Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bobby Clarke's Eisenhower Tree at Greate Bay is now History

Bobby Clarke with Stanley Cup. Now playing golf, Clarke took on a tree on the fifth fairway at Greate Bay and won.

Above Photo: Mark Benevento, Bobby Clarke, Steve Coates and Gary Massey stand over the fallen Fifth Fairway Tree. (Photo Credit: Performance Marketing)

Bobby Clarke's Eisenhower Tree is now History

There was a tree on the Augusta National golf course that President Eisenhower requested be removed because it was often in the way of a clear shot to the green, but the President didn’t get what he wanted. The tree stayed.

When Philadelphia Flyers champion Bobby Clarke made a similar request concerning a particularly annoying tree on the fifth fairway at Greate Bay, some club members took the side of the tree and the issue became one of the most controversial topics at the 19th hole.

While hockey is Clarke’s primary sports passion, golf comes in a close second, and he often plays Greate Bay with his good friend and Flyers’ announcer Steve Coates. Coates, also a former player, lives in Egg Harbor Township and Clarke in Ocean City, so they both live nearby and can often be found playing a round at Greate Bay, especially in the hockey off-season, like now.

Greate Bay, originally laid out in the 1920s by the legendary Willie Parks, Jr, was reconfigured a few times over the years, most recently a few years ago by Archie Struthers, a former Pine Valley caddy who doesn’t like trees either. But even after Struthers trimmed back the course, the one tree that bothered Clarke remained a thorn in his slice.

Like the Eisenhower Tree at Augusta National, the Clarke Tree stood there like a big defenseman in front of the goal between Clarke and the green, and like a Broad Street Bully Clarke took off his gloves and started a fight with the tree.

"Bob Clarke is a lefty," said Mark Benevento, owner of Greate Bay Country Club. "Even though Bob is a whirlwind with a hockey stick, that left-handed drive causes him to play right into that tree."

And Clarke isn’t alone. Also in his corner is Annika Sorenstam, the great LPGA player who was quoted as saying, “I just don’t see the point in that tree.”

In order to keep the issue from becoming too contentious, Benevento took Clarke’s advice, decided to have a contest and devised a charity fundraiser for the First Tee – formerly the Urban Youth Golf Program that introduces golf to young people from the cities who don’t normally have the opportunity to play golf.

Two funds were set up, one to keep the tree and the other to get rid of it, and the first to reach $6,000 would win, with all the money donated to First Tee.

Clarke and those who considered the tree an unnecessary hazard won, and on Friday, July 8th Clarke and Coates cut down the offending tree.

They got a tree surgeon to attend the ceremony and Bob Clarke and Steve Coates used a two-man crosscut saw to take down the tree. Greate Bay General Manager Joel Inman said. "We're working with the youngsters from The First Tee to identify the right spot to plant the new trees that will take its place."

More on First Tee: The First Tee attempts to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill live-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf. The Mission of The First Tee of Greater Atlantic City is not only to share and teach the benefits of the game of golf and its inherent positive values, but to nurture and enrich today's youth in a way that will better enable them to become productive and contributing members of tomorrow's society.

Originally known as the LPGA Urban Youth Golf Program of Greater Atlantic City, this organization was established in 1998 under the umbrella of the Atlantic City LPG Benefit Association in cooperation with the LPGA Foundation to introduce at-risk and disadvantaged youth to the game of golf, as well as to lend academic support to these same participants. In becoming the initial The First Tee chapter in the state of New Jersey, The First Tee Greater Atlantic City introduces hundreds of children, ages 7-17, from all different socio-economic backgrounds to the game of golf, while continuing with its life skills component that focuses on character development and academic achievement.

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