At one of his first Columbus Men’s City Tournaments, current Otter Creek Head Pro Chad Cockerham said it was obvious the tournament was special.
He had volunteered to work as an official during the championship round at Greenbelt Golf Course.
“It was 1996, and I was still a newbie in the area, kind of feeling wet behind the ears,” Cockerham said. “Derek Barkes asked me for a ruling from a cart path on 17, and I thought he had gotten a break when he got a drop.
“But he dropped the ball into a horrible lie, into a nest egg. He looked at me and asked, ‘Do I have to play that?’
“Unfortunately, he did. But he hit it a foot from the hole from about 100 yards, made the putt and went on to win the tournament.”
The City Tournament produces memories and that’s one reason Cockerham said he believes it will live on.
“The biggest thing is this tournament carries on tradition,” Cockerham said. “When I look at the plaque with the names of the City Tournament champions, it brings back fond memories of those players.”
Greenbelt manager Steve Cohen said it’s easy to understand why the tournament produces so many memories.
“Most of the guys who participate, they don’t get the opportunity to play competitive golf,” he said.
“Sure, there are a lot of benefit tournaments in the area. But this is a competitive tournament. The guys love that aspect of it.”
“We allow guys to make their own groups the first two rounds ... they can play with their friends, neighbors, coworkers ... then we flight it,” Cockerham said.
“That last round, you are playing with people who have shot similar scores. Most of the guys are within two shots of the lead of their flight, so they are playing for something that final day.”
The championship flight is tough, but it has a history of producing champions of all age groups. Last year’s winner was Jake Coffey, who had just graduated from Columbus North and who was very sharp competitively. Coffey is back this year to defend his title.
Cohen remembered Jeff Cowall winning the tournament in 2005 when he was in his 40s. “He beat all the kids that year,” Cohen said. “But he is such a positive guy and always thinking about his next shot. He’s always been a mentor to other players on the course, a guy with the attitude the way it should be.”
The format for the men’s tournament is the same as last year. The first two rounds of the men’s tournament will be conducted July 12 and 13 with part of the field playing at Harrison Lake Country Club and the rest of the field at Greenbelt on Saturday. Then the golfers will swap courses for Sunday’s round.
On July 20, the tournament field will be broken into flights based on how they played the opening two rounds. The championship round will be played at Otter Creek.
The price is $100 for all three rounds.
When a flood hit the area in 2008 and caused Greenbelt to turn its nine holes into basically an “executive course” of par 3 holes, Harrison Lake stepped forward to host the tournament along with Otter Creek. When Greenbelt reopened as a par 36 course in 2011, the tournament switched from two rounds to three rounds.
“We’re still in the experimental phase with the three-course tournament,” Cohen said. “The numbers have changed a lot for a while, staying in the 95 to 110 golfers range. Nothing is moving one way or the other.
“It would be nice to boost numbers to what they were in the mid 1990s, 150 to 170. In 1992, when Otter Creek came on board and I had been doing two rounds at Greenbelt, I had 120 and that was my max. I had a waiting list.”
Cockerham noted that those who sign up for the tournament will get special rates at Otter Creek and Harrison Lake to play practice rounds. He said Otter Creek will charge $25 to walk for practice rounds and $40 to ride.
The deadline to sign up for the men’s tournament is July 5. The deadline to sign up for the Women’s City Tournament is July 12. The Women’s City Tournament will include a senior division this year. Golfers can sign up at any of the three courses’ pro shops.
Golfers who live in Bartholomew County or who have a membership or annual pass to a course in the county are eligible.
The Women’s City Tournament will be played July 19 at Harrison Lake Country Club and July 20 at Otter Creek. The women’s sign-up fee is $55.
In the Men’s City Tournament, a free car will be up for grabs in the final round for a hole-in-one on No. 13. Tournament sponsor Carver Toyota is putting up the car.