50 years ago at Aurora College in Aurora, IL we counted the incredible saves by Frank Bruno in goal on the soccer field; we celebrated the exploits of former NBA standout, Mickey Johnson on the hardcourt in Thornton Gymnasium; and we marveled at the standout play by Mike Drew on the baseball diamond at Snell Field.
Today we counted the artificial joints in our hips and knees; we celebrated the old teammates who successfully were able to walk the 9-hole course without injuring themselves; and we marveled that Mike could still play competitive fast pitch softball into his 70’s. Personally, I would have a difficult time just seeing the ball, let alone trying to hit an 80 mph fastball!
Things have changed in the last 50 years. Aurora College is now Aurora University. Snell Field is now a parking lot; and many of our former teammates are no longer with us. However, some things stay the same: the camaraderie of being teammates; the passion for sports; and of course, Mike on the baseball/softball diamond.
We gathered at River Bend Golf Course in Lisle, IL for a little golf as we celebrate the 50-year reunion of the classes of 1970-1972 during Homecoming 2022. COVID-19 cancelled the last two homecomings, so this was a fun time to bring old classmates together again. Enough about the past, let’s talk about the present and River Bend Golf Course.
Playing from the white tees at Hole #1 your tee shot requires an airborne trajectory so as to clear the “junk” fronting the tee box. However a shot too far may find the creek that splits the fairway. Besides the creek, you will encounter four bunkers surrounding the green and a pond off to the right. As Rich (a 1974 grad) said, “there’s water all over this course”. Great, and this is only the #6 handicap hole! There is also OB left, so choose your initial club wisely. Hole #2 bends slightly to the right where a bunker may come into play for the length-challenged hitter. There is a large pond to the right of the teeing area, which will only come into play with a badly (and I mean badly) “shanked” shot.
The par 5 third hole presents problems with all types of misses. First, a “worm-burner” will be swallowed up by the thick reeds that conceal the water in front of the tee box. Second, the dense trees to the right will require another ball pulled from your bag. Third, a legion of bunkers down the right will result in a large crooked number on your scorecard. Simple strategy – hit it long and straight several times! Hole#4 is one of the “easier” holes on the course. Large bunkers dominate the left side of the green, and it slopes dangerously from back to front. So the ideal approach has your ball landing on the front, right part of the green.
Hole #5 is a par 3 of 128 yards. There is water in front and behind this hole, but with a high-lofted club in your hand, you shouldn’t have to reach into your pocket for another ball.
Hole #6 – now there’s a “fun” hole. Water down the left; water down the right – what did Rich say about water on the course? The fairway has a little curve to the left, but if you are too far left there is a large tree that blocks the sight line to the green (this is the view we had). I’m not sure how this is not the number one handicap hole because the water on both sides is very much in play. Again, this is such a “fun” and demanding hole.
The key to the par 5 seventh hole is to steer clear of the right side. It’s easier said than done due to the fact that the fairway curves to that side. Your aiming point is over the fairway bunker, and I emphasize the “over” part. Just after we hit our tee shots, Mike the marshal, came by and advised us that we should stay left on this hole. A day late and a dollar short! Of course up by the green it is better to be right. I can understand why this is the number one handicap hole. Hole #8 is a 409 yard par 4 which swerves to the left. Another hole where you want to avoid the left side. If you have the ability (I don’t) to shape your shots, this is an excellent course for you. If you can’t (me), you will have a challenging (but fun) round. Speaking of challenges – 50 years ago with a baseball bat in my hands, I could (sometimes) hit a baseball that was traveling at 80+mph as it dips, turns, and blazes toward me. Today with a stationary ball perched on a tee, why can’t I make solid contact and find the fairway?
You finish the day with a 160 yard par 3 at Hole #9. Your tee shot needs to carry the native grass in front of the tee box and find the large green instead of the two spacious greenside bunkers.
Rating – Ace (57 out of 60): What a fun day at a first-class course. Large is a good way to describe the greens (which are undulating); bunkers (which are many); and trees (which were starting to turn colors). The staff was amazing, from Ron, who set up our group; to Dave, who helped us in the clubhouse; and finally Mike, who was awesome on the course.
Thanks to the AU Spartans (both past and present) who joined us for this special gathering. Go Spartans!
5900 S. Route 53, Lisle, IL 60532; 630-968-1920; www.riverbendgolfclub.org