Ron Gala lined up a six-foot putt on the final hole at Heather Glen. His three playing partners looked on pensively from the green while 24 friends, most with cigars in their mouths or a beer in hand (both in some cases), shouted encouragement or reminded him of the difficulty of the pending putt.
The Blakely Golf Association is an eight-day trip that, as it seemingly always does, came down to the final hole. In the 29th playing of the “event,” Gala had a bogey putt for glory. Make the putt and his team wins; miss it and he’d never hear the end of it from friends and foes.
His teammates were anxious, his opponents were confident. One was heard saying, “He never makes these putts.”
The Pittsburgh, Pa., resident quickly approached the ball, set his feet, and paused. What was Gala thinking?
“Stop the shaking,” he said.
Gala took the putter back and delivered a less than artistic stroke with a beautiful result. The ball crawled into the cup, giving his team victory and starting a celebration worthy of a Ryder Cup.
The Blakely Golf Association, as this group of friends calls their annual trip to Myrtle Beach, builds towards tournament day – the final round shootout where legends are born, losers are left to lament lost opportunity, and everybody drinks a little beer and laughs long into the night.
Gala capped the 2012 BGA in dramatic fashion – winning the coveted Green Jacket awarded to the trip’s most valuable golfer along the way – but the gathering of this Myrtle Beach golf group is about much more than one round.
The boys of the BGA never stop reliving old memories and woofing about what’s going to happen next year. It’s an annual tradition none of them want to miss.
Don’t believe me? Check out their website, which includes an original song, written and composed by a Charlotte cardiologist, photos, tournament records and handicaps, among many other things.
Founded by brothers Dan and Chris Cardell, the BGA has its origins in their hometown of Blakely, Pa. A group of high school buddies and former Boy Scouts traded their tents for beachfront towers in graduate school and a Myrtle Beach golf trip was born in 1984.
As job opportunities dispersed the core group, the BGA became a way to stay in touch, and its base diversified significantly. Players now travel from Houston, Chicago, Milwaukee, Maryland and everywhere in between.
Nearly everybody has a nickname – just pray your friends never have reason to call you Yip, a fate that has befallen Jim O’Neill – and the BGA includes a player draft, awards banquet and enough bets to make Vegas blush.
The stories are many, including a guy who once showed up a week early (yes, he went back home and returned for the event), but any misadventures have always produced many more laughs than actual problems.
While the trip has grown over the years, two things haven’t changed: the emphasis on having a good time and its home.
“I can’t say enough good things about Myrtle Beach,” Dan Cardell said. “We have a good time here every year. We’ve played here 29 years and had one (round) rained out. It’s really a great time to come here.”
Planning for the 30th annual trip is already underway, but Ron Gala still has plenty of time to enjoy his year on top of the BGA!