Tee Talk: Stewart Meadows keeps its ducks in a row

Karma being karma, you’d think Gary Pirkkala deserved good fortune on the golf course during his Twilight League on Tuesday.

He’d rescued a handful of ducklings at Stewart Meadows Golf Course. Surely that got the keeper of karma’s attention.

“No, it was standard karma for me that night,” he laughed. “The karma bank didn’t seem to be affected by what I did.”

Makes sense. Golf being golf trumps karma being karma.

Pirkkala once played to a low, single-digit handicap, but he backed off the game to spend more time with his family. His game suffered, but his familial instincts appear intact.

The 43-year-old estimator for a local painting company has played in the 16-team league for about a halfdozen years. He parks in the same place each week, in the southeast corner of the lot.

When Pirkkala got out of his truck this week, he noticed a particularly vexed duck on nearby grass. Waterfowl are common in the area. There’s a small chipping area next to the parking lot and a pond just a few steps further.

“There was a duck that was squawking and making all kinds of noise,” said Pirkkala. “It seemed a little odd.”

Pirkkala went to the pro shop, paid for his round and a cart and returned to his truck to load up.

The duck was still there, but now there were two babies with it, and the three quacked incessantly.

Even more noise came from a slotted storm drain in the corner of the lot. Pirkkala peered below and saw five more ducklings huddled together.

“They must have been following mama, maybe across that corner of the parking lot, and five of them slipped into the catch basin below,” he said.

Pirkkala returned to the pro shop, mentioned the predicament to Ed Istel, a league mate and an executive with KOGAP Enterprises, which owns the course. They returned to the scene.

Pirkkala was able to slide the heavy cover out of the way, lie down and reach 2 to 3 feet to the bottom of the basin.

“I got four of them out without any issue,” he said. “One of them seemed a little reluctant to jump into my hands, so I chased him around the basin for a little bit.”

The mother wasn’t happy he was “messing with her babies,” said Pirkkala, and made several advances at him. He pulled his head back once to avoid being poked in the forehead.

Once they were extricated, one duckling went to the mother. The other four snuggled together under the golf cart. The mother had had enough and waddled toward the pond, three kids in tow. After moving the cart, Pirkkala and Istel scooped up the other four chased after the clan, finally reuniting them.

“Ed and I were like, ‘Wait, wait, wait,’” said Pirkkala.

“It was more comical than anything,” he added. “It probably looked like a cartoon when five of those babies just dropped in behind mama in that line.”

He didn’t think it was a big deal.

“I happened to be the guy that parked by that manhole cover,” he said. “I’d like to think there are 63 other guys in that league that would have done the same thing.”

Once play began, Pirkkala and his team went about their business. His handicap hovers around 12 or 13, he said, and his squad is in the top six or so and needs to make a move “or we’ll start dropping.”

Pirkkala at one time had his handicap down to a 4.

“I’m one of those that used-to-could,” he said. “I used to spend a whole lot of time golfing.”

A friend, who was a scratch player, helped Pirkkala dive deep into the game. Pirkkala played three or four times a week around the valley and also found time to practice.

Then he realized his family warranted more of his attention.

Pirkkala now has two grandsons and plays mostly just Tuesday nights.

“There are a lot of other things going on in my life that are much more important than golf,” he said. “As much as I enjoy it and love to play it, I’m not willing to take the time anymore.”

That’s for family, something a certain mother duck can appreciate.

SENIOR CIRCUIT: Ed Fisher, one of three local players hoping to get hot and make it into the U.S. Senior Open later this month, came up a tad short in sectional qualifying Monday.

Fisher shot a 3-over-par 74 at Waverley Country Club in Portland, three shots shy of making it into the national tournament and one stroke behind the number it took to be an alternate.

The top four players, paced by Jeff Gallagher at 70, gained entry to the Senior Open, which starts June 28 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Joining Fisher, the director of instruction at Rogue Valley Country Club, were Medford’s Brad Bills, who shot 77, and Kevin Klabunde, who shot 82.

“I just hung in there,” said Fisher. “I knew how tough the course was. I drove it well but didn’t hit my irons that well. And I had a couple threeputts, which on that golf course isn’t hard to do. The greens are a lot faster than anything we see down here.”

A remodel removed a bunch of trees and added challenging fairway bunkering, said Fisher. They played from the tips.

“I was wearing out my 4and 5-iron hitting into the par 4s,” he said. “I don’t remember it being that long.”’ One of Fisher’s playing partners was Tom Brandes, who days earlier won the Pacific Northwest Senior Men’s Amateur and is the hottest senior player in the region, said Fisher.

Brandes shot 75 on this day.

Among those to advance was Corvallis’ Bob Gilder, a longtime PGA pro, who tied for second with a 71. Robert Harrington and Brian Mogg also shot 71s and advanced.

One of two alternates was George Mack Jr., who had a 73 and whose father is the winningest player in Southern Oregon Golf Tournament history. Mack Jr. earned an SOGT men’s regular division title as well, in 1988.

WU UPDATE: Medford’s Dylan Wu, the subject of last week’s column, placed fourth on Canada’s Mackenzie Tour last week, solidifying his status on the circuit for the immediate future.

It also allows him to attend graduation at Northwestern next weekend.

Wu earned $8,800 last week and is ninth on the tour’s money list through two events.

Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or

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