La PORTE — When the La Porte City Golf Tournament was first moved exclusively to Beechwood Golf Course, there were roughly 20 participants.
That number's more than doubled the last seven years, and there's also more participants this summer compared to last year.
This weekend, there are 46 competitors set to participate in the tournament, sponsored by La Porte Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, up two from last year. There are 32 players in the Men’s Division and 14 in the Senior Division (ages 60 and older).
“We're slowly but surely gaining ground year to year,” Beechwood Head Golf Pro Kyle Cashmer said of the modest bump in participation. “It's exciting. It just means that people are liking the tournament you're putting on and they're enjoying the format, hopefully enjoying the golf course. It feels good to have people increase the participation and give some positive feedback to the tournament each year.”
The event is a three-round, match-play competition that runs Friday through Sunday with tee-off beginning at 11 a.m. each day. The field is cut in half for Saturday, and then again for Sunday.
The defending overall champion is Brandon Thomas, who earned his third title last August, capturing the event by beating two-time defending champion Matt Noll 1-up in the Championship Flight. Thomas didn’t have to qualify this year as defending champion and is automatically the No. 1 seed in the men's Championship Flight.
This year, several competitors will aim to knock off Thomas. The top four seeds are Thomas, Michigan City boys basketball coach Tom Wells, Chris Schultz and Wade Warner. Wells and Schultz both carded 4-under par 68s in their qualifying rounds, while Warner tallied a 2-under 70.
"Beechwood is a tough golf course, so to shoot those scores, you're one heck of a player," Cashmer said. "Those scores are pretty remarkable."
There are four, eight-player flights in the Men's Division. In the Senior Division, the Championship Flight consists of eight players and the A Flight will be comprised of six.
"The thing that's pretty unique about this year is how tight all the flights are," Cashmer said. "We had our Championship Flight range anywhere from 68 to 76, which is some really high-level golf. And then, A Flight was 76 to 80, so those eight players, you've got four shots separating them. B Flight was scores from 80 to 83, so only three shots separating eight players. And then, C Flight was 84 to 91, so really, some good competition and some good matches right away."
The overall winner of the tournament (the winner of the Championship Flight), earns a trophy, in addition to a gift certificate to Beechwood. The winners and runners-up of each division get gift certificates to Beechwood. Plus, there's a banquet for all participants after Sunday's final round.
Cashmer said the payouts are made possible thanks to the sponsorship of La Porte Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, meaning 100 percent of the $65 entry fee goes toward the prize pool and the banquet.
Mostly 30- to 40-year-olds make up the Men's Division, and 60- to 70-year-olds comprise the Senior Division.
While the primary ages of golfers who compete in this event are wide ranging, Cashmer feels the best part about the tournament is the players experiencing the heat of competition again.
"It's for guys who are obviously past their competitive playing days," he said. "Getting out there and getting those competitive juices flowing, it's something you don't get as an adult sometimes, to go out and put the peg in the ground and play mano-a-mano against somebody, and just get that drive again. And to know how it feels to have pressure in an athletic competition, that's something that people don't get every day, and then, to have it in a city tournament is really special."
La Porte City Golf Tournament
Friday, Saturday, Sunday
11 a.m. tee-off each day