Tom Sweet is no longer in stout enough physical shape to play 18 holes of golf but his son-in-law is doing all he can to uphold the family tradition.
Eliot Kaufman qualified for the championship flight of the St. Charles Men’s Golf Tournament. After qualifying rounds last weekend, match play takes place Saturday and Sunday leading up to the final weekend of the tournament Aug. 11 and 12.
Although Kaufman lives in Geneva, he is eligible for the tournament by virtue of his season pass at Pottawatomie – a natural golf destination for Kaufman, considering his father-in-law, Sweet, has played there regularly for 52 years.
Sweet said he gravitated toward Pottawatomie as a 20-year-old in 1958, having relocated to St. Charles after running out of money while attending Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. He eventually became part of a group of Pottawatomie loyalists that had a standing, 6:38 a.m. tee time Saturdays, a tradition so entrenched that the group’s names are inscribed on a tree behind the fourth hole.
As the group aged, the tee time was pushed back until later in the morning. Kaufman and some friends grabbed the 6:38 a.m. tee time as a nod to his father-in-law.
“We have very respectfully taken over that tee time and try to hold on to that tradition,” said Kaufman, who happily reports being able to complete nine holes and return home with doughnuts from Blue Goose by 9 a.m.
Kaufman, 51, also enjoys his share of on-course bonding with Sweet, whose game – like his body – is on the mend these days.
“We’ve played together over the years,” Sweet said. “He plays at a different level than I do. Now I don’t play at that level anymore. I had open-heart surgery last January so I’m just really kind of getting my game back now, but we play off and on, play three or four times every summer. I go to some outings with him and I enjoy being with Eliot. He’s just a good guy to be with.”
Sweet walked the course at last weekend’s qualifying with Kaufman, whose 16-year-old son, Jake, served as caddie.
“We’ve kind of become really good friends,” Kaufman said. “My mom and dad live in New Jersey, so it’s kind of like having your dad here.”
Vice president for sales with Vienna Sausage, Kaufman is making his second appearance in the St. Charles Men’s Tournament, a tradition-rich event that his father-in-law has played many times. Kaufman landed in the A-Flight last year, and was bounced in the first round.
He has another younger opponent this time – Steve Osland, whose round of 72 at qualifying was five strokes better than Kaufman’s – but Kaufman looks forward to the challenge at what he calls “one of my favorite courses in the country.”
“I was actually really excited I made the championship flight,” Kaufman said. “That was one of my goals. I know the course better than most people, so I think that gives me a little advantage, so even if I’m not as good a golfer, I pretty much know where all the weeds are and the bumps and bruises on the course.”
Sweet, having already committed to a weekend trip to Wisconsin, won’t be able to root-on Kaufman in person Saturday, but said he will eagerly be awaiting updates.
Kaufman has experience with pressure golf. After all, his weekly group has a growing pot that goes to whoever birdies the seventh hole first.
“Once it got over $100, everyone got kind of nervous with their putts,” Kaufman said.