Joe Neal and Chris Johnson walked into the clubhouse at about the same time on Monday after the Capital City Tournament in Jefferson City.
Both golfers made their way to the coolers on the far side of the room, grabbed ham and cheese sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies, bags of chips and Powerades. They chose the table near the window to sit and have lunch while they waited for teammates to come in and join them.
Johnson said he has known Neal for “too long” so this wasn’t the first time the two ate lunch together after a round of golf. They have played together for years, and they both work at A.L. Gustin Golf Course, where they often play each other for “cold hard cash” or occasionally just for “pride, a lot of pride,” Neal said.
The two have become good friends, even though Neal goes to Rock Bridge and Johnson goes to Hickman. As close as they have become, however, they will put the friendship aside when the two schools compete in a dual match today at Columbia Country Club.
“I’m friends with a lot of them,” Johnson said. “But this is definitely a rivalry and even more so going into districts.”
There will also be a little more incentive to win this year, because Hickman coach Clark Swisher and Rock Bridge coach Doug Daniels have decided to introduce a traveling trophy to the winner of the newly named “Playoff at Columbia Country Club.”
“We’re trying to make this a cross-town competition,” Swisher said. “It puts emphasis on a yearly match. We want to make it an event, but yet put some pretty serious competition into it.”
Swisher said the trophy will probably be displayed in the country club for a while, and then it will be placed in the winner’s high school.
“It’s just a fun thing,” Daniels said. “All these schools have these rivalries so we thought it would be fun to give a trophy or some kind of trinket back and forth.”
Rock Bridge won the last match, and Hickman won the two before that.
“It’s heated,” Rock Bridge golfer Mark Kollias said. “We keep it classy. It’s fun, but we take it seriously. We’re friends but we are trying to beat each other.”
The match is at 2:30 today at Columbia Country Club.