Two putts to win. The ball is nestled up to the hole, a tap in, and there, in the shadows of the Royal and Ancient, a new GP Open Champion is crowned.
What a year 2019 was for the Glover Park Tour. The golfing league that grew out of humble beginnings more than a decade ago, with amateurs whacking the ball around local municipal courses in the Washington, DC area, had just successfully made the trek to the home of golf to hold one of its most prestigious major tournaments on one of the most storied tracks in the world: The Old Course at St. Andrews.
After three rounds of true Scottish golf, 39-year-old Evan Friedman was the winner that day. It was the first career major victory for Friedman who usually shoots in the mid-80’s.
“I know this is going to sound crazy,” Evan said after the round, “but standing over those putts, it honestly felt like something I had been rehearsing on greens when I was kid.”
There is no prize money, no tv cameras, no caddies, but for amateur golfers, the Glover Park Tour is able simulate real tournament conditions that rival the PGA Tour.
There’s live-scoring, a regular-tournament season that players accrue points during, a team match play tournament and then a playoff to eventually crown that year’s Glover Park Golfing Champion. And the events align with tournaments everyone knows. In addition to the GP Open Championship, there’s a GP Open, a GPT Championship, and GP Masters, which actually awards the winning golfer a customized “GP Masters Jacket.”
A website allows tour players to see their results and the season-long standings and schedule.
“It’s a big deal when the latest GPT schedule is released each year,” said long time GPT member Rob Porter. The tournament dates are unveiled each year in April during the tour’s annual “Clambake“—a Party that resembles the old Bing Crosby banquets in the early days of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. “I plan my family vacations around tournament dates,” Porter said.
The Glover Park Tour originated in Glover Park a small neighborhood in Washington, DC among a group of rival golfers who shot in the eighties and nineties.
“Yeah, none of us were any good,” said GPT co-founder Jonathan Leon. “But we still wanted to know who the best was between the three of us.” And so, Leon and his roommates at the time, Sam Sacks and Sean McElhaney went to work constructing the GPT to crown a true champion among them. Before the inaugural competition was over, some of their friends heard about it and wanted in, too. Today, more than ten years later, the GPT boasts more than 40 members in its Washington chapter. And in the last two seasons, the tour has expanded outside the nation’s capital, with GPT affiliates in Philadelphia and New York.
There’s a broad range of skill among GPT participants, with some players able to break 80, while others struggle to shoot lower than 110. “We like a wide range of players on tour. There’s some guys who think they can win any week, others who are just trying to accrue points for the playoffs, and some who are just looking for some fun competitive golf,” said co-founder Sam Sacks. The GPT has worked to accommodate less skilled golfers, by incorporating handicap tournaments into the regular season. “It gives players who don’t normally win, a real shot, and that’s exciting for everybody,” Sacks added.
At the end of the day, the GPT is about making new friends and playing competitive golf that doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s a little drinking, some trash talking, a lot of bad shots, but just as many good shots. There are certainly worse ways to spend a weekend.