A local man who threw a famous no-hitter is pitching a concept to keep older golfers hitting away.
Phil Budervic, 67, wants to launch an experimental golf league at Wilkshire, near Bolivar. Teams would play makeshift holes at distances closer to the hole than the shortest tees but distant enough to pose a challenge.
The idea hit Budervic before he moved back to his native Stark County. The local golf season is heating up now.
“I was in a golf league in Florida for a long time,” he said. “One of the league founders was on into his’ 80s. The guys wanted to throw him out of the league. They said his handicap was too high and he was too slow. I said, ‘Are you guys nuts?’
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“His wife had just passed away. The only thing keeping this guy alive was golf. I said, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do. Put him in my cart every Saturday. He’s going to tee off from the 150-yard markers And he’s going to establish a handicap playing that way. ‘
“That’s what we did. He had more fun than you can imagine. He was down to a 4 handicap.
“We were out somewhere and bumped into a guy who asked him, ‘You’re still playing?’ He looked at the guy and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but I’m playing the best golf of my life.’
“The concept was born.”
Budervic grew up in Canton, playing a lot of golf at a shorter course, Meadowlake, and making a name as a pitcher at Lincoln High School. He was coming off his freshman year at Malone College, intent on pitching summer ball in the proud Canton Class A League.
He asked about joining a team coached by old-school A League manager Bill Chismar.
“Chismar flat told me I wasn’t good enough to pitch in the A League,” Budervic said.
He landed on a different team, Golden Lodge. His first start, at Cook Park, was against Downtown Motors, which had some of the better-known players of that time, among them Don Buttrey, Dowdy Grimes, Craig Day and Bill Clary.
He threw a no-hitter, the league’s first in years. He played in the league into the mid-1980s before moving to Florida, where he worked in the insurance business and coached basketball. At one point he made a run as the head basketball coach at Silver Lake College in Manitowoc, Wisc.
Now his sports focus has shifted from working with young men to hoping a golf league for old men will fly. He imagines a course with modified tees working for some golfers of all ages, including beginning junior players.
For now, a focus is on players who don’t hit it as far as they did when they were kids.
“Why can’t we decrease the distance as we get older but still keep the different shots in the game?” he said. “Like the draws and the fades and getting the ball over the sand trap. Let them score like they used to, instead of teeing off on a par 5 knowing they have no chance at a par.”
The makeshift course would use flags that designate tee-shot areas on each hole, at closer distances than the existing shortest tees.
“We could move the markers from one week to the next,” he said. “On one of the holes one week, you might have to hit a fade. The next week, we’ll put ’em on the other side and you might have to hit a draw. But the distance is shortened so that guys have a chance at par. “
Budervic arranged some rounds from a modified course last year.
“One of the guys I played with is well into his 80s,” Budervic said. “He shot a 41 on one side and a 42 on the other.
“Afterward I asked him, ‘Al, what did you think?’ He had, ‘On every hole, I knew that if I hit the ball, I could make a par.The distance wasn’t holding me back.I haven’t had that much fun playing golf in 25 years. ‘”
Budervic has the blessing of Wilkshire General Manager Vince Little, who would carve out times when a league might play.
“The modified course is designed for golfers who do not hit booming drives and older golfers who would like to put the fun back in their game,” Little said. “I really like the concept. The modifications reduce the yardage while maintaining the character and feel of Wilkshire.”
Budervic is prepared to set up a league for 2022 and will push for 2023 if the numbers don’t add up over the next several weeks. Inquiries about joining a league can be emailed to Budervic at email@example.com
Reach Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org
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