By SCOTT JACKSON Courier sports writer, @stjack423
---- — OTTUMWA — Nothing against the talented players that were part of last year’s field, but it was hard to beat Mother Nature last year when it came to scorching the course at Cedar Creek Golf Course.
Last year’s summer-long drought took some of the focus of the field of last year’s Greater Ottumwa City Championships. That because, frankly, the field was concerned just how Cedar Creek Golf Course would be playing under such dry conditions.
Boy, what one full year saturated weather can do. If you want to see golfers struggling with a golf course drying out inhumanly this weekend, turn on ESPN and watch the pros deal with Murifield and one of the driest British Open courses you’ll ever see.
As for Greg Wilson, course manager at Cedar Creek, preparations for this year Greater City Championships couldn’t be going better.
“We are in pretty good shape, though the fairways are drying up a little bit because of the recent warm stretch,” Wilson said. “Overall, we’re in much better shape. We had a much spring for growing grass. It’s just a matter of doing some finishing touches to make sure we have the best course possible for the championships.”
Which is perfect, because the field that is set to compete this year should be one that produces some very exciting golf this weekend in the two-day tournament that kicks off on Saturday morning. According to Wilson, the lead-up to this year’s tournament has been even more exciting considering local golfers had a bit of extended wait to hit the links this year with the extended stay of winter and wetter start to spring.
“Last year, we had an early spring and actually opened up on the first day of March. This year, we actually opened up as late as we ever have,” Wilson said. “I think that only made the demand even greater among the golfers this year. A lot of them wanted to get out and get in as many rounds as possible. We’re seeing even busier rounds each day out here and our revenues have continued to stay up.”
With so many golfers hitting the links so often, expect this year’s Greater City Championship to feature plenty of players taking on the course in stride this weekend. The men’s championship may be as exciting a field as any with Ottumwa’s red-hot junior golfer Matthew Walker looking to aim at winning the city title.
Walker, the defending 4A state individual champion, is coming off nearly winning the Iowa Junior PGA championship just a couple weeks ago. The soon-to-be OHS junior lost in a playoff to Bettendorf’s George Qian, but will test himself against a field this weekend that will include defending tournament champion Dusty Stewart and former champion Jeff Collett.
According to Wilson, those are just a few of the 70 to 80 players that are expected to participate in the Greater City Championship.
“We had people who were new to town that had just learned about this tournament and were excited to sign up to participate in it for the first time. We were excepting sign-ins as late as Friday,” Wilson said. “It’s up by about 15 percent in participation from last year’s tournament. We’re definitely trending upwards again, which is always good to see.”
The tournament is once again free to the public to attend. Golfers will be on the course competing throughout the day on Saturday with tee times being announced before the start of play. Sunday’s final pairings, including the Championship Flights, will be determined by Saturday’s scores and will be posted at Cedar Creek for those interested in attending Sunday’s final round.
Wilson anticipated the final flight of golfers battling for the city championships to tee off between 10-10:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, depending on the number of golfers in the overall field.