Golf Group of the Week: Schmelli Open

October 5, 2010

Dan the Mayor and Jim the Postman.jpgThe quest to earn the title of golf’s fifth major seems to be an eternal one, but there is no more debate in air traffic control towers scattered throughout America.

Golf’s fifth major is the Schmelli Open, at least to the guys who annually participate. Now in its 10th year, the Schmelli just made its first trek to Myrtle Beach and 19 guys played 10 rounds of golf over five days at Barefoot Resort in hopes of winning money and bragging rights.

The Schmelli is the brainchild of Jim Scarpelli and Dan Schmidt, air traffic controllers who met in Saginaw, Mich., in 1988 and became good friends. When work took Schmidt away, they wanted to find a way to continue playing golf together and the Schmelli (a combination of their names) was born.

The format for the outing changed annually the first few years, but they settled on a Ryder Cup format five years ago with Schmidt and Scarpelli captaining teams comprised primarily of air traffic controllers. Scarpelli’s team is 4-1-1, making Europe’s dominance in the “real” Ryder Cup pale in comparison. His team won this year’s competition 16.5-6.5.

(Schmidt now lives in Dallas and it appears he has become the Schmelli Cup’s version of Hal Sutton, at least terms of his captaincy!) 

Scarpelli and Schmidt work to make sure everyone has a stake in the event. In addition to the Ryder Cup format, everyone competes individually as well. Each player contributes money to the pot and is assigned a Schmelli-cap – when you are golf’s fifth major you create your own handicap system – before heading to the course.

Each round features three different points-paying competitions (low net score for each nine and the Ryder Cup format), and the top four finishers at the end of the trip and the winning Ryder Cup team earn a little cash. Chris Roberts of Columbus, Ohio, captured the individual Schmelli crown and the glory that follows this year.

Schmelli 2010.jpgWhile Schmidt organizes the group’s golf and accommodations plans, Scarpelli serves as the scoring maestro. He travels with a folder full of papers that appear better suited for an upper level math class than the golf course, but it works.

“After 10 years I finally have it down,” Scarpelli said. “I have a sheet for everything. If I didn’t get help, I’d never get any sleep on the trip. I’ve got three guys that I rely on to help me. We knock it out in a couple hours, and we are with the rest of the guys.”

Despite its lofty status, the Schmelli is about much more than birdies and bogeys.

“Golf is big in the whole thing, but the camaraderie afterwards, going out to the sports bar, cutting up and having a few drinks (is a big part of the fun),” Scarpelli said.

While Schmidt and Scarpelli enjoy the camaraderie, they compete fiercely with each other. In addition to the Schmelli competition, the two use a long distance points system to compute who has the better year and the winner receives the Mayor’s Cup and dinner.

The rest of the group doesn’t always “get” the level of competitiveness between the two, but it brought everyone in the group to golf’s fifth major.