ST. CHARLES – Most golfers who scored a speedy first-round match play victory in the St. Charles Men’s Tournament last weekend walked at least another few holes at Pottawatomie Golf Course.
They acknowledged each other while inevitably converging on the same match, but the scene still seemed oddly incomplete.
Past champion Jon Woods was closing out a 1-up nail-biter against returning runner-up Garrett Patten on the 18th green, and yet the gallery was inundated with men hoping to have their own followers.
The tournament is open to all players with St. Charles mailing addresses. That goes for spectators, too.
“Gets you out of the house. Walk around the golf course. Bring the wife. Bring the dog. Who the [heck] cares?” perennial tournament contender Brian Charles said. “I think most people don’t realize they can do that.”
Charles, who will not be part of the championship flight semifinals that begin at 7 a.m. Saturday, formed this stance years ago, as he gladly trailed groups when he wasn’t contending for a title.
He remembers a healthy crowd and some good buzz, an experience he re-lived while placing second in the A-flight of the Aurora City Tournament last month. Although he admittedly “backed” his way into a playoff, Charles didn’t seem to mind that the extra holes gave a group of about 25 fans a meatier supply of free golf.
“While that’s a stroke-play tournament and this is a match-play tournament, it is fun to watch the matches, and I wish more people would do that,” Charles said. “Because if it’s your kids or it’s the neighbor kids or the guys who you kick it around with on Wednesday afternoon in league, it’s fun to actually see it in your own backyard as opposed to having paid 120 bucks to walk in the door.”
Defending champion Matt Daly welcomed a support section that included his girlfriend during last summer’s final round.
It’s a safe bet the gregarious 2004 St. Charles East alumnus would not deter any nonacquaintances from watching, but he doesn’t expect many.
“Probably other people just have things to do,” Daly said. “Early-round matches tend to not be as busy, but people tend to come out here once it gets a little tighter and the field thins out as it is.”
Earlier this summer, Pottawatomie pro Ron Skubisz and assistant Bill Ogiego cited expanding family dynamics and the tournament’s three-weekend format as circumstances behind lower player participation.
That may be, but the field making that late-summer investment in their course won’t soon back down from the dramatic merits of match play. Woods closed with a pair of pars to erase a late deficit, and won when Patten was unable to make a par putt from the fringe.
“You can’t really complain about that,” said Richard Geier, a championship flight qualifier who caught the match’s latter stages. “Especially match play. Let your opponent beat you.”
Less than 24 hours later, Woods experienced the other side of the equation, losing to Daly in 20 holes, 1-up.
“St. Charles isn’t a big town to begin with. Not as big as Aurora, right?” Charles said. “And people go, ‘Oh, Pottawatomie, it’s only nine holes.’ And then they come out here, and they putt on these greens and they go, ‘Jeez.’ That’s where the difficulty is.”
Charles credited late course designer Robert Trent Jones for those tricky contours.
Jones’ name appears on the sign at the Pottwatomie entrance. From the black tees, 3,007 yards of nine-hole public golf unfurl beyond.