By Adam Eisenbarth
Organizers scored an ace with the fifth annual Gull Lake Golf Foundation Pro-Am and Skins Game.
The event gave spectators and participants a number of great opportunities, including silent and live auctions, meeting Olympic athletes, picking up some golf tips from pros and more.
“I thought this year’s event went over very smoothly. The weather was unbelievable, it was an excellent day,” said owner Eamon McCann as the event wrapped up July 25.
On July 23 the event got going with the Adult-Child Tournament. The tournament was a sign of just how well the weekend would go as it was filled to capacity with participants. On July 24 the Pro-Am gave golfers an opportunity to learn something from six pros who participate in the PGA, LPGA and Canadian Tour. That night’s live auction was a success with a number of items and opportunities going at high bids. Participants also bid on a chance to caddy the pros in Sunday’s Skins Game.
The money raised from the auction will go toward scholarships for students who were in the Gull Lake Golf Course Junior Program.
While there was plenty of fun on Friday and Saturday, the main attraction came on July 25 when the six pros put it all on the line in an 18-hole skins game.
Spectators enjoyed the action free of charge, and as they walked through the course to watch the pros work their craft, they were treated to background stories about the golfers and even received tips from the pros themselves.
After seven holes of carryover, the anticipation was building as the skins added up. On hole eight, PGA golfer Sam Randolph sunk a long birdie putt to claim $1,800. He would go on to add another $1,000 and win the skins game with $2,800.
“It turned out good. I had a couple good holes at the right times,” said Randolph. “It takes a bit of luck to get your birdie at the right time.”
Though Randolph won the event, the second-place finisher was the big story for many. Brandon Regnier, who grew up in Rimbey, won $1,500. The former Gull Lake junior member’s performance made it a special day for McCann.
“That was pretty sweet for me as the owner of this golf course to see one of our past juniors (have success in the skins game.)”
For Regnier, it’s just nice to come back to where it all started.
“Eamon is the first guy I worked for, he got me into the golf business so that’s kind of how I got started in my career. It’s nice to just give back.”
Regnier works as an associate pro at Edmonton’s Derrick Golf and Winter Club and has been in the golf business for nine years. He hopes to earn a position as a head pro at a golf course someday.
The success of this event comes as no surprise to the former junior who participated when there were about 10 members. It has since grown to more than 90.
“It’s a great event, they raise a ton of money and it definitely doesn’t surprise me. Eamon and (wife) Carla do a great job.”
Perry Parker took third with $900, Kris Tschetter took $500, Stuart Hendley won $300 and Laura Witvoet was held off the board.
“I better start performing or I’ll lose my spot,” Witvoet joked after the game. “I’d love to come back, it’s such a great cause and when you see how it affects the lives of the kids and promotes the game of golf, it’s so huge.”
This is clearly a special event for the golfers, including Hendley, who skipped out on a tournament about five minutes away from his home in Houston, Texas to participate in the pro-am and skins game.
“That was fantastic, to think that he would take his time away for three days to leave his own city in Houston to come up to Rimbey, Alberta, the Gull Lake Golf Course, and play in our Pro-Am. That just tells you what this is all about,” said McCann.
Hendley, formerly of Lacombe, used to bring his daughter to the course, and says this event has been a top priority.
“It means more than just a tournament. I’m thrilled to come back and as long as they invite me, I’ll come back.”
All six players confirmed their interest in returning, giving McCann hope that the event will continue to grow.
“We’re finally at a level now where these professionals are telling us who else they can bring to play, which is very exciting for us.”
The future certainly looks bright for this par 3 course and thanks to the steady rainfall earlier this summer, this year’s event was even more of a success.
“It’s a beautiful golf course, it’s in the best shape I’ve seen it in. They just do a great job running this golf course,” said Hendley.
“It’s in great shape. It just keeps getting better every year,” said Kris Tschetter.
The little course has been an interesting one for the pros who don’t get many opportunities to play on par 3 courses.
“This course has got a lot of character. It’s fun, it changes every day and it’s enjoyable to play,” said Parker.
“If you look at the scorecard and the yardage, you wouldn’t think it’s very difficult but those greens are tough,” said Randolph.
McCann says the fine condition of the course is thanks to his staff and it’s always nice to hear the positive feedback.
“That is probably the most exciting part of this whole tournament for me. To hear professionals ranting and raving about how beautiful the greens were and the lush fairways, that made me feel great.”
McCann is already looking forward to next year, but for now he’ll enjoy the memories of another successful tournament.
“Thanks to everyone that came out to support it and I’d really like to thank our (foundation’s) board of directors for doing a wonderful job.”