How Sunday Ball Started…

On the morning Sunday April 11, 2010 I checked into the Banff Spring Hotel in Alberta for the Mountain Travel Symposium, and the first thing I did after I dropped my bags inside the door of my hotel room was hunt for the remote control.   It was Masters Sunday, and the CBS telecast was already underway.   My conference wasn’t to start until the next morning, so I had the whole day to relax in my hotel room and watch the final round.  Only, I couldn’t find the golf anywhere on TV.  I surfed around and around, having no idea which Canadian network would be rebroadcasting the CBS feed.  When I finally caught my first glimpse of the Masters, it was all fuzzy and distorted.  I considered calling the front desk, but knew they probably couldn’t do anything, so I decided to give the lobby bar a shot.

The Banff Springs Hotel is a historic castle-like hotel located in the beautiful Banff National Park.  It is loaded with vaulted stone archways and alcoves.  Very cool.  And the Rundle Lounge is one of the most beautiful hotel bars you will likely ever see.  The only downfall for me was that the views through the panoramic windows are the showcase visual aspects of the bar.  There were no TVs.  Panicking a little bit now, I asked the bartender, “is there any place in the hotel where I can watch the Masters?”  He told me that a group had rented out the room adjacent to the bar to watch the tournament, and they probably wouldn’t mind if I joined in.

BANFF GENTLEMAN’S CLUB
As I peeked my head through the door, all eyes remained fixed on the big flat screen television that had been rolled into the private dining room.  Everyone in the room seemed to be dressed for church; jackets, ties, and fancy hats on the women.  As I scanned the crowd a little closer I noticed that a few of the people were wearing some pretty funky attire.  One guy was wearing a Kelly green sport coat  and madras plaid Bermuda shorts.  One other wore jeans along with a black jacket and bow tie.  Just as I wondered what the heck kind of group this was, I saw a hand waving at me from the front table.  It was my friend Jenny from Steamboat Ski Resort.   Happy to see a familiar face, I ducked in front of the TV and took the seat next to her.

“Who are these people”” I asked.

“Don’t know,” she responded, “but they seem like a pretty fun group, and they welcomed me to watch the tourney with them.”

At the next commercial break in the telecast, one of the gentlemen in the group stood up and announced that they would be pulling  a couple of names for the raffle.  The first winner received a gift certificate for dinner at a hotel in town.  The next won some movie tickets, and a third won a bottle of wine from a local liquor store.   As the prizes were awarded, the sponsors of the gifts were announced, and everyone cheered.  I was even more confused now, as I wondered why any businesses would sponsor a bunch of people to drink beer and watch golf.

During the next commercial break and raffle announcement, I mustered up the nerve to ask someone at our table what was going on.  “This is the Banff Gentleman’s Club,” I was told.  “Four Sundays a year, for the final round of each of the majors, we all get together to watch golf.”  I asked what was up with the dress code and the raffle, and my new friend laughed.  “There are two rules to be included in the club.  Everyone has to wear a sport coat, and everyone needs to bring a prize for the raffle.   Here in the mountains we don’t have many occasions to dress up, so this is our excuse to dust off some nice clothes and create an official occasion to get together and drink beer. ”

I happily enjoyed a number of beers while I watch the conclusion of the tournament with the Banff Gentleman’s Club.  Just before Phil Mickleson was awarded the famous green jacket as the winner of the Masters on TV, the last raffle prize of the day was given out at the hotel.  Lo and behold, it was the official “green jacket” of the Banff Gentleman’s Club.  It was a little less fancy, and had a few stains on it as I recall, but the winner was pretty darn excited.  As I looked around the room at these 50 or so people enjoying a semi-semi-formal occasion to drink with their buddies, it dawned on me that something similar needed to be started in Jackson Hole!

Welcome to Sunday Ball.

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