 3.
“What we took from the first Ultimate Team Event was the enthusiasm and camaraderie all the participant shared, and the ability to play on some great golf courses. Word of mouth has continued to spread the word of what a fine event this is.
“Our partnership with St. Kitts certainly adds to the excitement for the winners and we very much appreciate their relationship with the New Jersey State Golf Association. Rich Kennedy has done an outstanding job of promoting and presenting the wonderful product to each of the contestants,” said Frank O’Brien who served as NJSGA president at the time of the inaugural UTE.
Mr. O’Brien was on hand to pick the winning raffle for the Youth Foundation fund-raises. Six prizes were awarded with the top a an all-expenses paid trip for four to Streamsong Golf Resort in Florida for two nights and two rounds of golf. Second prize was a set of Callaway irons. Third prize was a free club-fitting at Club Champion Golf.