Penmar braces for the Gopher Scramble, a “Caddyshack”-themed golf tourney — with bagpipes
By Andrew Dubbins
Say what you will about Todd von Hoffmann, the man knows how to have a good time. And he’s happy to take you along.
A serial organizer and booster of grassroots Venice celebrations like the Neptune Festival, Venice Mardi Gras Celebration, Venice Community Barbeque and 2011’s Venice Centennial — shenanigans, as he calls them — von Hoffmann is back on the scene come Friday as director of the 5th annual Gopher Scramble.
The Scramble is a “Caddy-shack”-themed golf tournament at Penmar Municipal Golf Course that doubles as a fundraiser for the nonprofit Venice Heritage Foundation and its mission to build a Venice history museum in the triangular park space west of the Venice Abbot Kinney Memorial Library.
At least 15 foursomes come dressed as characters from the classic 1980 film or their loudest plaid ensemble to compete for top score on the nine-hole course. The winning team receives the Gophy, a stuffed gopher mounted on a wooden base, inspired by the dancing gopher that outwits Bill Murray’s groundskeeper in the movie.
It’s about more than golf, though. Other contests include a “putter chuck” to determine who can throw a putter the farthest, a “pressure putt” challenge that encourages spectator distractions, and an outrageous costume award (last year’s winner came as a gopher). There are also bottomless beers and a lunch prepared by Penmar coffee shop chef Gustavo, known for his chile verde carne asada.
Von Hoffmann, coauthor of “The Von Hoffmann Bros.’ Big Damn Book of Sheer Manliness,” dreamed up the event back in 2012 to commemorate Penmar’s 50th anniversary.
“The staff didn’t know their anniversary was coming up. I’d never done a golf tournament, but I know how to throw a good time,” said von Hoffman, who taught his daughter to golf there. “I thought, ‘We’ve got to have bagpipes.’”
Enter bagpiper Graham Allen, who kicks off each year’s tournament with a rendition of the Scottish tune “Loch Lomond” as the morning mist rises over the course.
History — particularly Venice history — runs through just about everything von Hoffmann organizes. The Venice Heritage Foundation’s museum plans call for a restored 1905 Pacific Electric Red Car to house historic artifacts and digital archives inside a replica of Venice’s original pagoda-style trolley station.
“Venice is long overdue for a museum,” says von Hoffmann, who serves on the foundation’s board. “We’re the Coney Island of the West.”
The closest thing to a Venice history museum, he says, was Danny’s Restaurant on Windward, which used to showcase old photographs and artifacts such as vintage bathing suits, an original Venice Canals gondola and a mural of famous Venice residents by famous Venice artist Rip Cronk. When Danny’s closed last November, that collection was scattered and the mural covered behind drywall.
“It’s revolting,” von Hoffmann says of the situation. “One of the great tragedies of what’s happening to the town.”
Despite the heat, von Hoffmann likes to hold the Gopher Scramble near July 4 to honor the founding of Venice by visionary developer Abbot Kinney on July 4, 1905.
“It’s a celebration not just of the country but of Venice,” he says.
When you consider that Kinney created a festive boardwalk and fanciful network of canals, perhaps inebriated golfers competing for a stuffed gopher is a fitting tribute.
The Gopher Scramble begins at 10:30 a.m. Friday, June 30, at Penmar Municipal Golf Course, 1233 Rose Ave, Venice. Call (310) 948-0031 or email GopherScramble@gmail.com.