With the demands of two young children and running his own finance company, Ryan Gale said his golf clubs spend more and more time in his closet these days. But his diminished time on the course seems not to have hampered his game.
Even the 33-year-old's "Weekday Warrior" routine that includes competing in a Monday recreation softball league, as well as basketball leagues on Wednesdays and Fridays, hasn't appeared to soften the edge he holds over fellow members as a four-time men's Mesa Verde Country Club men's champion.
"My game is what it is," said Gale, who will represent his club in the 14th edition of the Jones Cup community golf tournament on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. at Santa Ana Country Club. "I don't really practice."
But Gale does prioritize, somewhat, when it comes to the Jones Cup, which pits club professionals and the men's, women's and senior champions from five area clubs against one another in an 18-hole, two-low-gross-balls format, for a year's worth of bragging rights.
"The Jones Cup is one of the best tournaments I play in," the Costa Mesa resident said. "The format is really cool. We all want to win, but it is still fun. I don't invite any of my friends to any other tournaments, but I ask them to come out and watch me in the Jones Cup."
Striving for both excellence and enjoyment seems to suit Gale to a tee when it comes to golf, which has always shared time within his personal sports spectrum.
"My grandfather introduced me to golf when I was 12, but I was too interested in playing other sports to get serious about it until my last two years of high school," said Gale, who played varsity basketball and baseball at Huntington Beach High before dropping the latter to play varsity golf as a senior.
"I played football growing up and I used to bowl and play Ping-Pong, too," Gale said. "But at my size [now 6-0], any career in the other sports wasn't going to last longer than it might in golf."
Gale walked onto the golf team at UC Santa Barbara, where he played four years and won some tournaments.
He won Mesa Verde men's titles in 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2013, the last two coming after his daughter (6) and son (4) had begun walking.
"I used to care a lot and I used to grind when it came to golf," Gale said. "I still want to win, but I'm not willing to sacrifice my time [to practice]. I'd rather coach my kids' soccer and baseball teams."
Gale, who is one club championship away from tying the Mesa Verde record, is looking for his first Jones Cup title. And he said the shorter Santa Ana CC layout may help the cause of Mesa Verde, which has four Jones Cup crowns, half as many as Big Canyon Country Club.
"I think this course sets up better for us than our own course," said Gale, who describes his game as consistent, if not dramatic.
"Everyone thinks my game is boring," Gale said. "There's nothing flashy. After a recent round, someone I played with asked if I shot a 78, when I had shot a 68. That speaks to the fact that I play boring golf."
The Mesa Verde team will be anchored once again by head professional Tom Sargent, the only man to play in all 13 previous incarnations of the Jones Cup.
Mike Fergin, a club professional, four-time women's champion Madelaine Campbell and senior men's champion Preston Murray round out the roster.
"Sarg" is a legend," Gale said of Sargent. "I travel some with him and everywhere we go, he knows everybody and everybody knows him."
Sargent, Fergin and Murray were on the team last year that saw a three-shot lead vanish on the final hole of regulation to Big Canyon, which then won on the first playoff hole.
Sargent was asked if there would be any carry-over motivation from last year.
"Not unless I can find the golf god that got my ball out of the whole," Sargent said, referring to a put that went in-and-out on the last hole of regulation in 2012.
Gale describes Fergin as a quiet man whose solid game speaks volumes.
Gale said Campbell has the most passion for golf of anyone on the Mesa Verde team and that Murray, a former surfer, plays the game with a laid-back methodical approach that is virtually opposite that of his own.
"I talk fast, walk fast and play fast," Gale said.