HANOVER – The pond on the eighth hole at Hanover Country Club doesn’t have a name. Better make that it doesn’t have an official name.
After his qualifying round Friday for the annual Tommy Keane Invitational tournament, former Dartmouth athletic trainer Fred Kelley reminisced about a nickname for the pond that dates back to one of one of the early TKI tournaments.
“John Curtis was the Dartmouth freshman football coach, a left-handed player with a volatile temper,” Kelley recalled. “Coming into what was then the ninth hole, John put his third shot into the pond. That didn’t sit too well with him, and then he proceeded to ‘Tin Cup’ three more into the pond. That was followed by an orange bag that he used to carry. An orange Spalding bag. He flung it right into the middle of the pond.
“From that day forward it was known as Curtis’s Pond.”
Chances are not many of the 96 players who teed it up Friday knew the story. Kelley knew it because he was there, just as he has been for every last one of the 37 editions of the Tommy Keane, which honors the memory of the legendary Hanover professional and coach of Dartmouth golf from 1922 until his retirement in 1966.
Kelley, 75, flew in from his retirement home near Kissimmee, Fla., to team up with son Michael in the TKI. And it won’t be the last time he makes the trip if he has anything to say about it.
“There are years when you are not playing well that you don’t want to get on a plane and come up,” he said with a laugh. “But as long as the tournament is still in existence I will make it in some way, shape or form.
“The last few years I have played with my son as my partner and that is always a treat. I offered to let him out of his contract this year but he declined. He told me he would give me one more year, so we are still having fun with it.”
The treat, son Mike confided later, is all his.
“In his book ‘Who’s Your Caddy,’ Rick Reilly wrote about wanting to play one more round of golf with his father,” the younger Kelley said under the scorer’s tent while Fred reminisced with friends on the HCC deck. “This is special.”
As is the tournament to Fred Kelley, who ran the TKI for a few years in the 1980’s and fondly remembers the inaugural event when some of the originals had to chip in $150 apiece when it was over to cover expenses.
That’s a far cry from today’s tournament, which features a catered dinner under white tents.
“My wife Sue and I used to make sandwiches in our kitchen to sell at the tournament,” Kelley recalled. “It wasn’t catered back then, except by the Kelley’s. “I did not know that it was going to turn into what it has evolved into. But I’m certainly glad that it has.”
What it has turned into is both a top-flight better ball tournament and a reunion of sorts.
“The Tommy Keene as it was established was for guys to have fun, enjoy camaraderie and make new friends,” explained Kelley. “Now there are young turks that are taking over at the championship flight, which is terrific. I am all for that.”
Two of those young turks are University of Hartford golfers Nick Macdonald and DJ Lantz, who shot a 66 Friday to claim medalist honors and the top seed in the championship flight. Coming in at 67 were the teams of Jake Obar and Billy Vielleux, Mike Pollard and Doug Daniels, and brothers Scott and Mike Peters.
One shot back were the pairings of Shane Macdonald and Doug Lantz, and Michael Blaisdell and Jude Volek.
The tournament continues today with morning and afternoon matches in the three flights. It wraps up Sunday with morning and afternoon matches.
The Kelleys won’t be playing for the TKI title Sunday, but they combined for a 78 Friday, good enough for a spot in the first flight.
“I’ve never been in the championship flight but I have won other flights with various partners,” said the older Kelley, who still plays to an 8-handicap. “To some that might be a deterrent, but not to me.
“As much fun as the championship flight is the same amount of fun is had in the second and third flights. That was the purpose of the Tommy Keane. Get people together who enjoy the game of golf, who know how to play it, know the rules, are gentlemen and can have a good time. As long as we keep on doing that it will continue to be a success.”
Even if no one has ever heard of Curtis's Pond.