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The date was set back in March for the first ever FootJoy Ambassador Invitational: a time for 20 of our most loyal and passionate community members to meet their fellow FJ Ambassadors and to play golf at the storied Medinah Country Club. The 20 lucky Ambassadors came from all walks of life. Some were executives, some were students, and some were retired golf enthusiasts. Likewise, their ages crossed a wide spectrum, with 50 years separating the youngest from the "most experienced." They were from 14 different states across the country with several traveling over 1000 miles to attend. Ability levels ranged from having experience in professional events to missing the cut at a local club championship and weekend warriors. Despite all the differences, the common bond was forged through golf and a passion for FootJoy. While all the participants were familiar with each other's personalities and nuances from their countless discussion on the Community, the Ambassadors and FJ Staffers had never actually met in person. What would ensue, however, looked like long lost friends catching up after years apart. The camaraderie and admiration they shared for one another gave way to playful ribbing about the round at Medinah the next day. As FJ Ambassador, Mike Mondalek perfectly stated, "a group of 20 who never met before got together and, with barely an introduction to each other, acted as if we had been friends for many years. Golf was just a side note." This was the attitude of many of the Ambassadors - an opportunity to kick back and enjoy a good time amongst friends who just happen to be playing at Medinah CC the next day. As the night quickly vanished and turned to blue skies, it became time for the Ambassadors to lace up their FJ's and head to the course. As the host of the 2012 Ryder Cup matches, Medinah Country Club was the ideal destination to stage a similar match amongst the Ambassadors. Team ICON, clad in blue ProDry Pique shirts and captained by Chris Garrett teed off against Team DryJoys, wearing red shirts and led by Devin Gmitter. The front nine consisted of fourball matches and the back of individual match play with pairings announced on the bus to the course. Pleasantries aside, you could feel the competitive spirit of the participants start to take over. Arriving at the course, every Ambassador was a member for the day, walking the hallowed grounds of one of the finest courses this country has to offer. Some chose to warm up on the famous putting green in front of the majestic clubhouse; others headed to the range to shake off those first tee jitters; some chose to relax in the clubhouse, catch up on the Texas/Oklahoma score and soak in the ambiance. Leading off the event, from Team ICON, was 73-year-old "Dogloski" (Doug Skinner) who calmly placed his tee in the ground and striped one right up the middle like he has done many times before. Fades, draws, slices, and hooks were all present on the first tee but there were no egos here just a group of golfers ready to enjoy their round...and a lot of great looking golf shoes! As the rounds progressed, margins widened, others tightened but no one lost sight of the fact that this was more about meeting fellow ambassadors and being in the moment then playing their absolute best golf. The golf course was in immaculate condition allowing each player to feel like they were in the Ryder Cup themselves, albeit playing the course several hundred yards shorter then the professionals. It's rolling fairways, strategically place bunkers and slick greens made the course a joy for everyone to play and a place that no ambassador will ever forget. The par-3's provided some of the finest views on the course with three of the four playing over water from Lake Kadijah. Crossing the four bridges at holes 2, 13, 14 and 17 you realize most of the world's greatest players have walked the same path. It was one of these breathtaking par three's that delivered the shot of the weekend from the final group of the afternoon. Ironically, however, it was the only par three on the course that did not feature a carry over water - the 165 yard 8th hole. Following consultation with their caddy, Chris, who estimated the hole playing at 195 yards, "OUTIGER" (Tim Tiger) and Chris Garrett both hit laser like iron shots directly at the tucked pin, hidden by the late afternoon shadows; each thinking it could have been the absolute perfect shot that only happens to the most skilled, or luckiest, golfers. Chris felt his shot was maybe a bit long while "OUTIGER" thought his was just short. As the group approached the green, they could see only one ball near the pin, about 10 feet beyond. The excitement escalated as they all realized one must have gone in. It was the caddy who reached the hole first, having jumped from the cart and sprinted to the hole, and alerted the group, and several groups within ear shot, that someone had just recorded an ace. Chris approached next, admittedly shaking with the potential of what may have just happened. Before he could confirm which ball was in the hole, "OUTIGER" was already cheering, realizing his shot rolled out and found a home in the bottom of the cup. Sure enough, Tim's Titleist Pro V1x #1 sat nestled in the hole for his first career hole in one! A perfect shot on a perfect day at one of the most famous golf courses in the world. News quickly spread ahead to the other groups who celebrated Tim's accomplishment all afternoon and in to the evening. Tim's euphoria was only escalated as he found out his Oklahoma Sooners had throttled the Texas Longhorns, 55-17, in the Red River Rivalry. After the final group putted out in darkness on #18, it was time to leave Medinah and head to a banquet dinner where we would tally scores and toast the contributions everyone has made to the weekend and the FJ Community. "OUTIGER" made voting for the shot of the day obsolete with his ace while "GoHokies" (Bobby Swain) shot the round of the day with a 76. "19hole" (Rick Ericson) hit the most interesting shot with a back hand wedge off the wall in front of the 17th green. Users like "TarHeel" (Randy Voss) were recognized for their expedited response to questions on the community while "Dogloski" was awarded for traveling the furthest distance to attend. "EMKelly0106" (Eric Kelly) was toasted as the community member with the most points and for participating in the event as official photographer since he could not compete due to a recent surgery. Fittingly, the matches ended in a tie. After mulling it over for a few moments, even the most competitive Ambassadors found this a fitting way for the day to conclude, every ambassador with an equal footing on a level playing field. Finally, on Sunday morning, the group of Ambassadors was given a sneak peek at some of the latest innovations from FootJoy, including products that will be launched in 2012 and beyond. The FJ Ambassadors are a special group. They are passionate, knowledgeable, insightful, caring and friendly. They take pride in the Community and in the contributions they've made in elevating this site within the industry. Join the conversation. Meet the FJ Ambassadors. They will welcome you with open arms.
In the latest "Meet the Ambassadors" feature, we are happy to introduce
you to Rick Ericson, or "19hole" as many of you know him. If you have spent any time on the FJ Community you have probably stumbled over some of 19th's posts. Our resident golf pro became the first FJ Ambassador over 2 years ago and continues to be a great mentor to many. Starting the game later then most, Rick took to the game like a fish to water, becoming a fantastic player who has even played in the Sr. Open Championship. Enjoy our profile on "19hole."
At what age did you start playing golf?
I was 26 and played one day on a bet. Lost in a horrific way and decided that I was going to get even.Who introduced you to the game?
My tennis doubles partner. I was working as a Tennis Pro and my doubles partner and I went away to play a tournament. We had some down time and some of the guys wanted to go play golf. I figured that I would go play too, after all how hard could it be. The ball doesn’t move and you aren’t running. Well, the other guys told me that I would never be able to play the game as well as they could. I went along anyway, lost as many ways as could be imagined and decided that I would show them and went off to learn the game. This was also helped a little later when I blew up my left knee and had to give up tennis. Five years later I was a 4 handicap and took more than double my money back from those guys! A few years later as was a +1 and turned Professional.What's your best score and where was it?
64. I have had it a few times. The first time was on a Christmas Day at Grenelefe South, one of the courses the Tour used for the final stage of Q School.Favorite golf memory?
The day I met my now wife on the first tee going out to play. The rest is history.What's your "specialty" on the golf course?
I would have to say my short game. It is something I really don’t practice a lot, but I seem to be able to get up and down from some really interesting places on a regular basis.What are you working on?
Trying to rid the world of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum! No, seriously, I tend to work on balance and tempo. I am at an age where I will not be what most would think of as a long hitter of the ball. I have always been a proponent of balance and smooth tempo. I have taught people who have had terrible balance and very fast swings. When you get them to slow down a bit and make better contact, it is amazing how much longer and straighter the ball goes. The scores also tend to drop pretty dramatically.What is you go to shot?
When I find myself having “one of those days” where nothing seems to feel right and you have no clue where the ball is going to go I go back to the very basics. I grip down on the shaft about 1” - 1 ½” and try to hit a little ¾ swing knock down. I find I need to use a bit more club but I can get back to a swing that I can play with and back to the clubhouse without really embarrassing myself.What golf-related product can you not live without?
Tough question, I think that I need all of it! Last year I did get myself a really nice push cart and my back feels so much better for it.Tell us about your most memorable round of golf.
Well this one is easy, but it spreads to two rounds. When I turned 50 I was playing pretty well. We were going back to Scotland for our summer vacation and I decided I would play the Sr. Open Championship. I go to the site and start to warm up. I can tell you it was pretty intimidating. I look up and down the range and see some great swings and solid ball strikers. I remember saying to my wife, “What am I doing here?”. Well, I get loose and head to the tee for a practice round. I get paired with 2 other players; one from France and one from South Africa. Both really nice guys. The South African is playing full time and trying to make a real living doing so. I still think I am in big trouble! We head off and as the round goes on I realize that I am killing these two guys and maybe I do belong out here. The round finishes and I do end up with quite a bit better score than either of my playing companions. It was a great experience and the guys were great guys to play with. I now have a bit of confidence about being there. Well two days pass and it is time to play for real. Did I mention that my wife is going to caddie for me. Did I also mention that it is her birthday. We get to the course and I am a bit on the nervous side. Go to the practice tee to warm up and the nerves seem to fade away. I am falling into the trap. I am telling myself that it is just another round of golf and all is well. Get to the putting green and all of the nerves are gone. I am ready (yeah right!). Go to the tee and meet my fellow competitors; an Amateur from England and oh wait our third has withdrawn. The thought was starting to cross my mind too. We introduce ourselves and I am greeted with “I really want to concentrate today, so I won’t be talking to you very much”, nice start. Then it is time to play, still not very nervous until “Now on the tee from the United States…..” well that tends to get the heart rate up a bit. Slashed a driver down the fairway and we were off. The round progresses and I am playing well enough, but my fellow competitor is not fairing as well. Add to this he is a very deliberate player. At the turn we are put on the clock. Pretty embarrassing for me as I am used to playing over there in bout 3 ½ hours. Trying to play a bit faster not to be penalized my game starts to suffer. I end up with double on 18 and an alternate for the Championship. I learned a lot from this experience. And yes I did go back to play that event more than once.What are your interests outside of golf?
I am a bit of a car nut. I enjoy Formula 1 racing. When I was younger I did a bit of competitive sailing and that was great fun.How did you learn about the FJ Community?
I stumbled across it one day while I was trying to find something else on the FootJoy website. What a great forum FootJoy has given us, and I thank the Company and all of the Staff members that have made it available to all of us.Dream Foursome ?
This is tough. I know I should include my wife, but I think I may get a pass if I don’t! Definitely Mr. Palmer you just have to play one round with him in your life, the stories he could tell. Ian Poulter would be there, I think he would be a pretty fun guy to play with and he does have a bit of style. Jack Nicklaus, he has really grown on me over the years and to see him back together with Arnie would be amazing.There are a few other players that I would like to be able to play with. Unfortunately they are no longer with us; Payne Stewart, Bobby Jones, and Gene Sarazen What a foursome that would be! Top 5 Bucket list courses?
I have been lucky enough to be able to play quite a few courses that make a lot of bucket lists, but the ones that are still eluding me would have to be: Pine Valley, Augusta National, Loch Lomand, Muirfield and Royal Portrush.PGA tour player you would like to grab a beer with?
Easy, Ian Poulter. Wait can it be more than one?
How many pair’s of FJ’s do you currently have?
The number seems a bit pale by comparison to others in the Community but it is 23; 2 DryJoys, 3 Contours, 8 Classic Dry Premier and 10 ICON.