Scott Haden, far right, holds the championship trophy custom-made locally by Mike Sommer, which remains on display at the Southern Black Hills Golf Course Clubhouse. Also pictured are the tournament’s other top-five finalists, including from left, Nina Myers, Ron Foster, Schuyler Wetzel and Tim McElroy.
By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – In the first-ever Hot Springs Open Golf Championship this past Saturday, Aug. 20, there may have only been 12 players competing, but there was certainly no shortage of fun and excitement as Scott Haden emerged as the winner in a very new, competitive format referred to as a “Handicapped Individual Play Flag Tournament.”
According to Southern Hills Golf Course Director P.J. Wetzel, the format was “mind collaboration” of himself and Tournament Coordinator Andrew Kerr, in which each player starts their round with a designated number of strokes, which combines their handicap with the 18-hole par for the course.
Each player then plays their round until they run out of strokes. Once they’ve hit their final shot, they place a flag in the ground to indicate where they finished. The player who makes it through the course the farthest, using their designated number of strokes, is then determined the winner.
In the case of eventual winner Scott Haden, he began the day with a total of 82 strokes to use, which included his handicap of 12 combined with the course’s 70 stroke handicap. After 18 holes, he along with four other players, still had a few strokes left, so they combined into a single five-person group and continued play until all were without any strokes.
Also in the final five-some were Schuyler Wetzel, Nina Meyers, Ron Foster and Tim McElroy.
Haden shot his lowest-ever round of tournament golf ever after 18 holes, which was a 76. He had six shots remaining after 18 holes and made it all the way to the 20th hole (which was the par-three No. 8 hole), where he holed out a long birdie putt for birdie, which was also his 82nd stroke
He said the new format was fun and required a different strategy than normal stroke play. He said he hopes more people play in the tournament next year, as he felt it would have been an even more fun experience with more players in the running after 18 holes.
Second place went to Schuyler Wetzel who made it through 18 holes with three shots to spare. She missed her last putt on the 19th hole (the par-four No. 1 hole), just 22.5 inches short of the cup.
Third place was earned by Nina Myers who also had three shots left after 18. Her final shot landed 18.2 yards from the hole on the 19th hole (the par-four No. 1 hole).
Ron Foster and Tim McElroy each had one shot left after 18 holes. Foster hit his drive to within 66 yards of the flag on the 19th hole to place fourth and McElroy hit his last shot to 156 yards out to claim fifth place.
P.J. Wetzel said the inspiration for the format was to allow all golfers, regardless of their ability, to be evenly matched without having to use flights to seperate them by their ability. He felt it was a success as the final grouping, in the so-called “Horse Race Playoff,” included a wide range of ages, genders and abilities.
Wetzel said he expects next year’s tournament to grow immensely in popularity and hopefully appeal to players from throughout to area to come and play Southern Hills Golf Course. He added that this year’s golf season has brought increased revenue and increased rounds played, which is saying quite a lot, since last year was one of the best-ever for the city-owned golf course.
For winning the first-ever Hot Springs Open Championship, Haden received a custom-made metal trophy created by Mike Sommer which will remain on display at the golf course, along with a hot air balloon ride from Rodney Watts. Cash prizes were also paid out to the top-five placewinners.
Wetzel said the course has hosted a total of 10 tournaments this summer, with the final two of the season coming up on Sept. 10 (Elks Tournament) and on Sept. 25 (Don Gannon Memorial), which are both two-person scrambles.