June 17, 2015 – The folks over here at the Sioux Valley Amateur are outdoing themselves.
As of Wednesday evening, with two full days of qualifying left for Iowa’s oldest match play tournament, 112 players have signed up and paid to qualify. To put things into perspective, the total number of qualifiers last year was 130, so barring any nasty weather, that number should easily be eclipsed by the time match play starts on Saturday.
Matt Pitts, a 2014 Morningside College graduate and Cherokee native, continues to set the pace with a sizzling 66 shot in early bird qualifying. The qualifying medalist receives a $250 prize.
Pitts played Cherokee Golf Course Wednesday and says it is getting firm and fast, and likely has never been in better condition than it is now as the 81st installment of this prestigious event nears.
“I would expect by the weekend the greens will only get faster,” said Pitts, the 2012 Sioux Valley champion.
He and playing partner Chris Jenness of Cherokee, who along with Jason Spooner and Bill Spindler head up the tournament committee, lauded the work of course superintendent Tom Bohnenkamp.
“I’ve had a lot of good comments this week which is always nice to hear because you usually just hear the complaints,” Bohnenkamp said. “The greens are faster than they’ve been since I’ve been here. I cut them a little shorter and verti-cut them, but they still hold well. That said, you don’t want to get above the pins on about three of the holes.
“We’ve had help from mother natures and chemicals and, thankfully, there have been no floods this year.”
Bohnenkamp, a longtime educator and coach in Aurelia, Iowa, is in his third year as heads groundkeeper here. Make no mistake about it, although he’s retired, the 2003 Sioux Valley champion can still play but because of his commitments to keeping the course in immaculate condition, has not qualified since he began working here.
“If I want to do the job right I can’t do that and play both,” Bohnenkamp said. “I can still play well enough to play 18-hole matches but I just turned 68 and I’m not sure I could play two 18-hole matches in one day. Plus, I have stuff to do on Saturday and Sunday between rounds.”
By the way, the area that flooded last year on the fifth hole was re-seeded and will open for play this weekend. Bohnenkamp said it will be marked as ground under repair, giving players the option to either drop or play their shots from where they lie.
Two notable participants in qualifying this week were Jack Bunkers, the 1979 champion, and Bernie Saggau, the longtime former executive director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association. Both men are in their 80s and spend much of the year in Arizona. Saggau taught school in Cherokee while Bunkers is a Cherokee native.
Spooner, the tournament director, said players from 15 states took part in the 80th edition last year. James DeVos of Cherokee was last year’s winner and drew the customary No. 1 seed for this year’s tournament.
Nick Dreckman of Le Mars, Iowa, who lost to DeVos 5 and 4 in last year’s championship match, has the second-lowest qualifying score of 71. Dreckman reached the final for the first time ever in his 19th attempt last summer.
Although he is the automatic No. 1 seed, DeVos shot a 72 in qualifying, as did Jim Calkins of West Union, a semifinalist last year. Calkins grew up in Fonda, played on a state championship basketball team at Newell-Fonda High School and later starred at Buena Vista University.
Colin Mitchell of Sioux City and Rob Deedrick of Urbandale, Iowa, each shot 73 while Brian Schultz of Le Mars, the 2000 champion, posted a 74. Austin Winchell of Cherokee, another 2014 semifinalist, and Kody Wiig of Correctionville each had 75 while Ben Schwaderer of Sioux City shot 76.
Past champions Todd Sapp and Bill Mathers each carded qualifying rounds of 77, as did Dylan McCabe of Dakota Dunes, a University of Nebraska recruit and the 2014 Siouxland Player of the Year.
Remember, players still have the entire day Thursday and until 3 o’clock Friday to complete qualifying rounds.
Then, let the games begin.
In case you missed it, Tom Ward bested Brian Evans in a playoff to win the third annual Siouxland Shootout at Floyd Park on Sunday. Ward and Evans each shot 59 on the par 63 layout, which included 8-inch cups on the par-3 holes.
Ray Reifenrath, a former University of Nebraska football player, finished alone in third place with 61.
The tournament drew a number of the top players in the area, a total of 100 in all.
John Fecht of Lincoln, Neb., scored a rare double eagle at Two Rivers Golf Club on Saturday.
Using a 5-iron, Fecht holed his second shot on the par-5 18th hole. Guy Frank and several others witnessed the shot.
This year’s U.S. Open, being played at Chambers Bay in Washington, is too tough to predict.
The logical choices are Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, considering they’re they top two players in the world right now.
But because this is a new venue and from all accounts a very quirky course, it’s anybody’s guess who will win.
Some names that come to mind are Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler. However, I have an inkling that it may be someone nobody expects.
On that note, I’m picking Jordan Spieth.
Can’t wait to spend Father’s Day weekend in front of the television set.