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.
Great story Devin. The slideshow and some of those panoramas are unreal! What a treat for everyone that attended. Hope to get the opportunity to share such an experience one day!
Well said Devin. It was certainly a very special weekend with a wonderful group of friends.
Great photos!!! What a 1st class time for the FJA's.
Thanks for putting up the photos, along with a thanks to Eric for taking them.
GREAT JOB DEVIN.
IT WAS REALLY AN UNBELIEVEABLE WEEKEND.
THERE IS NO WAY THAT WE, THE AMBASSADORS CAN EVET THANK YOU, CHRIS AND FOOTJOY ENOUGH FOR THAT ONCE IN A LIFETIME EXPERIENCE.
THANKS AGAIN FOOTJOY-ONLY THE BEST.
Great story and a great time was had by all there. I hope to be in the lucky group if this type of event is offered again.
Thanks Devin and Chris and all at FJ for setting this up.
Thanks to all of the FJA's for the banter leading up to, during and following the event. It appears that not all that happens in Medina...stays in Medina.
Great blog post and slideshow Devin. It seems like a dream. The weekend definitely went by too fast. Thanks again for a fantastic time. Truly a great experience.
Wow. wow. wow. Please, please do this again next year.
Great story, Devin. Thanks to you and Chris for being such gracious hosts.
Thanks for the article and for the chance to participate in this great event. It was truly a pleasure to meet every one of my new FJA friends.
The photos and everyone look great, especially the panoramic views.
Thanks for sharing about how the trip went! I enjoyed reading this.
Devin, fantastic write up and photos! It was simply an amazing weekend. Saying thanks does not seem like enough, but thanks again for the chance to play one of the most beautiful courses in the country. I believe Mondo said it perfectly.
A really good write up Devin, but I feel that there may be one thing that needs to be recognised. It is clear from the forum that this FJ event organised to celebrate loyal community members has transformed an internet forum community into something much more. The ambassadors who attended this event will play many more rounds of golf together across America bound by the experiences and memories of this great event. The expression I'm searching for is "Awesome." FJ have just done something quite astounding.
Devin, excellent job telling the story of an event that seems to have been better than anyone could have imagined it would be. All the way down to having a hole in one story to highlight the day. Well done FootJoy!
Thanks Devin, great photos and blog. Looks like everyone had a good time.