New course, same core

Duncan MacLean • Jul 31, 2019 at 12:15 AM

SPRING LAKE — With all the tourist trappings, dignitary parades and beach-going civilians, it is easy to lose focus of the center of the annual Coast Guard Festival — the mens and women of the Coast Guard.

Every year, hundreds of members of the Coast Guard descend on the city for a jam-packed week of activities, not all of which strictly count as leisure. Enter the Coast Guard Festival golf outing, an event strictly for retired and active-duty men and women to kick back and enjoy each others company with a side of well-manicured nature and the occasional golf swing.

This year’s outing ventured to a new venue, as the traditional spot at Grand Haven Golf Club was unavailable. The Spring Lake Country Club took in the Coasties, putting on an excellent morning of camaraderie for an otherwise busy bunch.

“It was a forced change, but it worked out,” said tournament organizer Bill Herbst. “The staff has been so nice and fun to work with, the course is beautiful and the guys have said the food is the best it has ever been. They enjoyed it so much that they played a little slower than usual.

“This event is about the Coasties themselves. This is one of the few times they get to see each other and they so enjoy just spending a few hours together having fun.

“It really is a group that doesn’t get as much attention during events this week like the dignitaries. These are the guys who do all the work, so it is nice to see them enjoy themselves out here on a beautiful day.”

SLCC golf pro Josh Lathwell was thrilled to host the event as a departure from the norm at the club and as a way to honor the service of the participants.

“It is really nice to have the opportunity to host the outing,” Lathwell said. “It is limited to personnel, so it is nice to get those guys in here. They don’t necessarily have a ton of free time to do fun stuff like golf, even this week.

“This is more fun than most of the other events we host. We do some hardline golf tournaments and we do benefits. This is just about giving the Coasties a fun day to relax.”

The popular event did take some maneuvering on the part of SLCC, as they typically play outings strictly on Mondays. Club membership and the Board of Directors embraced the event with open arms, making sure it was the best yet.

“They have been so accommodating,” Herbst said. “They allowed us to play on a Tuesday which they normally don’t and they gave us some breaks on the cost. It has turned out to be a great change. Grand Haven did a great job, also, but we were forced to change and it has worked out.”

Tuesday’s event hit its mark, attracting 87 competitors to the course for the 18-hole, four-person scramble.

The foursome of Scott Ashley, Kevin Lankton, Chip Hantman and Evan McKinley took top honors with a score of 59. They credited their win to an accurate short game but spent most of their day relishing in each other’s company.

“We are just happy to be a part of this great event,” Ashley said. “It is always a nice camaraderie and this was a beautiful course. Just a really nice day. ”

A few side challenges kept things interesting throughout the round. Greg Erickson won the closest to the pin contest, sticking his drive on the par 3 seventh hole to 6 feet, 3 inches within the pin.

Colin McKey won the mens longest drive, while Tracey Riley took the womens longest drive.

With the progress of the American Dunes, formerly Grand Haven Golf Club moving along, next year’s golf outing site is yet to be determined. Lathwell said he would be open to continuing to host the event, but that depends on how things go, “down the street.”

For now, the men and women of the Coast Guard visiting for the festival can relish in the company they enjoyed playing the simple game of golf.

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