Elmwood hosts 25th edition of member-guest event

This week, for the 25th time, Elmwood Country Club will play host to family, friends, business associates and other guests for the Elmwood Invitational.

The event, a result of a long-time Elmwood member convincing Elmwood golf professional Jerry Johnson that it would be a worthy successor to the Elmwood Best Ball as a signature showcase for the club, gives Elmwood members a chance to golf and socialize with friends and family.

The Elmwood Best Ball, a team match-play tournament that for many years attracted outstanding amateur golfers from Iowa and the Midwest, ran out of steam in the late 1980’s due to changes in the Iowa golf scene. Disappearing at the same time were the many weekend tournaments and one-day events in which individual players would compete for merchandise prizes in a stroke-play format, events that began early in the season and lasted almost until snow fell.

But, times change and golfers began preferring “best-shot” events and the state’s better players began playing in the increasing number of Iowa Golf Association point events, held to determine the state’s best golfers in a variety of categories.

The result of these changes saw a diminishing number of teams entering the Best Ball. In addition, a decline in the number of local golfers entered saw reduced community interest in the event.

At its height of popularity, the Elmwood Invitational has attracted as many as 80 teams in its previous 24 years, often with a waiting list of several more. While the number of teams has been reduced in recent years, Johnson says that the percentage of Elmwood members involved has remained about the same.

Johnson adds that member-guest events at many other clubs have disappeared for one reason or another, many defections due to a match-play format rather than the stroke-play handicap methods of play that Elmwood has used to determine its flight and overall champions.

According to Johnson, finding the right format that provides every team a chance to win the overall title is one of the keys to the success of the Elmwood Invitational. Because wide fluctuations in handicaps might give rise to one group having an advantage, total team handicap determines the flight – named after Iowa university mascots – giving teams of relative skill the opportunity to play together. Combined team score for the two-day event then determines both the flight and overall champions. Teams play for merchandise credit in the Elmwood pro shop and the members of the winning overall team receive a trophy. So, while there is no big monetary reward, play is very competitive for the opportunity to win the championship trophy.

Surprising, given its competitive nature, arguments over handicaps have been few due largely to a verification process to assure honest play.

For long-time Elmwood member and Invitational tournament chairman Mark Rezac, having such an event gave him the opportunity to play with his dad, Art, for 23 years. Now that Art doesn’t play, Rezac plays with his two sons on alternate years.

“The Elmwood Invitational is a tribute to quality and gives enjoyment to people who can play a fun golf course at a reasonable price,” says Rezac.

For the guest, of course, the price is very reasonable since the host traditionally foots the bill.

Further, Rezac adds, “The event gives Elmwood members a chance to show off a first-class golf program, a great golf facility and a stately clubhouse.”

Practice rounds will be played Thursday, with the real golf played Friday and Saturday, capped off with the awards banquet Saturday night.