The McPherson City Golf Tournament has been Treg Fawl’s world and the rest of the players are just living in it.
Fawl begins defense of his city championship on Friday when the three-day event opens for the 32nd time.
Turkey Creek will be hosting Friday’s play, with Saturday’s action at its traditional site, Rolling Acres. Sunday’s final round will be at McPherson Country Club, which has a great view of the final hole as spectators can look down at the green.
Fawl, a 2010 McPherson High graduate who finished his schooling at Central Christian College, is now a teacher and coach in the USD 418 system. He has made The City his own personal possession, having won the last four championships and five in the last six years. His reign actually started after his junior year of high school when he was a five-stroke winner over Mark Wash.
The long-hitting, smooth-putting Fawl is chasing history and probably has a better chance at achieving it than Tiger Woods’ pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors. It was thought that the late Ray Hague had put all records out of reach with his nine individual titles, his last coming in 2007 when he won in a playoff from none other than yours truly. He also won 11 two-man titles, to give him 20 “majors” overall.
But with Fawl still in his early 20s, he has a chance to obliterate the record book if he decides to stay in McPherson, which I have a feeling he will. He is more than halfway home to Hague’s nine individual championships and has won four team championships, all with his father Tony — who is the master of the par-3s and has contributed greatly to their doubles reign. They are seeking their third straight championship this weekend and fourth in the last five years.
McPherson doesn’t quite have the golf depth that it’s had in the past. Age has caught up with many of the top players from the 1980s and 1990s and some star golfers have come and gone from town, including Travis Engle, who won three championships in a six-year stretch before his job took him out of McPherson.
Fawl’s domination has been jaw-dropping. He was a nine-stroke winner last year as well as 2013, but did have to survive a playoff with Ryan Schmid in 2012. Schmid hasn’t been able to play The City as much as he’d like due to other obligations.
Where Fawl always separates himself from the pack is McPherson Country Club, the hardest nine-hole course in the world with its punishing greens that can cause players to mutter to themselves after 3- and 4-putts. This year, though, MCC is the final course in the rotation, so maybe somebody can apply heat early.
I had hoped that up-and-coming high school standout Jacob Lackey would be in the field, but he’s playing in the Kansas Junior Amateur this week, an event he was leading his age group in after a first-day 70 and was third overall.
The only other former champions in the field are Cliff Hawkes (1986, 1987) and Nick Ikenberry (2008, 2010), former McPherson High teammates in the mid 1970s. They have the consistent games to contend, but they also are giving away about 35 years and 35 yards off the tee to Fawl. A player to watch may be Fawl’s former college teammate Mark Gayer, but I don’t know just how much he has been playing recently. And keep an eye on Kelly Sorenson, who I can see being in the Top 5.
The City is near and dear to my heart. When I moved to McPherson in 1979, there was a county-wide tournament that was played at McPherson Country Club, Rolling Acres and Lindsborg Golf Course. It ended in 1982 and after a year with no tournament, I got together with Harvey Nelson and decided that we needed some type of event in 1984 and we would run it. We started “The Interclub,” where we would play nine holes at Rolling Acres, then drive over and complete our round with nine holes at MCC, or vice versa since we had a good turnout.
It wasn’t until 1995 that Turkey Creek was added to the rota and it became a three-day event known as “The City.” The tournament was immensely popular for several years, but eventually playing three days took its toll and numbers started to drop as players simply couldn’t schedule to play Friday’s round and some just didn’t want to play three straight days.
The numbers reached as high as 92 at one point, but have dropped back into the high 50s for the past several years. However, they have climbed to 66 at last count Tuesday and maybe it’s making a comeback.
Sadly, this will be the first City that I have missed. I’m committed to playing in a tournament in my hometown, which draws 168 players including many of my former high school teammates. Hopefully one of the tournaments will move its date next year. I wish all the competitors the best of luck and that we see some great scores.