There is one thing certain as players prepare for the annual Shelby County Open golf tournament, scheduled for this weekend at Shelby Oaks and the Moose courses.
The certainty is that there will be a new champion this year. Luke Kindelin, who has won the last two Open titles, will not be back to defend those championships, says Oaks club pro Rob Fridley.
“Luke does not live in Shelby County and is not a member of either course,” said Fridley. “He said he wasn’t going to play games and create any controversy by playing in the tournament, and I respect his decision. He said he wanted to be up front about it.”
So that makes it a wide open field that will shoot for the title, but Fridley thinks there is one player who may stand out.
“There’s no question Barry Godown continues to play extremely well,” he said. “He had nine birdies in his last club championship match. He was regularly shooting under par, so for the first time in the Tuesday Night League, we had to revise the handicap to a plus. There is probably nobody out there who practices more than he does.
“Justin Richardson is always in contention,” Fridley added. “If he can put up a good number here at the Oaks, he would have a great chance over there (Moose).”
This year could be remembered as the last year for the current tournament format. There have normally been four flights, with two playaing the first round at the Oaks and the other two at the Moose. And the first flight, from which the champion is crowned, always ends up at the spectator-friendly Moose, unless weather interferes like it did last year.
However, there has been a dramatic drop in the number of golfers that have signed up this year. When Fridley posted the tee times for this weekend, there were just 42 names on the list.
“Back in the 90s we were up to 120 players playing in this event,” he said. “Everybody enjoyed playing in it. This year, we’re down below 50, and nobody in the fourth flight signed up. That’s down from 75 players last year.”
Fridley has an interesting take on the drop.
“The truth is, I think people enjoy watching more than playing,” he said. “I really believe that people have been signing up in past years thinking ‘where is this flight playing?’ They want to get a better tee time so they have more of an opportunity to watch the first flight.
“Quite frankly, most of my tournaments are up in numbers the last two years, and this year is no different,” he added. “But the Open has become more of a spectator event than a participation event this year. Things do wear out and run their course, though. Back in the 80s, we used to have calcutta. Now that’s gone away. It was the biggest tournament we had and there is not even a tournament like that anymore.”
The low numbers have resulted in a big change for this year’s tournament. It will still be held on both courses, but unlike in the past, there will be golf at just one of the courses each day.
All three flights will play their first round at Shelby Oaks Saturday, starting at 8 a.m. with the first flight, and all three flights will finish up at the Moose on Sunday.
“We’ll keep it going as long as we can until the numbers drop too low,” said Fridley. In 2015 we had to do away with the fourth flight, and this year, with nobody signing up, I think the fourth flight will no longer be there.”
Fridley sees the Open becoming a one-day tournament if things keep going the way they are. He envisions golfers playing 18 holes at the Oaks and then nine holes at the Moose, all in the same day.
“If it would go down to one day, I still would want to play at both courses,” Fridley said.
Meanwhile, the lack of rain has both courses playing hard and fast, and Wednesday’s rain probably did little to change that.
“The Oaks becomes a shorter course because the drives will be 25 yards further,” he said. “But it’s somewhat of a Catch 22. At the Moose, it’s much easier when it’s soft. Distance is not a factor there, so you like the ball to stay where it’s at.”
The Ladies Shelby County Open will be held on Saturday only at Shelby Oaks, and defending champion Emily Knouff will be back to defend her title.
She will have just 12 competitors challenging her, and only five others in the first flight.
“Women’s golf is thriving, but competitive women’s golf is not,” said Fridley in reference to the low numbers.
Shelby County Open
At Shelby Oaks and Moose
Saturday tee times
8 a.m. — Steve Beaty, David Westover, Zach Watren
8:10 — J.D. Richardson, Brad Goffena, Mike New
8:20 — Nate Fridley, Mark Dunham, Tyler Bergman, Ross Pulfer
8:30 — Wil Fridley, Mike Krusemark, Barry Godown, Brad Gottemoeller
8:40 — Brad Yinger, Hugh Roach, Steven Brown.
8:50 — Elijak Kuck, Mason Jones, Josh Platfoot
9:00 — Michael Hilgefort, Ryan Schmidt, Keith Drinnen
9:10 — Jason Cooper, James DeVine, Mason Platfoot
9:20 — Mark Sanvido, Sam Long, Dave Ewing
9:30 — Ron Tackett, Jason Latimer, Craig Steenrod
9:40 — Chip Ordean, Geoffrey Henry, Michael Simmons, Bob Curlis
9:50 — Ernie Vibbert, Nick Fischio, Brian Scoggin
10:00 — Buck Watren, David Langdon, Chad Manger
Ladies County Open
Saturday at Shelby Oaks
10:10 — Ellen Joslin, Emily Knouff, Cindy Helman
10:20 — Karen Dickman, Tina Bulle, Melissa Henderson
10:30 — Pris Reier, Denise Gutman, Rachel Reier
10:40 — Joanie Metz, Nancy Walter, Lu Ann Dultz, Beth Raterman
Reach Ken Barhorst at 937-538-4818