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!

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. 

25 Jul
2016

Radick claims 6th NVCC title

Written by Bob Oliver
There are horses for courses, and in the Northampton Valley Country Club race there has been no better than Jonathan Radick in recent history.
Radick claimed his sixth men's club championship, the last four consecutively. Radick outlasted Ken Schaefer, 7 and 6, in their 36-hole final match. Earlier this year Radick claimed the stroke play championship at NVCC.
"He's been a picture of perfection in the championship," said head professional Vin Ciarlone.
Dave Drabot successfully defended his first flight championship with a 4 and 3 win over Dave Mangione, while John Schikal upended Bob Mitchell, 5 and 4, in their second flight play.
Amongst the seniors, Jerry Powell scored a 3 and 1 victory over Jeff Hilton in the championship match.  
 
01 Jun
2016

"Jaws" has passion for golf, success

Written by Bob Oliver

 

 

No less authority than General Electric CEO Jack Welch once broke down competition in the world of business into a single sentence:

“If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.”

His thinking was simple. If you don’t have a strong product, or are not willing to work your product strong, success will be difficult to accomplish.

In the world of public golf, those words ring true to the successful business person. Golf course ownership can be a viable business, but being successful means knowing what your customers want, whom your competition is and how your organization can develop and maintain a competitive advantage. If one does not have, or can’t obtain the competitive advantage? Well, winning will be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

It’s not a case of build it and they will come. The United States has seen more than 500 golf course closings in the last five years. And course openings? Less than 50 a year. 

Gone from the landscape are Delaware Valley courses such as Blue Heron Pines East, Warrington, Laurel Oak, Ponderlodge, Woodbury and Center Valley among others have gone the way of the dinosaur in recent years. Remember the Bristol Golf Ranch? Just a memory.

So what the heck is former NFL quarterback, ESPN analyst, co-owner of the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League and Delaware Valley businessman Ron Jaworski doing?

Expanding his golf course footprint, that’s what. He recently added the Ramblewood Country Club in Mount Laurel to a stable that includes six other venues. Also owned and managed by Ron Jaworski Golf (RJG) are New Jersey’s Blue Heron Pines, RiverWinds, Running Deer and Valleybrook, along with Pennsylvania’s Downingtown and Honey Run.

“I believe I have good business instincts, and golf courses have always intrigued me after my playing days. I'm not a trained golf-course operator. My college degree isn’t in golf course management. I was a football player who loved the game of golf and when you are writing the checks you learn quickly what works and what doesn’t,” explained the man nicknamed “Jaws” by NBA great Doug Collins.  

Jaworski recognized early on in his professional football career that football wasn’t necessarily a lifetime opportunity, especially since the average career is less than four years. “It dawned on me back then that not only was succeeding as a professional football player a difficult task, it was also dangerous to one’s body.”

That realization sparked his appetite for the business world, and that led to a game he’d loved for years – golf.

Jaws has owned several courses over the years, trading up or out of them when it made sense. Abington, Twining Valley and later Tall Pines (which became Eagles Nest) were his initial forays into the world of course management or ownership. Those have all been dealt – at a hefty profit - but have been replaced with other courses that he’s upgraded into facilities that have margins which are the envy of the business.  

Jaworski Golf has found a niche, taking its experience and parlaying that knowledge into ensuring its properties make financial sense. Ron Jaworski, wife and company president Liz Jaworski, son and Executive Vice President B.J. Jaworski and their team examine each opportunity from soup to nuts to examine the full opportunity before investing.

Once they’ve selected a property, they go all out to enhance it. No stone left unturned in finding ways to augment the experience whether it be on the golf course or with its food, beverage and hall experience. By adding to their portfolio they can use the economy of scale in using that buying power to allow the customer to have an affordable price point and the Jaworski group a profit.

“We believe we have a strong business model,” explained the former NFL quarterback. “We look for the right kind of properties, those which we can enhance and offer our customers value and challenge. We want to be part of the communities we serve, and strive to be good corporate citizens.

“It’s a business, of course, but we’ve been at this for decades and we know a good product at an affordable price and great atmosphere will attract customers. Fact is, when I see my name associated with a course I want to be proud of my involvement.”

The mission statement of the organization is simple and to the point: “We will create memorable experiences for all by having passion and dedication to quality in all areas, perform to the highest level possible, consistently strive to be unique and lead the pack, and drive a ‘Wow Factor’ for our guests.”

That mantra has been developed and honed in the years after Jaworski’s 17-year National Football League career came to a close. His first acquisition was the 9-hole Abington Club in Jenkintown, Pa., and over the years his passion for golf matched his passion for football.

“I love the game of golf, and to be part of the golf business is perfect for me,” explained Jaws, taking him away from his ESPN analytical duties. “But it’s not just golf, it’s the whole package, from weddings to meetings to a friendly local watering hole. No stone is left unturned as we attempt to give our customers what they want, when they want it and at the right price point.”

His golf team navigated some bumps along the way, learning by doing, and perfecting what it could. By keeping to its core principles, success followed.

Any potential acquisition starts with the golf course itself. What can be done to improve the property? Are their areas we can easily upgrade? How can steps be taken to ensure a successful outcome?

“Quality breeds success,” said Jaworski, who is especially proud of business achievements that linked with community involvement objectives. “We want the underlying layout to have improvement under our watch. What can we improve, what can we do to make the entire property better?”

The critics have spoken, as numerous articles have praised the outstanding work the Jaworski team has done at courses under its watch, especially New Jersey’s Running Deer, RiverWinds and most recently Blue Heron Pines. The latter had lost much of its luster after hosting the 2003 USGA Public Links Championship (won by Brandt Snedeker) and going through a succession of owners.

Jaws learned the golf business from the ground up. Whether it be in the pro shop, food and beverage arena or on the golf course itself Jaws developed a keen eye toward enhancing the customer’s experience from the moment they arrive in the parking lot until their leave.   

Knowing that the right opportunity at the right price can become successful, Jaworski has bought and sold various properties over the years.

“There are a lot of golf courses that come onto the market. We look at everything, all aspects of a deal, and make sure it’s an opportunity which is right for us. We might pass on 20 potential acquisitions before we do a deal. But when we do that deal, we know our organization can make it work.”

Given his recent deals, including Ramblewood, the Stephen Kay designed Blue Heron Pines and the George Fazio designed Downingtown (Pa.) Country Club, there is no question Jaworski and his partners believe golf is alive and well in the Delaware Valley.

“At Ramblewood, we have 27 good golf holes in a great demographic area,” commented Jaworski, who partnered with NFL quarterback and South Jersey native Joe Flacco on the endeavor. "We believe it is a great facility even beyond the golf course. The new Seven Tap & Tavern is an awesome spot to visit before or after your round. It fits seamlessly into our portfolio, as we can offer the public great golf under quality conditions and at an affordable price point.”

As with his other acquisitions, players will soon notice the improvements being made to the facility.

“On the course, renovations include an extensive bit of work on the irrigation and drainage systems, extensive bunker work and immediate review of our trees to ensure optimal sunlight and air movement,” said Jaworski.

Adds BJ Jaworski: “The work we are doing will enhance turf conditions and result in consistent, premium playing conditions for our customers.”

Downingtown C.C. held its grand opening in 1967 off the drawing board of George Fazio, a noted PGA professional who was runner-up to Ben Hogan at the 1950 U.S. Open at nearby Merion (East) Golf Club.  The uncle of Tom Fazio, George was once the touring PGA pro from the prestigious Pine Valley Golf Club.

The course offers ample fairway room and its greens are large. But don’t let those two attributes lull you into thinking you can whack away with abandon as Fazio strategically placed bunkers and used several ponds to torment wayward players. The greens have subtle breaks that confound even good putters who aren’t paying close attention to the deceptive pitches.

Jaworski’s team immediately recognized Downingtown’s attributes and set out to bring them back to their once owned luster.  Shortly after the acquisition of Downingtown, the entire bunker complexes were reworked to rave reviews. What was Downingtown clay morphed into crafted bunkers that drain well, are visually effective and challenging to evade.

At Blue Heron Pines the Jaworski team upgraded the food and beverage operation along with the golf course. It removed some of the overgrown fescue that added minutes to playing time but little to enjoyment of the game. Under his watch BHP has regained much of its luster. The location has become a popular destination for shore golfers, but for weddings and groups as well.

“We take a holistic look at each opportunity, reviewing each and every facet or the operation, and then do our best to make improvements,” said the 1980 National Football League most valuable player. “Nothing is easy, but when you put your mind behind things you can make it happen.”

Along the way Jaworski practiced what he preached, ensuring the local community benefits from the businesses he oversees. On the philanthropic front Jaworski received the Pinnacle Award for his volunteer work and service to the South Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the United Way has honored him with its Volunteer Leadership Award. His annual Celebrity Golf Classic benefits the United Way Jaws Youth Fund, which has raised more than $3 million for charity.

“I’m not out looking for publicity or recognition, but out team does want to do what it can to help the communities we serve. We love our customers, and we want our customers to develop a relationship with us that brings repeat business.  

If anything is a given, it’s that Ron Jaworski and his team do its best to provide its customers with what they want. It’s a proven concept which works.

Jack Welch would be proud.