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Jan. 18, 2020 | Saturday
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NOTL Golf Club prepares for championships
Billy Simkin, head professional at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club. (Supplied)


It’s August and that means one thing to many of the 270 members of North America’s oldest golf course: the club championships competition.

Imagine having the chance to have your name placed in the lobby of the Niagara-on-the-Lake clubhouse, where thousands of tourists each year gaze at the names immortalized on the wall. Many wonder “Who is this Mark Derbyshire?” who won 30 consecutive men’s championships or marvel, “Wow, Martha Cruikshank won eight championships in 10 years.”

Since becoming head professional in 2007, I have really prided myself on making the event special for members. Over the years, the championship has grown from 40 competitors to as many as 78 players and we’re looking to see that expand even more.

The 2019 club championships on Aug. 10 and 11 will feature a big barbecue on the Sunday afternoon along the 18th hole, where fellow members, family and people from our community can watch competitors play the tough finishing hole. And, they’ll have a front row seat if a playoff is required, as has happened in several categories in recent years.

PREDICTIONS: The women’s championship is truly wide open, with many players capable of great rounds. Cruikshank is always a threat as she is a great pressure player and has the experience of her past wins. Defending champion Louise Robitaille is a strong and steady player who uses her power off the tee to set up easy approaches. This could make her a favourite to repeat.

In the Tuesday Morning Ladies League, we have seen some scores in recent weeks that suggest there may be more dark horses. Barbara Ahluwalia, who has more cumulative wins at the club than any other woman in the field, posted a score of 84 just a few weeks ago and showed us that she truly is remarkable and could rise to the occasion. Michele Darling, Cathy Murray, Ginny Green, Patti Garriock, along with past winners Lisa Allen and Yolanda Henry, are all serious contenders. May Chang has been one of the club’s most improved players over the years, starting in the D flight and working her way up to find herself among the big hitters and has a chance to improve once again.

On the men’s side, what was often a two-horse race in past years has turned into a full-on “derby.” Mark Derbyshire’s 30 past wins always place him in the mix, but with a recent membership boom the club has seen a wave of new, very talented golfers added to the field. 

Jim Panetta, defending champ and two-time winner, is never fazed and knows the course inside out. Stephen Warboys, another past winner, has incredible patience and a game that is simply brilliant. Lefty Jim McMacken has a solid game and if he gets the putter going, watch out. Joe Doria, an energetic golfer who plays very fast, could be a threat. Doria, runner-up last year, will need to adapt to a more traditional four-hour round, so his patience could be his biggest challange. Rob Reimer, another past champion, who hasn’t played a lot lately, is always lurking close to the top of the leaderboard. Two other names to watch: Harry Huizer and Brodie Townley.

I encourage everyone to come out to watch and cheer on our competitors, enjoy the barbecue and see the trophy presentations on Sunday afternoon.

Men’s league, Aug. 1: Dragan Racic had low gross with an even-par 36, took a $40 gross skin for a birdie on #2 and was A flight winner with 24 points. Martin Vagnars won B flight with 22 points. Other winners: Closest to pin: Warren Tutton (#4 & #6), Kevin MacLean (#2), Stephen Warboys (#9). Gross skins: Don Allen. Net skins ($118): Ken Willms, Tom Wiley. Long drive: Keith Dexter, Tutton. 50/50: Sean Simpson ($220).

Couples league, Aug. 2: First: Cal & Marilyn Cochrane and Kevin MacLean & May Chang (31), Charlie & Suzanne Rate and Joe & Cathy Taylor (32), Dean & Lyn Sanders and Rob & Valerie Chubey (32). Closest to pin: Dean McCann, Valerie Chubey. Most honest: Larry & Joan Bourk and Bernard & Sharron Marlow.

* Billy Simkin is head professional at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club.