Golf Bucks County

By Bob Oliver

Middletown Country Club

Middletown is a compact 80 acres of challenging golf, with rolling hills and large specimen trees that have watched many golfers travel its fairways over time. It has retained its old time feel with tees and greens in close proximity, allowing golfers to walk the course if they choose.

The Traveling Golfer

With host Tony Leodora will travel both near and far to bring viewers a look at some of the most spectacular golf destinations in the world!

29 Jan
2017

Can Tour Edge "XJ1" be "that" strong?

Written by Bob Oliver

 

ORLANDO, FL: There is never a dull, quiet moment at the annual PGA Merchandise Show at the Orange County Convention Center.  

More than 1000 products, from brand spanking new golf clubs to golf travel companies and everyone in between are on hand, along with professional golf legends like Annika Sorenstam, Bubba Watson and Sir Nick Faldo walking the aisles.

It is the show of shows and always a can't miss Orlando retreat, although there isn't a lot of fun in the sun as most walk miles and miles a day reviewing new products and ideas. It's clearly a great event for the Fitbit!

The show opens with a demo day at Orange County National where companies display their wares and allow those in attendance the opportunity to check out what's new in their line. Celebrity appearances - Bubba was blasting 350 yard drives that bedazzled all - are not uncommon. 

Every once in a while there is something that just catches one's attention. Callaway unveiled its Epic clubs, Taylor Made it's improved M1 line, and nearly every manufacturer was entering the new year with a positive attitude. 

"We have some outstanding offerings, and we are excited about 2017," said Callaway CEO Chip Brewer, a Lower Moreland High School grad and former All-Bicentennial League player from our area. 

The editors of www.golfbuckscounty.com loved dozens of offerings. One new one, though, was the pick of the litter, the one club that stood out among the crowd. 

From Batavia, Illinois and the Tour Edge folks came our Club of the Crowd - the Tour Edge Supermedal Exotics XJ1 Driver.

This offering, well, was almost too good to be true. 

First of all, the Tour Edge Exotics line has been a big success. Second, the designers researched and developed a new offering that it not only hotter but also accurate for everyday players. 

Designed for those with slower swing speeds (e.g. less than 100 MPH) its design allows a boost in one's effective swing speed and turned out 83MPH swinger into a player whose results were more like those of someone whose swing speed approached 100 MPH. Of equal importance, it's design allowed mishits to travel well and into the fairway. 

Technically, the Supermedal has a ultra lightweight 9-1-1 titanium chassis combined with Tour Edge President and Founder President Dave Glod's desire of a driver that helped those with slower swing speeds to get that added boost saw the addition of a tungston sole. 

Helping the cause is a Fujikura Air Speeder shaft that adds to the swing speed of the average player.

The JXI bedazzled our editors, so much so that after spending a half hour hitting the marvelous club and discussing later with several PGA of America pros, took them back to the Tour Edge tent to sample the driver.

To a person, the most heard comment was, well, "Wow".

Such an entry into the competitive field, there is a stumbling block the retail cost of the JXI has a price point just shy of $700. But, consider this, it's an investment in distance and accuracy. Recommendation: pay close attention to this club, visit a participating dealer and take a test drive! 

17 Nov
2016

Golf a four season sport - Jersey Gems

Written by Bob Oliver

Well, there you have it. Don't put your golf clubs in the deep recesses of the garage or basement for the winter. 

It's a given there has been frost on some recent cold Bucks County mornings. Heck, it will probably snow for Christmas. But look, many have been playing their best in recent months after a great season on area courses. Why mess up that great swing by putting one's clubs away and starting over next spring?

Why go through the agony of rekindling that grooved swing? Playing to your lowest handicap of the year at a time when you haven't hit a golf ball in months?

Okay, we are not all jet-setters who can dump the clubs in a G-4 and head to Florida or another warm location. 

Here's are a few suggestions.

1) When the weather gets into the 50s without a great deal of wind, make sure the clubs are in the car and get out even if only for nine holes. Winter golf is generally faster as less people are on the golf course.

2) Basements are great places for practice swings. Just make sure the munchkins aren't lurking around. 

3) Make some notes of the great, and not so great things you accomplished in 2016. Think of a plan to build on them. 

4) Sneak away for a long weekend of golf, using a cheap air fare to the south or anywhere warm. If that doesn't fit the budget, think of a drive that will accomplish much of the same. Winter golf at the Jersey Shore, Ocean City Maryland, WIlliamsburg Virginia can be found inexpensively and the weather can be much warmer than Bucks County. Not significantly warmer, but warmer.

While thinking of these items think about places you want to play in 2017. My goal this year was to play 30 "new" courses. That is, courses I've never played before. I am sitting on 29 and am ready for another!

Make sure you don't miss playing great courses within driving distance. Two of my particular favorites are the Atlantic City Country Club and Shore Gate Golf Club, both on the Jersey Shore and within a 90 minute ride with traffic.

Atlantic City, renovated in 1999 by Tom Doak, is a classic seaside gem. Located in Northfield, just a couple miles from Atlantic CIty, the "Home of the Birdie" provides an outstanding test of golf with upscale amenities. Great challenge on the course, great food inside the clubhouse. And a wealth of history.

There have been six USGA events held at Atlantic City, including the 1948 (Babe Zaharias), 1965 (Carol Mann) and 1975 Women's Open (Sandra Palmer). It was also the site in 1980 of the first Senior PGA Tour event, the PGA Inaugural Seniors.

Atlantic City and its sister courses, Ballamor and Scotland Run, have long been rated among the best places to play in the state of New Jersey. It's a quick ride and great test.

We've long loved the Shore Gate Golf Club, located just off the Garden State Parkway Exit 17, where one finds a true sparkling oasis amid the Jersey pines. Shore Gate (see story in the New Jersey section of courses on this site) has always been a top-notch layout, but if possible has only gotten better with age.

The fairways are superb, the greens are tantalizing but smooth and true, and the overall venue outstanding.

Recent years has seen the integration of new fescue which frames the course, giving a pleasing view and direction of where one goes with their tee ball. It also can be found near bunkers, almost like a do not hit here sign.

Shore Gate is a must play shore course.

As Sayresville's Jon Bon Jovi sings, "Who says you can't go home again?? 

 

18 Aug
2016

"The Dirty Thirty" makes debut

Written by Bob Oliver

 

Everyone has a little bit of dreamer deep inside. That special something one wants to accomplish despite the odds being totally against the mere thought of success.

 

While most people think of motion pictures as glitz and glitter, red carpets and agents, Rob Thorp and Bill Schlavis found time after their demanding day jobs were complete to make a full length feature motion picture about growing up at the Jersey Shore. The dark comedy follows a group of friends as they grow up, navigating the highs and lows of life in their 30s.

 

Call Thorp and Schlavis dreamers. Yet this week for two area educators – er – filmmakers, that dream will come to fruition.

 

The full length feature film, The Dirty Thirty, will be unveiled to the film’s supporters Thursday night in Asbury Park at Porta Bar and Restaurant.

 

Filmed in Asbury Park, Red Bank and Ocean Township over the summer of 2015, the twosome who are the brains behind Rucksack Films lived a long recurring dream to film The Dirty Thirty, feeding off the thought that some men are still boys after reaching adulthood. They live life, growing and expanding horizons while navigating the speed bumps of life.

 

No doubt that pulling together all the components needed to create a feature film without a major Hollywood backer could be considered, well, crazy, the two believed in their idea and themselves. Call them a little crazy for attempting to make an independent film while others merely pitch ideas to the movie studios, this labor of love was accomplished of for the most part over summer break.

 

“Several years ago we tried to launch a feature film – we’d completed some music videos and short films prior to then --- and it just didn’t happen. We were angry with ourselves for that failure,” explained Thorp, who teaches English and Film at Bridgewater Raritan High School and Brookdale Community College. “We regrouped and discussed various ideas, and kept coming back to one that centered around the existential dilemmas of relationships, modern dating life, the internet and thoughts about men still being boyish into their 30s. The youth culture is celebrated, and we felt we could tell an authentic story about the trials and tribulations of growing up.”

 

They started a working theme and outline of where they wanted to take the project, and worked hard collaborating on a story that had strong characters and felt logical and smooth and quickly agreed they were dead set on making the film themselves instead of pitching to Hollywood.

 

“We’d exchange ideas, develop the story line and agreed we wanted to do the film ourselves,” added Schlavis, who teaches history and coaches cross-country at Metuchen High School. “The final story centered around a group of friends, now in their 30s, who were over-worked, over-connected to social media and treading down a worn path of being adults with a bend toward acting like teenagers.”

 

“The script came directly out of conversations we were having with each other and our other friends,” added Thorp. “We basically just took these existentially bleak ideas and turned them on their head.”

 

Both dabbled in the arts in their own high school years, with Thorp taking a film class in high school and attending film schools in New York. He worked on a handful of short films, documentaries and music videos. Schlavis came into filmmaking through his audio background.

 

The team had a shoestring budget, helped in part by friends but also by a successful Kickstarter campaign, the idea of actually making the film became reality. They began assembling a cast, culled from an original notice that nearly 1,000 actors responded. That number was whittled down with auditions in New York City for the six ensemble parts   Most were relatively new to the feature filming process, instead having worked primarily in web series productions, off-Broadway plays and student films.  Each saw something they liked about the project and the creators.

 

Crowd funding with the Kickstarter platform clicked, as the team quickly raised over their expected goal and saw this as a good sign that their project might resonate with people.

 

“We had 82 sponsors, a lot of the donors were people we had never met,” said Schlavis. “They believed in the project. Every penny went to cast salaries, travel and crew meals. And we can’t say enough about friends and co-workers who believed in us and helped the cause in any way they could.

 

Co-lead Joshua Dye, was a lead on a music video the duo produced the preceding year, “I met Bill and Rob a year or so back on another project and when they told me about The Dirty Thirty, I was in before I read the script. You don’t often meet writers who tell stories the way they do.”

 

Another Co-lead, Ryan Patrick Wesen, who the story centers around, echoed Dye’s sentiments, “It was a top-to-bottom, great experience for an artist. Bill and Rob both believed in the actors and gave them room to work out their own dialogue. It’s pretty rare to have writers who trust their actors enough to ad lib.”

 

Also in starring roles are Mike Sause, Caralyn Collar, Jessie Ruane and Comfort Clinton, with Amanda Bear, Laura Winters, and Erica Boozer.

 

With the principal cast ready, Rob and Bill assembled a small, skeleton crew of local artists that could quickly transition between roles as needed. Using local talent (film students from the Tri-state area), they found eager, talented and hardworking members who felt as they did about taking ownership of a shared experience.  Everyone chipped in, shared work and laughs long into the night.

 

“There were times when we were on set for 12 or 14 hours,” said Thorp. “Things can get bad fast, emotions and feelings can easily get in the way of the project if people don’t respect each other. That never happened on our set, not once. We genuinely had fun every day.”

 

The Dirty Thirty is as much about location as the characters and plot. Both Thorp and Schlavis live in Monmouth County and spend a lot of time in Asbury Park and Red Bank areas.

 

“We wanted the film to reflect the Jersey Shore we love,” added Thorp, who thanked all for permission to film at some of the area’s premier locations. “Businesses like Jamians, America’s Cup, Happyness opened their doors to us and let us shoot. The result was an authentic feeling atmosphere to film and to act in for our cast.

 

“It was a whole lot of fun filming in the area,” added Clinton, whose recent career has seen stints appearing on Law and Order, Special Victims Unit and other television shows. “It added to the realism and local flavor.”

 

Over the course of roughly 7 weeks, the small crew and cast made their way around the Jersey shore, filming 5-6 days a week until, on the last night of summer, at Bill’s parents’ house, they wrapped the film. Filming done, the team spent time in their editing suite (Schlavis’ bedroom) the team would review, take notes and work implementing revisions and building film toward its final cut.

 

“We’d meet when we could – we have full-time positions remember – and we’d be amazed at how the film slowly took shape. We both can be hyper critical of our own work, but we saw we were hitting on all cylinders. From raw cut to color correction to sound and music being added we thought we were going to have a product we’d be proud of. As we continued the project we liked what we were doing.”

 

Thorp was complimentary of his teammate. “Bill’s a renaissance man, he can play 5 instruments and is always in a band or two at any given moment. When we decided to do original music for the movie, Bill stepped in and basically scored it by hand with songs he had written and would write directly for the project.”

 

After this week’s screening the duo will be applying The Dirty Thirty to film festivals nationwide and hoping for a slightly larger audience to see the film.

 

Movie completed, Thorp and Schlavis are preparing for the new school year. This isn’t Hollywood where one takes meetings in hopes of the next project.  

 

Movie Notes: The Dirty Thirty was written by Bill Schlavis and Rob Thorp in the fall of 2014 and stars Ryan Patrick Wesen, Joshua Dye, Lauren Wickel, Mike Sause, Jessie Ruane and Comfort Clinton. Rob Thorp directs, with Bill Schlavis editing and scoring the music…Golf Bucks County’s own Robert B. Oliver is an Executive Producer and appears in the film as an elder “Skirt Chaser in Bar” role…The film will be submitted to various competitions for review.

 

 

 

11 Aug
2016

Bartolacci, Smeraglio claim 4-ball title

Written by Bob Oliver

You would need an adding machine to calculate the number of championships Tom Bartolacci and Glenn Smeraglio have captured in their illustrious careers. 

They added another with the 57th Golf Association of Philadelphia Senior Four-Ball Stroke Play at LedgeRock, where they claimed a two-shot win over Laurel Creek's Joe RUsso and Mark Walker, 66 to 68. 

Bartolacci, who plays out of Saucon Valley, and Smeraglio, of LuLu savor the challenge. They scored 30 on the front nine with a birdie and eagle on the card, and played near flawless golf throughout. It was the second championship in the event for the twosome, who also claimed the 2010 tournament.

Jericho National's Mark Metaxas and Jim Gavagan finished at 72.

CHIP SHOTS: A familiar face will be competing in the USGA Mid-Amateur Championship at the beautiful and challenging Stonewall next month. Yardley C.C. Chris Ault earned a berth after a strong 71 at the Philadelphia Cricket Club.