Go outside and play.
It is one of those phrases reserved for childhood. Or is it?
Those long afternoon games of flag football or shooting hoops that gave you a chance to team up with friends to play hard and have fun, don’t have to die with youth. A group of First Coast golfers can attest to that.
In 2008, a gang of longtime friends brainstormed on a way to bring together buddies from around town to catch up with each other. Golf was the logical answer, and the Home Town Throwdown tournament was born. Some of the men knew each other from growing up in the region, others relationships were born from the business world. Some of them lived at the Beaches, and others were townies. All of them were sportsmen of some sort.
“We all started off playing sports growing up; some of us through high school, and some collegiate. As a young professional in business you never lose the things you loved so much about sports,” says founding member Josh Martino. “Golf is one of those sports you can play for life. It is a nice way to unplug for four hours and be with your friends.”
The first year there were two teams of twelve players. The teams were divided by region: Team Beach vs. Team Town. A member of Team Beach asked a designer in his art department at work to create a logo for the event for golf shirts. They had a trophy made; a large silver cup. A bus was hired to shuttle them to St. Augustine to the course at Marsh Creek. Because let’s face it, one of the best things about playing team sports as a kid is getting amped up on the bus before a game. As an adult, it is great to have a designated driver for celebrating afterwards. A perk in particular for Team Beach, who has taken home the trophy every year.
“The trophy is a giant silver cup. After the tournament we go out to dinner to celebrate, and we have the cup filled up and everyone takes a drink of it,” says Matt Berquist of Team Beach. “Throughout the year it floats around our (winning team’s) offices.”
The camaraderie of team competition is something many of these guys miss from their youth, and now in its seventh year, this tournament is a chance to revive it. “The one thing that is great about a tournament is that it builds that team dynamic,” says Ryan Stillwell of Team Beach. “You start off in the morning and there is a lot of talking. Then at lunch there is more talking, but someone who may have been a loud mouth that morning will be singing a different tune at lunch. You really build up that team comradery throughout the day.”
The team spirit lasts throughout the year. When tournament players run into each other around town, the upcoming Throwdown is always mentioned.
“Come the first of the year it is on everyone’s radar,” says Bret Catto of Team Town. “You run into members of the other team at a Jags game, and it always gets brought up. I sit on a board with two guys from Team Beach, and we pass notes back and forth at the meetings with things like ‘This year we are going to mess you up!’”
It is that playful attitude that has made this tournament a much coveted game to join in the golf community. What began as just 12 players per team has now grown to 16, with a waiting list. But you don’t have to be a part of the Home Town Throwdown to get out on a weekend and enjoy.
“I grew up playing team sports, and as you get older it gets harder to coordinate schedules for team sports with work and family life,” says Chris Eyrick of Team Town. “With golf you don’t have to plan as much. You can throw a golf game together mid-week. Just grab three buddies and go out and play.”