Eskimo Open: Golfers embrace the cold, wind at Cog Hill
Max Campbell, 13, (left) and his father Mark, of LaGrange, exit the warmth of their golf cart at the first tee during the Eskimo Open at Cog Hill Golf Club in Lemont Sunday, January 6, 2013. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 8, 2013 6:11AM
Amid a wintry landscape pockmarked with the occasional patch of newly fallen snow, a bracing wind marches unabated over frozen ponds and frosted grass.
The unwelcoming weather requires wearing several layers of the thickest fabrics. Yet even oversized gloves and warm hats do little to quiet the numbness rapidly spreading to every extremity.
For most, this kind of climate warrants a cozy cup of cocoa inside a home radiating with consoling warmth.
But for Lemont resident Pete Mizera, freezing weather means only one thing: 18 holes of old-fashioned golf.
“You just get up and go — long underwear, body armor,” he said. “It’s like cross-country skiing; you’re moving the whole time, so it’s OK.”
Mizera and about 200 others on Sunday braved wind-chill temperatures in the teens to participate in the 50th annual Eskimo Open Golf Tournament at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in Lemont.
The event has been running the first Sunday in January since 1963 and gives golfers itching to swing their clubs a chance to do so, albeit in less-than-desirable conditions.
“It’s a great time,” said Mizera, who came with his son, Paul, and his friends, John Buenger and Bob Sass.
“It’s a lot of fun. You play a round of golf, have a bowl of chili and a couple of beers afterwards and watch some football inside. Everybody’s friendly. It’s all fun. It’s been a tradition for us for at least 15 years.”
Cog Hill started the event 50 years ago in conjunction with Glenwoodie Golf Club, Buffalo Grove Golf Club and St. Andrews Golf and Country Club, said Jeff Rimsnider, head pro at Cog Hill
“It started in ’63 during the NFL playoffs, and the guys would come around just because it was playoff Sunday,” he said. “Then, some of them thought, ‘Well, why don’t we just go play golf?’ Since then, it’s just become a tradition.”
Rimsnider said playing in inclement weather can be a challenge no matter how experienced a golfer thinks he or she is.
“With all the layers you have to wear, it restricts your swing,” he said. “The ball doesn’t go as far, and then the ground’s so frozen that it’s a challenge. You’ve got to land it in front of the green.
“You’re used to flying it to the green, and it bounces once or twice. Well, you fly the green (in this weather) and (the ball) goes over the green, so there’s a lot of strategy. You’ve got to hit it short and let it run up.”
Horrible weather doesn’t necessarily make for short games and bad scores, Rimsnider said.
“You’d be surprised — these scores aren’t that bad because we give you a little more lenient rules,” he said. “I bet today, everyone goes for 18 holes. Some will play nine, but 90 percent will be 18 holes.”
Tom Anderson, of Elmwood Park, and his friend Chris Aylward, of Burr Ridge, said they were in it for the whole 18 holes.
“This is probably about my third year doing this,” Anderson said. “It gives me something to look forward to, and I don’t mind the cold.
“You have to wear gloves. Layering up is the key. Sometimes you can’t use a regular tee; you have to use a fake tee, like the tees you get at the driving range, because the ground’s frozen — you can’t put a regular tee in the ground.”
The cold weather did little to dampen Anderson’s sense of humor.
“A lot of guys won’t bring their good clubs,” he said. “Unfortunately, I don’t have any good clubs.”
Aylward said the cold weather leveled the playing field.
“I don’t think I play as well in the cold as I play in better conditions, but no one does,” he said. “Because it’s a tournament, everyone’s handicapped the same way by the temperature.”
Not only did golfer Ron Grandolfo, of Morton Grove, not mind the cold — he embraced it.
“I’m a golf nut,” he said. “I tell everyone I’m playing golf today, and they say, ‘You’re crazy.’ What can I say? I just love golf. I’ll play in this kind of weather. It’s awesome. We have a ball.”
Mizera said that although Sunday’s temperatures were cold, they weren’t as bad as previous Eskimo outings in which he’s participated.
“Today is actually nice,” he said. “A couple of years ago there was actually (a lot) of snow on the ground, and we had our clubs on sleds. So this is really nice.”
Mizera also said he’s expecting a few shocked stares tomorrow morning.
“You go back to work, and people say, ‘You did WHAT yesterday?’ So you take some pictures and you show them, and they all think you’re nuts,” he said.