The 33rd annual McPherson City Golf Tournament produced the most dramatic finish in the history of the event on Sunday at Turkey Creek.
Granted, there have been four playoffs to determine the champion in the past (I was in one of those and it had little drama as the late Ray Hague blitzed me).
But never had the tournament been won on the final hole.
Teen-ager Jacob Lackey, entering his final year at McPherson High, drained a 30-foot eagle on the 18th hole just as darkness was setting in to outlast five-time defending champion Treg Fawl, who was seeking his seventh individual title overall.
It was great theatre as the smattering few who stayed around through the endless day were rewarded. The last group of the day didn’t go off until nearly 4:00 due to a rain delay and play moved at a snail’s pace, with sometimes three groups on a hole. Had the decision not been made to send groups off both tees after the rain delay, we would not have been treated to such drama.
I was playing two groups in front of the Lackey-Fawl pairing, so I had little idea what was transpiring behind me. I only wish I could have been a witness to the terrific golf they played. The rain made the course play longer, but for these two it was still a pitch-and-putt given their tremendous length. It really is ridiculous how far these guys hit it and it’s a different game than most of the rest of us play.
The rain also made it difficult on the short putts as by the time 70 players had finished in front of them, the greens were pretty well beat up around the cup.
For Lackey, this past week has to be a tremendous boost for his confidence. He’s put his Class 4A State Tournament disappointment behind him and played well on the summer circuit. He had a breakthrough last week at Hesston, scorching the course for a 5-under-par 66 to win the Hesston Junior Open.
But this championship will mean even more. He now carries the title of “the best player in town” for the next year and he knows he can now close the deal against the best there is as Fawl is a former Kansas Amateur match-play participant. Lackey’s biggest drawback in high school tournaments when he didn’t play well was the blow-up hole, but he avoided that in the three days this weekend.
Friday’s round at McPherson Country Club proved once again there’s no tougher nine-hole course in Kansas. Only four players managed to break 80 and four more hit that mark on the nose. The course was probably set up as easily as I’ve seen it with no silly pin placements. And because of the blistering heat we’ve had, course super Greg Jermark had to leave the greens a little longer than normal so they wouldn’t burn up. So golfers could hardly blame the course for the high scores as it was a fair test.
Saturday’s round at Rolling Acres, for the morning groups, proved to be a survival. Like Sunday’s final round, it took more than 4 1/2 hours to play because of the par-5s that could be reached in 2 as well as two par-4s that the big hitters could drive.
Once again there should be a special shout-out to course supers Jermark, Jason Buschbom and Morris Mills for having the courses in top-notch shape. Their jobs were made even more difficult by the extreme heat we’ve had, but I didn’t hear any complaints this weekend.
Also, Dennis and Nanci Shaw once again did a splendid job of running the tournament and having run it for nearly 20 years myself I can tell you it’s a thankless job. There’s a lot of work behind the scenes involved and those scoresheets and pairings just don’t appear out of thin air. If you played in the tournament and see Dennis or Nanci, let them know how much their time and effort is appreciated.
It was great to see the field up by nearly 20 players this year as 74 took part. It’s still behind the halcyon days of when we had 88 to 92 players, but a tournament is only as good as its participation. It looks as though the tournament is still healthy and will continue for years to come.