The dwindling number of competitors in the City Mens Golf Championships over the past several years have forced organizers to make a radical change.
For the first time beginning this season, the tournament will be open to any golfer in Jefferson County. Previously, only members of Ives Hill Country Club or Watertown Golf Club, or those who lived or worked in the city, were eligible to play.
But with only 31 entrants last year at Ives Hill, this years tournament committee at host Watertown Golf Club decided it was a perfect opportunity to open up the venerable tournament to a wider range of players.
It was time to make a change, said Bob Hughes, a record 11-time city champion and WGC member who helped make the decision along with Toby Draper, a former city champion, and new WGC golf pro Chris Bigenho. Its been sad to see so few numbers the last few years. Maybe this will generate some new enthusiasm for the tournament, which all of us love so much.
The tournament is scheduled for July 7-15 at the Thompson Park course. An 18-hole qualifying round is scheduled for Saturday, July 7. The top 64 players will then be divided into the championship flight and a first flight with 32 players each. Championship flight losers make up the first flight, and second flight losers make up the third flight.
Match play will begin on Sunday, July 8 and continue through the following week. Semifinals are scheduled for Saturday, July 14, and the finals on Sunday, July 15. The championship flight has a 36-hole final.
Recent South Jefferson graduate Ryan Clark is the defending champion.
Hughes is hoping to attract not only some of the best players in the county, but players who wish to compete at their own competitive level.
Wed like to generate 70 or more, he said. Ive talked to a lot of players over the years who said they would like to play in the city tournament, but werent eligible. Now, they can. Hopefully, well get some of the good, young kids who want to compete and some of the veterans as well.
The entry fee is $60. Players should sign up in person at Watertown Golf Club or call the pro shop at 782-4040 to set up a tee time. Qualifying tee times will be available between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m.
Hughes said the tournament will still be called the City Championship even though it has expanded into all of Jefferson County.
Weve talked to a lot of veterans who have been associated with the tournament for years and they agreed this was the right decision, he said. The last thing we want is to see the city tournament die out.