You know how it is when you get around buddies or best girlfriends. Those inside jokes are born and soon take on a life of their own. Maybe it’s that high school air band that still “tours.” Perhaps it’s that one word conveying so much impact that it results in a classic Hollywood spit-take? Whatever your story, the tale of the Bill Storey Invitational is sure to raise the bar for all of us.
Thirty-six years ago, four guys from southern Illinois sojourned to Jasper, IN where they spent the night. The next day they played 36 holes of golf on the Donald Ross Course at French Lick then returned to southern Illinois. Tom Gulley, Jeff Troutt, Gary West and Dick Simpson were in that first foursome. These days, they are up to twenty-eight participants from all over the country and a waiting list of guys who want to play in the Bill Storey Invitational. But, what’s the story behind the Storey?
Storey was a contemporary of Tom and Mike Gulley’s, father. He had a personality that became larger than life as his legend grew. Each of his quirks – of which the real Bill Storey had no knowledge, has been caricaturized to formulate the basis of this fun-loving yearly golf match. They have a few drinks, share a few laughs, enjoy a game or two of liar’s poker and play a lot of golf during the first weekend of May. On the course, there are side bets and special rules. And before they knew it, Storey became a legend – with a trophy, bragging rights and small cash prize that goes home with the winner.
Based on accounts of Mr. Storey’s sportsmanship, the rules for the invitational were set. It’s a two man handicap, best ball over 36 holes. Each hole is capped at 10 strokes and there’s a whole lot of “pressing” going on. In order to keep a competitive match, first and third places receive awards while second place takes home bupkis.
These days, Dr. Mike Gulley is the Grand Pooba of the event. He starts around Christmas sending out invitations and taking RSVPs from the guys who now show up from all over the country. They keep coming back year after year for several reasons. It’s about the course, the camaraderie and the guest service. They can play anywhere but choose The Donald Ross at French Lick because, according to Gulley, “it’s a special course with shots and putts not available anywhere else.” Another reason they return is resort staff like, “Dave (Harner), Andy (Fortner), Alex (Whitman), Jan (Tellstrom), Bev (Heath) at Hagen’s, don’t forget Sarah the cart girl.” The resort staff takes care of the Storey players and they’ve built a rapport over the years. Plus it’s about cigars, sunsets and simplicity. If you haven’t watched the sun sink into the western sky from the wrap around veranda at Hagen’s, you haven’t seen a sunset.
If you’d like to start your own invitational, contact French Lick Resort Director of Golf, Dave Harner at 888-936-9360.