This past September I traveled north from San Diego to the tiny hamlet of Graeagle nestled in the pine covered forests of Northern California , an hour north of Lake Tahoe. This trip, unlike many I take, wasn’t to discover new golf courses or visit exotic new lands. It was to participate with old friends in the 18 th annual FAGAPO golf tournament.
FAGAPO, an acronym for First Annual Golf And Poker Outing, had its beginning in September, 1987. Eight tennis playing friends from Walnut Creek , an East Bay suburb of San Francisco borrowed golf clubs, gathered up a couple of decks of cards and a box of old poker chips, and headed to Lake Tahoe for a one-day men’s golf get-away.
FAGAPO has expanded from this humble beginning to become a much anticipated four day, three night outing. Because most of the FAGAPO participants are now Medicare eligible, or close to it, neither the age of the participants nor their golf ability is important. What is important is that everyone enjoys an outing with good friends. Sure, we pretend we are kids again. Sure, we wish we could hit the golf ball 300-plus yards like Tiger Woods. Sure, we act like winning FAGAPO is as prestigious and financially rewarding as winning The Masters. What we don’t have to pretend is the enjoyment we have gathering to reminisce about family friendships and nearly 20 years of FAGAPO.
We played three fun golf courses, had daily and tournament prizes, a memorial putting contest honoring a deceased friend and former participant, and devoted four days and three nights to golf and camaraderie with lots of food, drinks, card games and laughter. This year, of the 20 golfers who played, two had played each of the eighteen years and ten had played twelve to fifteen times…a true tribute to the importance of long lasting friendships.
The three courses we attacked, Plumas Pines, which winds through a pine forest; Graeagle Meadows, which has fairways crossing the trout laden Feather River; and the highly challenging Golf Club at Whitehawk Ranch, all had “Kodak Moment” postcard scenery with groves of tall pines, colorful wild flowers, and sky blue lakes and streams.
We played our usual scramble format with one drive required by each member of the foursome on each nine. Since most of the yearly participants are high or non-handicap golfers, this format is ideal. Each player, regardless of ability, has the opportunity to play every shot, avoid the pressure of competing with an individual score, and still have a chance to win the tournament.
To determine a winner, each golfer played in a different foursome each of the three days taking his daily team score as his individual score. This year’s winner, with a score of seven under par at the end of the three rounds, was 25 handicapper Dan Cochrane. By winning the tournament Dan received the mandatory “right” to wear the coveted FAGAPO Jacket at the annual awards dinner. Since “The Jacket” is a garish 1960 vintage orange, yellow, light green and brown plaid blazer, something Jack Nicklaus would have worn in his early years, Dan had the honor of enduring laughs and finger pointing while enjoying cocktails and dinner.
Our eighteenth annual “all included” outing certainly wasn’t as lavish as one would find at famed all-inclusive resorts like Sandals or Beaches in the Caribbean or at the newly renovated and revitalized Club Med operations around the world. However, when you consider it included three days of golf on lovely mountain courses, three nights in well appointed condos, daily breakfasts, lunches and dinners, all the beverages one desired, as well as prize money, the year-long right to the coveted FAGAPO Jacket for the winner, and most importantly, priceless fun and fellowship, it was quite a special event.
Does all this sound like a bunch of friends having a good time? Does it sound like 20 seniors reliving their youth? Does it sound like an enjoyable outing? The answer of course is yes. That’s why, for the 18th straight year I headed north to celebrate wonderful friendships, laugh a lot, and pretend I’m a really good golfer.
For more information on how to put together a FAGAPO type golf outing, email Chuck Miller, The Traveling Guy, at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read about and view photos of the Golf Club at Whitehawk Ranch, see Scenic Mountain Courses on the Article Archive link.