The group, which is the oldest at the Longboat Key Club, is comprised of about 50 regular, experienced players.
Twenty-five years ago, a group of about 20 men got together each week for a round of golf. After a while, they decided to formalize their group into the Friday Afternoon Recreational Society, or the Friars.
Still going strong, the group, which added Mondays to its schedule, is now the oldest such organization within the Longboat Key Club.
“They have been such a big part of this club, not just from a standpoint of playing golf together, but socially they get together all the time,” Director of Golf Terry O’Hara said. “You look at all the past club championships, I would bet back in the day, 90% of club champions were Friars.”
When the club started, players had to be at a 14 handicap or lower. Players with higher handicaps weren’t invited. Now, though, that has changed a bit. Because members are Friars for life, some of them play to a higher handicap as they’ve gotten older.
But that hasn’t changed the camaraderie.
“A lot of our guys were single handicaps when they were younger, and now they’re playing middle handicaps,” Friday leader Frank Sulzman said. “It’s a great group of guys. One of the best features is that everyone likes to play with everyone else. There’s hardly anyone I have to worry about putting with someone else because they don’t get along.”
Matt Zito is an original member. Along with the fact he says selfishly, of someone else planning the tee times and organizing matches, he shares the same sentiments as Sulzman.
“The guys stay together because I think it’s an elite organization,” he said. “It’s the oldest here at the Longboat Key Club, and you never run across a situation that you’re unhappy with one of the members. It’s just a wonderful group of guys.”
When new golf members join the Longboat Key Club, O’Hara meets with them to learn their handicap and day-of-the-week preference for playing. Then he factors in age and tries to find a good fit for them among the club’s 13 groups for members.
Prospective members of the Friars play a few rounds with the men before gaining full membership. If the Friars like the new golfer, and the new golfer likes them, he’s in. Sulzman said there hasn’t been anyone he’s encountered who has been turned away.
However, Sulzman said the group isn’t for beginners. The Friars is a competitive group of mostly experienced golfers.
For those who play on Fridays, Sulzman organizes them into foursomes. Often, each player will chip in $20 and the winners get the pay out at the end of the day.
“Golf is a great sport because you can play it for most of your life,” Sulzman said. “It’s great to be outside. The environment is just so pleasant.”