CHEROKEE, Iowa – Normally, some of the more prominent names on the list of Sioux Valley Amateur Match Play royalty show up at the end of the week to shoot their qualifying scores.
For instance, three-time winner Bret Taylor plans to qualify on Friday and chances are the Booneville, Iowa, resident will be among those in the championship flight this weekend.
The Sioux Valley, for those of you who aren’t familiar with one of my favorite golf tournaments of all time, is Iowa’s oldest match play event. This marks the 85th annual get together at beautiful Cherokee Golf Course.
The fine folks of Cherokee and the surrounding area support this tournament to the hilt. It is run with machine-like precision, thanks to all of the volunteers who show up every year on Father’s Day weekend.
Tournament chairmen Jason Spooner and Bill Spindler – two longtime friends of mine – do a fantastic job of pulling this off every year. From organizing tee times to reporting scores to the media, these two guys (as well as everyone else who donates their time and energy) are tops.
You can bet when match play competition rolls around on Saturday, the fairways will be lined with spectators enjoying the proceedings in their carts. Because of the popularity and prestige of this tournaments, the names pretty much remain the same each year, with several states represented.
One of the reasons Taylor and four-time champion J.D. Anderson of West Des Moines show up each year is because of the way they’re treated. With a combined seven victories (the late Mike Jividen from South Sioux City won that many by himself), they are among those hailed as royalty by the adoring faithful and rightly so.
Either Anderson – one of the top amateurs in the entire state – or Taylor have won three of the last four years. Anderson retired the Greenwood Memorial Trophy and got a leg up on the Wayne Johnson Memorial Trophy with his win here last summer.
Because he is the defending champion, Anderson is exempt from qualifying.
Through Wednesday, a couple of guys with deep Cherokee roots set the pace in the race for the $250 prize awarded to the qualifying medalist.
Cherokee native Dave Greenwood, now an Omaha resident, and Matt Pitts, still living here, each fired a 2-under-par 70. Anderson has the lead via a scorecard playoff, but a lot could still happen between now and the 3 p.m. cutoff for qualifying on Friday.
Pitts, who played at Morningside College for coach Todd Sapp, a two-time Sioux Valley champ, won it all in 2012, which was the first time he had qualified for the championship flight.
Nick Dreckman of Le Mars, Iowa, who has established himself as one of the best players in Siouxland, would like nothing more than to win the Sioux Valley. He’s told me on more than one occasion that, yes, he is thrilled having won six 'majors' and several other tournaments, but his main focus each and every year is right here in Cherokee.
Both Dreckman and reigning Sioux City Men’s City champion Colin Mitchell, qualified at 71. Cherokee High School golf coach James DeVos, the 2014 winner, and Mike Clark of Spencer, Iowa, each matched par with 72.
As of Wednesday, there were 11 scores of 75 or lower posted.
Those included the aforementioned players, as well as Andrew Zinn of Storm Lake, Iowa (73), Zach Mathers of Sioux Falls (74), Mike Cedar of Cherokee (74), Tri-State Masters champion Tyler Danke of Sioux City (75), Morningside College linkster Cody Holck of Ankeny, Iowa (75) and Louis Sitting Crow of Vermillion, South Dakota (75).
Pairings will be announced with seven flights of 16 players each, Friday. After that, those interested can participate in a Calcutta auction and meal in the clubhouse.
Championship and first flight matches consist of 18 holes and the other five flights are nine-hole matches. Those not qualifying for a Sioux Valley flight are eligible to compete in the consolation tournament Saturday at Aurelia Golf Course.
Look for continuing coverage in the Sioux City Journal throughout the weekend.
If I wasn’t such a bad golfer, I would take my shot at qualifying, but I’d be too embarrassed for my score to be posted anywhere for anyone else to see.
I have, though, played in this event in the past and it truly ranks as one of my favorites. I’ve stowed away many special memories since I began covering the Sioux Valley a couple of decades ago and there is no doubt in my mind that they will keep on coming.