Concord man grows local chapter for ‘mediocre’ golfers

Eyeing his second shot on the par-4 fourth hole at Rocky River Golf Course, Michael Griswold makes a tongue-in-cheek announcement to his two playing partners.

“Guys, if you don’t mind, I’m going to put this one right next to the hole,” said the 27-year-old Concord resident.

Griswold grips his sand wedge – an unusual choice for a 40-yard shot from the fairway – and takes a whack at it. Getting way too much lift on his shot, the ball flies over the hole by 20 yards and lands in a thick patch of vegetation.

In the Mediocre Golf Association, Griswold’s fairway banter, inconsistent play and carefree acceptance of disappointing results is welcomed with reverence. The MGA celebrates mediocrity, though the term may refer to a level that some of its less-than-mediocre players can only hope to reach.

The MGA has nearly 60 chapters in North America, Europe and Australia. In June, Griswold founded the Charlotte chapter, which now has nine members.

“I’m a mediocre golfer and my friends are mediocre golfers,” said Griswold. “But we like to go out and have a good time. We’d joke around, saying it would be nice if there were others like us.

“We’re not terrible, but we are mediocre.”

Based on talking with Griswold, watching members play and reading the MGA website, the organization seems to pay tribute to the abilities and sense of humor of its members while mocking golfers it feels take the game too seriously.

As chapter president, Griswold organizes tournaments whose names sometimes parody the popular professional golf events. For example, the MGA’s “Bratish Open” replaces the “British Open” and the PGA’s “Pebble Beach National Pro-Am” is replaced by the “Rebel Beach Am-Am.”

In the style of the pros, MGA tournament winners often are awarded giant checks, though with meaningless sums of money. Charlotte member Michael Meggard of Gastonia won the chapter’s Bratish Open in July and received a check worth 47 cents.

“I was king of the world for about 30 or 45 seconds,” he said. “The trophy I won was pretty cool … but I felt kind of silly walking into my apartment with my golf bag and a big check.”

Players agree they like the camaraderie of playing with people of equal abilities and the absence of pressure to perform. At MGA events, any player who shoots under 80 for 18 holes is disqualified.

On Sept. 7, Concord’s Rocky River Golf Course hosted the Charlotte chapter’s third tournament. Six players participated, including Griswold, a UNC Charlotte doctorate student, and Thanh Le, a 34-year-old University City resident and UNC Charlotte’s assistant director of student activities.

The par-4 sixth hole showed how mediocre some of the Charlotte chapter’s members are. When Griswold was unsure if his tee shot cleared a thicket, he hit a second provisional shot only to watch it fall into the same lush grass and bushes.

Le and Matthews resident Eric Law both hit amazing tee shots that stopped rolling about 40 yards from the hole. The adventure began when each player hit a second shot that put him in a position only slightly better.

Law won the hole with a triple bogey; Griswold was next with a quadruple bogey. Le, whose angst was accentuated by needing five strokes to hit out of a bunker, finished the hole with a septuple bogey – that’s seven over par.

Most of Charlotte’s players are new to the MGA, like York, S.C., resident Jimmy Hyatt, who doesn’t know his official handicap because he’s not used to playing in a league.

Lincolnton resident Candy Harris, however, is an MGA veteran. Harris, 51, was a member of San Diego’s chapter until she moved to the Charlotte area last year.

Harris found MGA chapters in the Triad and in Asheville but decided both were too far for her to be a regular member.

One of Harris’ proudest – and most mediocre – moments on a golf course was shooting a 156, “and I still kept golfing,” she said.