Saturday, September 10, 2011

IGM Staffer Ties Course Record

Frank Kulig has been to Death Valley and back. Literally. And tied a course record there, too.

The Ware native has returned to cooler climates, but his golf game has stayed hot. The assistant superintendent at Ledges Golf Course in South Hadley matched the course record of 9-under-par 63 there on Aug. 18. “It was one of those days when nothing could go wrong,” Kulig said. The round, which matched a score posted by Matt Scytkowski of South Hadley in 2002, included eight birdies, an eagle and one bogey.

“I’ve made two aces in my career, so I am not sure which is better,” Kulig said. Kulig birdied Nos. 2, 3 and 4 and even joked with playing partners Matt Kowal, superintendent at Ledges GC, and Marc Marinello that “here comes the course record.” “When they heard that, they were just trying to get under my skin a little bit,” Kulig said. He birdied the seventh, but gave it back with a bogey at 8. “But then the eagle on 9 did it,” Kulig said of a 30-foot putt for a 3. “Then they were with me, really cheering me on after that.”

Kulig made the turn at 5-under 31, but “cooled off” with pars at the next five holes. He missed only two fairways and hit 15 of 18 greens, getting up-and-down at Nos. 11 and 13 and missing a five-footer for par at No. 8. “I was kind of aware of what the course record was, but no one was 100 percent sure,” Kulig said. “I don’t think it was ever really posted anywhere.” Kulig then birdied his last four holes, making putts from 3, 2, 17 and 7 feet coming in. “I knew the tough one would be 17,” Kulig said. “I drove it to the right, near the trees. But I ended up making a 17-footer for birdie.” At 18, he reached the par-5 in two, but left a 30-footer for eagle about seven feet short. “My knees were knocking, all for a seven-foot birdie putt,” Kulig said. Kulig, incidentally, cut the pins that day.

“And I was in a bad mood, so I think I set them up in some tough spots,” Kulig said of the pin placements. Kulig, who didn’t take up golf until he was 16, went directly into the service after high school, before moving out to California. “I went right down to being a scratch golfer, played in and won a lot of tournaments,” Kulig said. “One year, I played 180 times.'' He worked as an assistant superintendent at Furnace Creek Golf Course in Death Valley, Calif.

“It’s the lowest course (214 feet below sea level) in the world,” Kulig said. “It’s in a national park, miles away from civilization. We’d start work there at 4 a.m. and it would already be 105 degrees. In July and August it would get to 125. It was tough to find people to work there.” Kulig tied the course record at Furnace Creek, but said his handicap has suffered since he returned to the East Coast last October.

“I haven’t played much since, and I posted a bunch of scores early on that were in the low 80s, high 70s,” Kulig said. “My lowest was a 73, so my handicap is now a 7. Playing that day here, I felt like my ol’ California self again. .” “But I have only played about 15 times this year,” he said. “I like it here. I wanted to improve in this business and I wanted to learn how everything works in a cooler climate.”