Twenty-two foursomes descended on the Grand Haven Golf Club for a day of fellowship, fairways and fun after the tournament took an official break in 2016 due to low registration.
The Coasties didn’t let that ruin one of their favorite rounds of the summer.
“A lot of them came out and just played 18 holes, about 30 or 40 of them showed up anyway,” Grand Haven Golf Club pro Kirk Sherman said of last year’s event. “We paid for their golf and served lunch, but it wasn’t the full tournament.”
The club has been hosting the festival golf tournament for longer than Sherman’s tenure as pro. Being the birthplace of the now Nationwide Folds of Honor and Patriot Golf Day events, the armed forces are a group close to the club’s heart.
They continue to host the Coastie tournament to give the service men and women a chance to relax and catch up with fellow Coasties and were excited to see the event return to full strength.
“As a club, we want to support the Coast Guard,” Sherman said. “We are strong, military, patriotic people here at Grand Haven Golf Club and we want to support them.
“It is a chance for them to have fun and relax in the midst of the craziness of the week. They are a great group and we just love having them here.”
The winning foursome of Zach Flynn, Adam Smart, Jason Bartholomew and Eli Paquette finished an impressive 11-under par and just one stroke ahead of the runners-up.
The key, according to the other three team members, was Flynn’s driving skill.
“I couldn’t miss off the tee,” Flynn admitted. “We made a lot of crucial putts, that is what was working.”
Flynn did take home the longest drive award for the day as a bonus prize to their gold-medal finish, with a monster drive off the elevated ninth-hole tee box.
The foursome successfully avoided the short game, only needing a chip on the final hole of competition.
“We got up and down for a birdie, and that was the only time we had to chip,” Flynn said. “Every other time we hit the green.”
For most participants, the Coastie tournament serves as a chance to build camaraderie with fellow servicemen, with foursomes made up of shipmates and strangers. The winning foursome was split, with two friends and two new acquaintances.
“I didn’t know (Smart and Bartholomew), but I knew Adam,” Flynn said. “It was our first time meeting and it was a pleasure to play with them, we had a lot of fun.”
“Camaraderie,” Paquette said of his motivation to play in the outing. “I just retired, so it is great to see everybody.”
The main thing is to get to know people,” Smart said. “And go out and play golf and have a good time.”
After their time on the course, the Coastie golfers gathered in the clubhouse for a modest award ceremony and hearty lunch, providing plenty of time for fellowship and relaxation.
“We are modest with the prizes,” Herbst said. “We know they are just out here to have fun. We have a keg and just let them do the typical golf thing.”
For much of its existence the tournament has attracted repeat players, with a few select teams dominating the field, year after year.
“For years we had two teams that played 20 years in a row and won every year,” Coast Guard Festival Board member and tournament organizer Bill Herbst said. “They were so good.”
“We recognize a lot of faces from coming back year after year,” Sherman said. “It turns over every couple of years, but having the familiar faces is always nice.”
This year, an influx of young players joined the retirees, refreshing what was a long-standing field of returners and giving the tournament a breath of fresh competition.
“We have a pretty good mix of younger Coasties this year,” Herbst said. “These guys are younger and with it. They just really enjoy the event because they like to see each other. I think they enjoy the camaraderie most of all.
“A lot of these guys aren’t stationed together, so it is a chance to see each other and relax and catch up. If you see someone at the festival, it is so loud and there is so much commotion, it can be tough to talk.”
With the bulk of the festival ahead, the Coasties will continue to enjoy their time in Grand Haven, connecting with fellow Coasties and catching up and enjoying the festivities alongside the community.