Unusual trophies add to the fun at the Boyens brothers' golf tournament. — Charlie Neuman
ESCONDIDO — The most coveted trophy in the Boyens Brothers Invitational golf tournament is the most hideous.
Years ago a friend donated a 3-foot tall bowling trophy for the brothers’ annual shindig and they “borrowed” a white tee marker ball from a local course and went Dr. Frankenstein on it.
Each year, “Mr. Mediocrity,” the player with the average score in the field, gets the privilege of taking it home.
Some people might pay to not put it on their mantle, but if you’re that golfer then you probably wouldn’t be hanging with the Boyens anyway. They thumb their noses at stuffiness or pretense.
It’s probably why their tournament has endured for an amazing three decades. On Saturday at Castle Creek Country Club, Scott, Craig and Jasen Boyens hosted the 30th edition of an event that is equal parts class reunion, family picnic and sporting endeavor.
The core players in the field attended Orange Glen High School during the school’s athletic heyday in the late 1970s, and between golf shots that range from downright impressive to utterly embarrassing, outrageous stories are retold and friendships are rekindled.
The cinematic comparison is Kurt Russell and Robin Williams in “The Best of Times.” The soundtrack is Springsteen’s “Glory Days.”
“I don’t need to go to class reunions,” Craig Boyens, 50, said, “because all of the people I care about play in our tournament every year.”
It is the kind of tournament in which a former Patriots football player, Dan Lavine, 48, can share a cart and some good-natured barbs with his former coach, Paul Turner, who at 79 plays despite a couple of knee replacements and four back surgeries.
“They’re all still kids to me,” Turner said.
It is a tournament in which golf clothing mogul John Ashworth (Orange Glen Class of ’77) plays with persimmon-head woods, shoots 77 and shares beers afterward with a bunch of football coaches.
It is a tournament in which the most prolific champion, Chris Kostecka, shows up this year to play only seven weeks removed from hip replacement surgery and cards an 82, while Kostecka’s 12-year-old son, Connor, walks away as a closest-to-the-pin winner.
Something wondrous seems to happen every year, and much of it has nothing to do with golf.
“The biggest thing is the camaraderie. This tournament brings it out in people,” said Joe Early, Palomar College’s head football coach who has played in 29 Boyens events. “It brings that locker room mentality back and makes it really special. We talk about stuff in a game when we were juniors and seniors. ‘How did we win this? How did we lose that? How did you drop that pass?’ It’s amazing what guys remember.”
Scott Boyens, 55, was out of high school when the Boyens moved from Chicago to Escondido in 1974. Craig and Jasen were solid, if unremarkable athletes, but they made plenty of friends on a football team led by future NFL quarterback Sean Salisbury.
When the brothers played golf it was with their grandfather, Willis Boyens, at the long-gone pitch-and-putt Osbrinks Golf Course in Escondido. It was grandpa, a passionate golfer, who encouraged the brothers to put on a tournament with their friends. The Boyens wanted the golf to be legit, so they eschewed handicaps and went with gross scores. If you shot 114, so be it. The more fun they could have with it.
They came up with some inventive awards and the awful hardware to go with them: Most Improved, Least Improved, Best High Score and, of course, “Mr. Mediocrity” – who is considered the true “winner” of the tournament.
“We wanted to recognize the guy who’s not a terrible golfer, who’s trying to break 90,” Jasen Boyens, 49, said. “That’s a lot of us. We’re mediocre golfers.”
In this year's field of 63, 41 players didn't break 90. Fifteen shot in triple digits.
The champion was a ringer newcomer, Tim Paluso, who scored 75 and received an engraved silver plate and the perpetual "trophy" he has to give back. It's a beauty, a well-worn champagne bucket pilfered long ago from the old Gentleman's Choice restaurant in Escondido.
The early years of the invitational were raucous, with carts being driven into lakes and women’s panties hanging from the flagsticks.
“We did more damage to the course than it did to us,” Early said.
As the hair grayed or disappeared and the stomachs grew, the group mellowed. One foursome got busted a few years ago for stopping in the middle of the round to lay out a full picnic spread.
The Boyens brothers themselves have nine children between them, and Scott Boyens has three grandchildren. Scott, of Escondido, is a longtime school teacher in San Marcos; Jasen, of San Marcos, is a project manager for a construction company; and Craig works in Las Vegas as a regional manager for a paint company.
“Grandpa birthed this thing, and we’ve hung our hats on it,” Scott Boyens said. “Every year, it’s almost like we stop to take a look at our lives. We’ve grown in a lot of ways. These guys are just real people. They are authentic. They’re here for the laughs and not real, real serious about the golf.”
Thirty years have not gone by without tragic losses. Tim Bentley, who designed the tournament’s golfing rat logo, was killed in a car accident; Craig's wife, Lisa, died six years ago, at 39, from a brain hemorrhage; a Boyens brother-in-law and big supporter of the event, Don Milks, died three weeks ago from a heart attack.
“I know the Boyens family, their highs and their lows,” said Chris McIntyre, this year’s “Mr. Mediocrity” with an 82. “I know how much they appreciate having this every year, and for that reason it’s never a question of me being here.”
It’s difficult to maintain any tradition for 30 years, and it was Jasen Boyens who kept the motor running, even when his brothers were too busy to play at times. The only person to have participated in the tournament every year, Jasen considered pulling the plug after the 10th year in 1991.
Then another Orange Glen legend, the late coach Dick Disney, offered the words he needed to hear.
Recalled Jasen: “Dick told me, ‘This is a great thing you’re doing, pulling people together every year. This is a special group. Promise me you’ll keep doing this.’ ”
The promise has been kept and Disney would be pleased.
Bad trophies, great tournament.