All-city tourney turns 10 and is as popular as ever
Larson, Peterson among men's favorites
By Paul Christian
For most of us -- OK, let's make that for all of us -- we won't ever get the opportunity to walk up the 18th fairway at Augusta National leading the Masters on the final day.
Or play the U.S. Open on the final day. Or British Open. Or for that matter, your local club championship.
Hey, for some of us, a successful summer is winning a sleeve of golf balls at one of those charitable scrambles.
Which brings us to the All-City Golf Championship and why it remains the most popular tournament of the year.
What started out as an experiment 10 years ago has turned out to be an unqualified success.
"This tournament really hasn't grown, it can't,'' said Frank Taylor, the director of golf for the city of Rochester, "but it's more popular than ever. We had a full field back when we started in 1994 and people can't get in now, either. It only takes two or three days to fill our field, and, really, that's amazing.
The three-day, 54-hole affair rotates among seven courses the first two rounds and always winds up at the Rochester Golf and Country Club.
This year the tournament opens at Northern Hills on Saturday, moves to Soldiers Field Sunday and wraps up Monday at the country club.
The 156-person field will be divided into 14 flights for men and four flights for women. Both also have a championship flight and senior and super senior divisions.
Meaning, several golfers can walk away with some serious hardware on Monday.
"It's a pretty special tournament for so many people,'' said Taylor. "It's almost like an end-of-the-year tournament and golfers plan their schedules around it. For most, I would say, it's the highlight of the year, golfing-wise.''
David Richardson, then the head pro at the country club and now head pro at Soldiers Field, came up with the idea of resurrecting an all-city event.
Apparently such a tournament was held several years ago.
"A bunch of us local pros got together and came up with this format,'' said Taylor. "Then we got some sponsors and away it went.
"We had hoped people would accept it, but I never thought it would remain as popular as it had.
"I don't know why, maybe it's the opportunity to play the country club; for some that's the only chance they will get to play that course all year.
"Plus, we pride ourselves into making this as professional of an event as can be, and I think we've pulled that off.''
The price doesn't hurt, either. For $75 -- up from $55 the first year -- a golfer gets three rounds of golf plus a tournament dinner on Saturday night.
Other courses in the rotation are Eastwood, Willow Creek, Oak Summit, Meadow Lakes and Maple Valley.
The tournament got off to a roaring start 10 years ago when Russ Higgins beat Glenn Alexander in a playoff. It started to get so dark in the playoff that car headlights were used to lighten things up around the final green.
This year there will be a new men's champion. Matt Norgaard, 23, won last year with a 213 total, beating Mike Larson by two strokes. Norgaard, though, is now an assistant pro at Eastwood and as a professional, is ineligible.
Larson is entered again and so is Greg Peterson, a five-time winner who hasn't won now in two years.
Other contenders should be Ron Haugen, who won the Northern Hills club championship, and Jason Kranz.
For the women, defending champion Staci Smoot, now a senior at Rochester Lourdes, will be back. At age 16 last year, she became the youngest ever to win a city title. She did so by 11 strokes.
But this year she'll be pressed by three-time champion Kim Banfield, who won in 1999, 2000 and 2001 but didn't enter a year ago. Banfield has the women's record of 236 set in 1999.