NLU Film Room: D.J. vs KVV at Omni Homestead Resort Cascades Course

Hobbled at The Homestead by Kevin Van Valkenburg (in the style of iconic golf writer Dan Jenkins)

Stoop-shouldered and moderately handsome, looking like he’d slept last night on the floor of the laundromat of life, Kevin Van Valkenburg arrived at the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia in search of something.

Was it redemption? Or perhaps absolution?

That’s the problem when you have a golf swing that closely resembles an adult male gorilla trying to tune a Stradivarius. The search for answers only leads to more questions. You can marvel at the attempt, or you can look away in horror, and wonder why anyone would ever hand someone so oafish instruments so delicate and expect anything resembling music to emerge.

Despite those shortcomings, the irascible and pugnacious KVV came to the Old Dominion state looking for a match, his first as member of No Laying Up, and Dennis Piehowski, the company’s cagey match-play artiste, was happy to oblige.

Legend has it that the great Sam Snead used to make birdies by the bushel in these parts, with a backswing so fluid it might as well have been a sonnet.

I wish I could tell you these two boys played golf with Snead’s grace, but that would be a lie bigger than Van Valkenburg’s handicap. Folks, I saw pillow fights between Zeta sorority gals at TCU that had more animosity and athleticism than what I witnessed at the Homestead.

But the generous giving a putts did feel like a nod to Snead’s gentlemanly nature, and though it was clearly a tactical error by KVV to concede a 5 footer to DJ on the 4th hole when the Pie Man was taking on more water than the Edmond Fitzgerald, it was keeping with the spirit of day.

It was, after all, Virginian Woodrow Wilson who said friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together. I wonder if ole Woodrow still would have felt that way if he’d have known he’d be canceled a century after he died.

As Piehowski often does, he found some magic in the middle of his round, kind of like the way a Grateful Dead song fills you with warmth and wonder just as you’re suspecting you’re about to be bored to death.

An artist, much like a tennis ball being hit against a wall, can’t make magic against an opponent who gives nothing in return.

But a true maestro like Piehowski knows how to create even when conditions are dire. His birdie on the Par 5 12th hole to take control of the match for good was as surgical as any of Tiger's various medical procedures, and meanwhile, KVV was busy splashing around in the sand like a husky Laurence Oliver.

The Cascades Course may have been the place where Van Valkenburg’s love of golf was born, but it might also go down as the place where his short game truly died. I like to think this was rock bottom, but I’ll instead focus on the three birdies Piehowski made after the match was over. The encore, it turns out, somehow exceeded the set list.

But in this land of country ham and oysters, no man is an island, entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away at sea, then Virginia is the less.

Piehowski, like any man of letters, knows this well, which is why there were hugs at the end of the match, and a promise to share a beer on what is, perhaps, the nation’s greatest front porch. Did he win 4&3? Or was it 5&4? It hardly matters.

There would be plenty of time, as the sun sank low in the sky, to gaze through the uneven darkness and begin to sort out the winners from the losers.

Dan Jenkins was a long-time writer for Sports Illustrated and Golf Digest.

You can read some of his most famous game stories here.

(A couple of the lines in this piece are overt references to one of Jenkins most famous stories, a profile of Joe Namath. The theft — or homage — is intentional.)

Kevin Van Valkenburg is the Editorial Director of No Laying Up.

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