There’s an air of golf excitement at Pepperdine’s Bar & Grill these days over “The Cup.” Conversations range from the sweetness of revenge to the pressures of team competition.
But the stir The Cup has created has nothing to do with the upcoming Ryder Cup matches in Sotogrande, Spain, or the efforts of America’s top golfers to bring their sport’s most coveted team trophy back to the United States.
It is centered, instead, on the Big Three Sports Bar Cup proudly displayed atop the television set behind Pepperdine’s back bar.
“It’s sitting right where everyone can see it,” said the bar’s owner Randy Cameron. “And it’s beautiful!”
Beauty, in this case, might be debatable. But there is no denying the cup’s significance - that of golf supremacy among three of the area’s better-known sports bars.
“The patrons here are real excited about it,” Cameron said. “It’s their trophy. They all feel like they’re a part of it.”
The cup is Cameron’s to display over the winter. A team of 15 golfers, all regular customers at Pepperdine’s, helped Cameron earn that right by besting teams from The Swinging Doors Tavern and Red Lion Sports Bar and Barbecue in a series of three Ryder Cup-style tournaments played this summer.
Pepperdine’s won the finale of the series at Hangman Valley Golf Course earlier this month and also finished atop the season-long points standings, which allowed Cameron to keep the cup at least until next April when the tournament series resumes for a third season.
Red Lion won the overall title last year and had the cup through the winter months.
The competition for the cup is intense and pure. No blind-bogey scrambles. No flighting. No charitable causes. Just golf, with players from each bar matched up in threesomes against opponents of similar abilities.
Handicaps are factored in and players in each threesome play against each other in a match-play format. A golfer can earn up to six points for his team by winning both nines and the overall score over the other two in his threesome.
Teams are comprised of a host professional from the bar’s home course and 14 other players who are either employees or frequent customers.
“I play in all the other tavern tournaments, charity events and scrambles, but this is so much more fun,” Red Lion co-owner Brian Finnerty said during this year’s tournament finale. “Skill is involved here. You play your own shots, not someone else’s.
“If you’re a hack in this tournament, you can only hope you get paired against another hack and that you’re a better hack than he is.”
The idea for the competition was hatched two years ago by a “Cheers” re-run in which lead character Sam Malone and several of his employees and best customers challenged Gary’s Old Town Tavern to a bowling tournament.
Cameron and Finnerty were playing golf at The Creek at Qualchan - the Red Lion’s home course - the following day and came up with the plan.
“We had just watched the stupid (“Cheers”) thing the night before,” explained Finnerty, “so while we were waiting to play our next shots, I said, ‘Hey, Randy, we know a lot of the same kind of people. Let’s do a little golf deal.”’
Cameron agreed on the spot and a short time later someone informed Finnerty that if he really wanted to make the event fun he should call Bob Materne at The Swinging Doors and convince him to sponsor a team.
“They knew we were a golf-oriented establishment and said they wanted us to play,” recalled Materne, who claims Sun Dance as his bar’s home course. “I told ‘em, ‘I’m in!’
“The neat thing is that there’s no prizes or cash involved - just golf. Where else, when there’s nothing but pride on the line, can you find guys waiting around the 18th green cheering each other on and asking, ‘How’d you do? How’d you do?’
“It’s just like the Ryder Cup. It’s a kick.”
Surprisingly, there is little alcohol consumed during the competition. The serious imbibing takes place after the matches are complete and team scores finalized.
“Then we all meet at the host bar and party,” Finnerty explained.
“We’ll probably go to Pepperdine’s for some tea and bagels after this,” Materne said during the heat of this summer’s Cup finale.
“When we won the cup the first time, we were pouring Miller Lite into it and drinking that,” Finnerty recalled of the Red Lion’s early dominance in the tournaments. “It took Bob Materne five matches to win the cup, but when he did he filled it with Crown Royal Reserve at $40 a fifth and passed it around to all his guys.”
Materne’s Swinging Doors team finished third in all three matches last year, third overall and third in the first event this year.
“But we won the cup last time (in June) and had a great time celebrating,” Materne said. “We were always making a big deal about it before - how we came in third. But then somebody would always have to ask how many teams were entered.”
Materne’s Swinging Doors team made a serious run at earning the right to display The Cup over the winter, but a late points rush by Pepperdine buried that dream.
Still, Materne’s team finished second, well ahead of the defending champs from Red Lion, who managed only 34 points in season’s final tournament.
Finnerty, who bought his team matching yellow shirts for the event, earned only one-half point for his Red Lion squad and saw The Cup slip out of his grasp not long after finishing his unproductive round.
Finnerty’s brother, Tom, was shut out in his match, giving the co-owners a combined total of one-half point. But neither seemed devastated by their own performance or the fact that they lost The Cup.
“It’s competitive, but the object is to have a good time,” Brian Finnerty said. “We’ve had a bazillion guys who want to play, but it’s just open to my customers. I bring guys who come into the bar regularly. I don’t care if they win or lose, as long as they’re part of my squad.”
Finnerty said other bars have contacted him about getting into the tournament series, but the founders of the event have decided to keep it a three-team affair - for now.
“With all the different matches going, you’d have to hire a CPA to do the scoring if you expanded to a four-bar circuit,” Finnerty explained. “We’ve recommended to a couple of bars in the Valley that they do their own deal - play MeadowWood, Liberty Lake and The Highlands and then we’ll have the City Cup at Esmeralda, or something.
“The best team from the Valley plays the best team from the city and The Cup bounces around.” , DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo