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!


2017 Bucks County club champions

Written by Bob Oliver on .

Winning a club championship is a great accomplishment. 

Never easy, it's the result of hard work and a little luck.

Some clubs have a stroke play competition, others match play. There are divisions, such as women's, men's and seniors. There are flights, based upon handicap. And there is intense competition.

Here's an overview of winners around the county:

Bensalem: Ryan Pfeifer (Men), Naz Gagliardi (Senior), Nancy Tomlinson (Women).

Bucks Club: Will Verrill (Men), Mike Finley (Senior), Nancy TUcker (Women).

Doylestown: Rick James (Men's), Dave Smith (Senor), Chrissy Palmeri (Women).

Five Ponds: Brian Rothaus (Men), Brian Rothaus (Senior). 

Jericho National: Griffin Smith (Men), Mike Cavanaugh (Senior).

Lookaway: Mark Hutchinson (Men), Mark Hutchinson (Senior), Martha Robinson (Women).

Makefield Highlands: Daniel Charen (Men), Brian McDonnell (Senior). 

Middletown: Greg Bumgardner (Men), Bill Walker, Sr. (Senior).

Northampton Valley: John Giordano (Men), Jerry Powell (Senior)

Spring Mill: Bryan Keeling (Men), Mark Smith (Women), Kathleen O'Dell (Women)

Yardley: Greg Buliga (Men), Greg Buliga (Senior), Jackie Rogowicz (Women). 

Congratulations to the participants at all the clubs.


Uh oh, Old Man Winter is here

Written by Steve Gordon on .



All I can say is that it came too fast. I am sitting here in Lower Bucks County looking out the window at snow blanketing the ground and my push cart and golf clubs are still in the car. Of course yesterday coming out of the grocery store with a weekly cart of food and opening the trunk of the car I wasn’t so happy to see them there.

Not even two weeks ago I was playing golf with friends around here and while we weren’t in shorts and short sleeves we weren’t bundled up like Ralphie in The Christmas Story. You know, the kid who was going to shoot his eyes out with the Red Ryder BB rifle he wanted so badly for a present. Not that it’s related to golf I still have a working Red Ryder.

The bottom line is that there isn’t any golf being played around here with a thin layer of snow left from the other day and now another inch or two coming down. That isn’t unusual for this area but…winter came in too fast and the withdrawal that comes with it for avid golfers.

What is it Charlie Brown says when he gets frustrated? ARRRGH! Well that’s what I have been feeling for the past couple weeks, today and I suppose for the next few months. My long time golfing partner was out west last week playing golf every day and sending me texts with photos while I am here recalling all the new courses we played this past season and a career best round of 76 in the first round of my clubs Super Senior championship.

The snow is pretty and Christmas is a week away and that is all nice and fuzzy. BUT… that only goes so far and when the holiday season is over it becomes just snow that has to be shoveled and navigated on the roads. I don’t mind driving in the snow but these days it seems more and more that people have no clue how to drive in it as they all seemed to when I was growing up. Maybe part of the diving exam should include taking a second driving test in the snow?

Some people like the winter and winter sports and the snow and ice. I actually like snow but as the years pass clearing it away gets to be more of a chore than fun being out in it. As far as winter sports, those days are gone.

I used to take my son sledding to a local golf course with lots of hills. I guess he is on the hook to take his girls now. I’d love to do that with the grandkids but I hate to think of what might happen should the sled flip over dumping me in the snow to roll the rest of the way down the hill. Forget about snapping on a pair of skies. One of the worst falls I ever had was on skies and I got up and walked away. Of course that was 40 or so years ago.

Anyway, here is an avid golfer sitting inside watching a predicted couple inches of snow pile up on the lawn and driveway and no place to go. Well…I’d really like to get some photos of a local railroad running its steam engine on its annual Santa train but that’s not going to happen today.

Remember that aforementioned career best 76. Everything was working pretty well that day and it was great and even the guys I was playing with were happy (to a point) to see me have such a great round of golf. Well as much as I want to forget it I can’t put the second round of the 36-hole tournament to rest when the final tally was 92 where virtually nothing went right and it included an albatross on a simple par three. Don’t ask. I finished second and was pretty bummed out for a day or two about that. Chalk it up to an opportunity missed.

n the bright side there is next year to tee it up and go for the trophy.

Also on the bright side are memories of other very good rounds I had this past season and a bevy of new courses played. My longtime golf partner and I are already thinking ahead to more new courses and golfing together when winter clears out.

I had a couple rounds in the 70’s which is just something to enjoy as that kind of scoring is anomalous to my GHIN handicap. Mostly I scored in the low to mid 80’s with a few rounds in the 90’s and…one round over 100 which came near the end of the season on a coldish windy day.

Working part time at a local golf course as a starter and marshal I get the benefit of off peak time golf so needless to say I played a lot of my golf there, often without a scorecard and not always a full 18 holes. I just like to play golf and score is not always relevant to the enjoyment of being outside with a club in my hand trying to hit a little white ball into a 4 ½ inch hole in the ground.

Away from there my partner and I took road trips. Those road trips are getting longer and longer to play new courses as we’ve played all the local courses we like many times. Some were day trips and a couple required an overnight stay.

I’d have to say the highlight of the road trips was the Reading Country Club where Byron Nelson was once the club pro. It is a 94-year-old Alex Findlay design where the fairways follow the rolling terrain and the greens are pitched for natural drainage. Length wasn’t the challenge on most of the holes, putting your ball in good position on the fairways and greens was the test.

Conversely to the old school golf of Reading, my second favorite road trip was to The Links at Gettysburg. Lindsay Ervin designed this more modern layout that opened in 1999 and is as the name suggests, not far from the site of the epic three day battle in 1863 at Gettysburg during Americas Civil War. Here the challenge was avoiding a lot of water hazards along with some diabolical greens placed on hillsides or dug into the natural red rock of the area.

I played well at both courses and that of course goes a long way to liking a course after a first round.

Around those courses were trips to some old style courses like Hopewell Valley, Berkleigh and return visits to old haunts like the historic Stockton Seaview Resort. A great memory from Seaview this year was a scramble outing in early spring. It was on the Bay Course that annually hosts the LPGA ShopRite Classic.

They announced that anyone over 55 could play the forward senior tees. Well my partner and I just smiled as we were well qualified and within that guideline. The two other players we were paired with were no shows so we each got two shots on every hole. The forward tees on the Bay Course are something like 5200 yards. The bottom line is that with my driving and his wedge play we were rolling in putts all over the place and turned in a winning score of 59. It’s always great to win, but what a fun day that was. More people should play the shorter tees.

Other road trips took me to Rock Manor in Delaware, Royal Oaks in Lebanon, PA, Royal Manchester in Mt. Wolf, PA, Inniscrone in Avondale, PA, Ramblewood in Mt. Laurel, NJ, The Architects Club in Phillipsburg, NJ, Mercer Oaks in West Windsor, NJ, Centerton in Elmer, NJ and return visits Running Deer in Pittsgrove, NJ and River Winds in West Deptford, NJ.

That just scratches the surface of the golf we played that included rounds at old favorite places too numerous to name. They were all good times and the golf scores are mostly secondary.

It’s great to pull up the memories of those rounds on this snowy cold day and it just builds the anticipation of more to come next year. For the time being however the golf clubs are idle as I deal with the withdrawal.

A golfer goes stir crazy this time of year. A golfer, well, wants to play golf. Not practice putting on the living room floor or swings in the garage. It’s not the same as playing the game we love.

But wait…the television Meteorologist said that it’s going to be near 50 degrees next Tuesday.


"The Dirty Thirty" makes debut

Written by Bob Oliver on .


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.




Hidden Creek will challenge USGA seniors

Written by Bob Oliver on .


There is more to mere beauty at Hidden Creek Golf Club. More, as in razor sharp teeth. More, as in difficulty, opportunity and challenge.

The Coore-Crenshaw Design annually earns a berth in Golfweek Magazine's Top-100 Modern Courses for a good reason - it is that good of a golf course and a special experience.

This is not a course tricked up for difficulty, it's a course that is designed to give a player multiple options and tournament officials with the same to protect par. Qualifiers to the United States Golf Association's 61st annual Senior Amateur which starts September 26 with two rounds of qualifying for 64 match play spots will be bedazzled by the course.

The event, for amateurs ages 55 and above, was captured in 2008 by the Delaware Valley's own and Fox-TVs George "Buddy" Marucci, who is exempt from qualifying and will participate in the championship. 

"I truly look forward to playing this event, and Hidden Creek is a very special venue," said Marucci, a two-time Walker Cup captain. "It will bring together a field of true amateurs who love the game and will enjoy the competition. Oh, everyone wants to win, of course, or they would not be playing. But it's a little less keyed up than, say, a U.S. Amateur."

Being just minutes from Atlantic City and all that comes with that destination, from restaurants to casinos and the beach, will give players and their families opportunity to stay and play. Spectators are welcome and will be up close and personal with the competitors. 

"We are proud to be hosting a National Championship," explained owner Roger Hansen, who, when owner of nearby Blue Heron Pines, oversaw Blue Herons Pines and the 2003 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. "We believe Hidden Creek is a special venue. We look forward to sharing our golf course with the nation."

On hand will be one player who has been on a special streak, Vienna, Va. 61-year-old Patrick Tallent. The Virginian won the 60th playing of the event last year, then crossed the pond to win the Senior British Amateur this year.

"My win last year (in the USGA event) was oh so very special," said Tallent, who defeated Bryan Norton from Kansas in the final match, 2 and 1. "I had been in the mix many times before in a USGA event, but never had been able to seal the deal. To win last year's Senior Amateur was a very special accomplishment. Frankly, I never thought I'd win one. I'm overjoyed and there is nothing like winning to get those competitive juices ready to defend."

For Tallent, a USGA event provides a unique challenge. "There is a lot of pressure in golf. There's pressure each time you tee it up. But one is more nervous in a USGA event as there is so much on the line. These are national championships."

Tallent is slated to defend his crown, and the Delaware Valley's Chip Lutz, a two-time British Amateur champion will join Marucci as area competitors.

The Delaware Valley has seen Marucci as well as J. Willard Platt, William Hyndman III and O. Gordon Brewer claim the Senior Amateur. 

Area qualifying for the event will be held at White Manor Country Club on August 31.

The golf course itself boasts numerous set up options, from risk-reward driveable par-4s to dastardly pin placements that will can bedazzle the competitor and test every bit of creativity imaginable. It is possible, for instance, that the 329-yard 8th hole could be shortened at least in one round to less than 300 yards tempting a player with length and skill to hit the gree with his tee shot and be putting for eagle.

Playing to the "proper" side of the green is imperative, as the flat stick will be challenged when playing from the wrong angle. "There are," admitted Hansen, places you don't want to beat times because of the location of the flagstick. Our greens are quick (approximately 11.5 on the Stimpmeter)and there are various degrees of undulation. They are challenging."

Designers Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw loved the property from the first time they laid eyes on it. "We were able to allow the golf holes to sit on the ground as we found it without moving lots of dirt," Crenshaw has said.

USGA officials believe the primary round will be about 3 inches thick, but any wayward shots will find higher rough and confounding fescue grasses will confound players with errant shots.

It's certainly not a course to be tricked out, as it is clearly a golf course at its natural best. The USGA Senior Amateur competitors will be treated to a test which is difficult yet fair.

CHIP SHOTS: Hidden Creek and the Senior Am will use a unique set of volunteers. Each group of scorers and marshals will be in a "pod" with each group. In other words, the Pod will move with the group from hole to hole rather than have marshals and other volunteers stationary on each hole. That will add to the inside the ropes feeling for the volunteers...Hidden Creek has served as a qualifying site for the United States Women's Open, U.S. Senior Open and the U.S. Open...Tallent lost in the final match of the 2010 Senior Am finals...While Tallent won the U.S. and British Amateurs in successive years, American Kemp Richardson (2001) and Paul Simson (2010) went one better as they captured both titles in the same year. Richardson also won the 2003 United States and 2004 British as Tallent did, while William Shean Jr. won the 1998 and 2000 U.S. Senior Amateur titles sandwiched around the 1999 Senior British Amateur.

# # #

Elsewhere, the Peddie School's Kyle Sterbinsky stood up to the test of playing local professionals, carding a three-day 206 total to finish one stroke behind ACE Club assistant Billy Stewart in the Pennsylvania Open held at Rolling Green. Sterbinsky, who will attend Wake Forest University in the fall, posted rounds of 75, 67 and a day low 64....

Neshaminy graduate Brittany Benvenuto has seven events on the Symetra Tour to earn enough cash for a 2016 LPGA Tour playing card. Benvenuto is coming off a top-10 finish at the PHC Classic, where she boosted her seasonal earnings to $26,258. That places her 18th on the money list, with the top-10 earning tour cards.

Benvenuto has compiled three top-10s this year.

Erica Herr suffered a disasterous 9 on a par-4 hole in the second round of the United States Women's Amateur in Portland, Ore., leading to an 84 after a sparkling first round 71. In doing so she missed earning a berth in the stroke play portion of the event. The New Hope resident is an incoming sophomore at Wake Forest University. 



Drive for 1,000 courses

Written by Bob Oliver on .

It is no secret that I am a golfaholic.


I love playing the game, and while I enjoy covering professional and amateur events it's the playing that has me hooked. The worst golf course in the world - I remember one in Aruba - is better than sitting at home. 

Those who know me know I have a goal to play 1,000 golf courses in my golfing career. Given the choice of playing a layout where I've played before, or playing a new course, the new course will win most of the time. 

There are courses I want to play and haven't. There are courses I've played an must play again. But variety of playing different challenges just whets my appetite. In the last week I've played two new courses: the fun Royal Manchester Golf Links near York, Pa., and the outstanding Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian facility in Florida.

Royal Manchester was fun. Each hold separated from adjacent ones my mounds, very few trees, and the opportunity to bounce the ball onto the greens similar to the shots one has in Ireland or Scotland. A pleasant course, fun, and while a bit out of the way a special place to play. 

It was the 92nd course I'd played in the State of Pennsylvania, which made it special too as I'd like my home state to join New Jersey (107 courses played) on my most played list. I've played 91 courses in South Carolina, 72 in Virginia, 58 and Florida and 50 in both North Carolina and California. All told there are more than 900 courses played, but who is counting?

Golden Ocala was a very special Ron Garl designed private layout in the horse country of Ocala, Florida. What a distinctive, fun, challenging layout. Garl took pages from outstanding holes around the world to construct 8 replica holes and intertwined them with his own classic handiwork. Playable, memorable and simply superb was the experience. 

Garl gives the player the opportunity to play as much course as liked, so picking the right tee box makes for a great memorable experience. 

I particularly enjoyed the two Augusta National replica holes, although on both I dunked a ball into the pond fronting the greens. Oh well. Golden Ocala's 11th hole mimics Augusta National's 12th hole, while its 6th hole is a replica of Augusta National's 16th holes. Other replica holes used Royal Troon, Muirfield, St. Andrews and Baltusrol as starting points.

Loved both courses, and I'd wholeheartedly recommend!

An old favorite should be played if possible, as while I've played it dozens of times it never gets old: Seaview's Bay Course. This Donald Ross designed gem is different every time its played as the winds off Reeds Bay plays havoc with your precision. Don't miss it.

CHIP SHOTS: Wake Forest University freshman Erica Herr has played 24 rounds this season with a low score of 70 on her way to a 76.46 scoring average...