GAP/AGA event stages milestone for Makefield duo
The event didn’t go according to plan. Then the plan didn’t go according to plan.
| 14th Modified Stableford Tournament recap |
When both event and plan finally came together, Eric Erickson and Walter Madden hit a special milestone.
The Makefield Highland Golf Club members competed in the 14th GAP/AGA Modified Stableford Tournament on April 19 at Huntsville Golf Club. The host site represented the 300th course played for Erickson, 400th for Madden.
“If you look at the list and do the math on how much fun that was … you can’t even put a number on it,” Erickson, 65, of Upper Black Eddy, Pa., said. “Right now, we’re in like golf heaven. We love hanging together.”
“It’s more than a golf friendship; he’s become a close friend of mine,” Madden, 69, of Yardley, Pa., added. “[Huntsville] was a special time and event.”
A step back. The previous iteration of the Modified Stableford Tournament moved from April to October 2022 (weather). This change allowed Erickson and Madden to plan for Huntsville last fall.
Then came a scare.
“I got a real bad cold. I was taking medicine and it made me drowsy. I slept in another room so I didn’t get my wife (Jean) sick. Apparently, it interacted bad with me,” a retired Madden, who operated a residential and commercial cleaning business, said. “I thought I was turning into the bedroom, and I was stepping off the top of the steps. Nine steps, and I landed on my head, my shoulder and my wrist. I broke my left wrist and ripped my shoulder. I had a concussion, bleeding on the brain and was in intensive care.”
“It’s more than a golf friendship; he’s become a close friend of mine.”
Madden spent three days in the hospital. Months of physical therapy followed. He readied for a return to golf this spring.
“Huntsville came up again [as the Modified Stableford Tournament host site], and I said, ‘That’s the one we’re supposed to play,’” Madden said.
Fate brought the two to Huntsville. It also brought the notion of a list in the first place. Madden owes the idea to his late friend Larry Warner.
“We played the same five or six courses all the time. He said to me, ‘I’m not going to play golf anymore. I’m getting bored.’ So, I suggested playing new courses,” Madden said. “He was keeping a list. I didn’t know this. He was like my brother to me. When he died [in 1984], I took care of the funeral arrangements. I was going through Larry’s things and found the golf course list. He had a list of all the courses we played. ‘In Larry’s honor, I’m going to keep this up.’”
True to his word, Madden carried the torch and soon reached 100. Then he met Erickson through his neighbor, Marty Hackett.
“My friends always said, ‘Let’s go golfing.’ I don’t have time to spare. Finally, after enough pestering, Marty caught me at the right moment and got me to go play,” a retired Erickson, who owned and operated Yardley Carpet Cleaners for 43 years, said. “I ended up liking it so much that my brain changed, and golf became the priority. Marty was still working a lot and didn’t have that flexibility. Walt was more available. He and I ended up playing more golf than Marty.”
Of the 300 courses to Erickson’s credit, approximately 90 percent sit within driving distance of Philadelphia. He’s also played in Arizona, California, Florida and Georgia. Madden crossed international waters, with courses in Ireland and Scotland to his credit.
The two agree on a favorite: Hideaway Hills Golf Club in Kunkletown, Pa.
“This speaks to our level of fun,” Erickson said. “They have cabins on the course. When most people get to the turn, they get a hot dog. Walt had a shower and a fresh set of clothes. Our cabin is right off No. 9. It was hot summer day — muggy, one of those really bad days. ‘There’s nobody behind us. I’m going to take a shower and put on fresh clothes.’ Then back in the cart and we’re off to 10.”
Madden laughs as he recalls the sequence.
“We just have a special connection with Hideaway Hills. It’s not the score; it’s the beauty, the peacefulness of it,” he said.
The next course on their collective list remains to be determined. The ultimate get remains unchecked.
“Pine Valley is the holy grail,” Erickson said.
“You always have Pine Valley. You know that,” Madden added.
Until then, Erickson and Madden will continue to enjoy their shared quest. A happy and humble pair.
“We have the best time just driving to the course. We leave and we talk about the course afterwards. We’ll talk about some of the finer points of what we experienced the next day,” Erickson said. “It’s something we think about and cherish dearly. You don’t get that too often in life.”
Celebrating Amateur Golf since 1897, GAP, also known as the Golf Association of Philadelphia, is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The organization’s 340 Member Clubs and 100,000 individual members are spread across Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.