Way back in 2000, I was covering the Men's Lincoln Highway golf tournament, at Clinton Country Club, I believe.
After Sunday's round, I mentioned to one of Dixon Country Club's players, Bob Venier, that the golf course where I was a member, Sunset, in Mount Morris, had a group of guys that could be competitive in the event. What did we have to do to get in?
Venier explained it was simple. Come to the following year's tournament, attend the Saturday players' meeting, state your case, and if things go well, you're in.
Two Sunset golfers, Cliff Blake and Brad Blake, did just that, things worked out, and starting in 2002, at Rock River Country Club, Sunset has been included in the LHT field.
Anybody that knows me knows that the Lincoln Highway Tournament is the highlight of my summer. My wife, Gwen, knows not to schedule any vacations during that time. Missing the big 4th of July scramble at Sunset – not too big of a deal. Missing the LHT – not even a remote possibility.
This year's event is Saturday and Sunday at a new course in the rotation, Indian Oaks Country Club in Shabbona. It's a course I hadn't played since the late 1990s, and honestly, didn't remember too much about it.
That meant a practice round, and a perfect time to catch up with Venier, one of the tournament's movers and shakers. He'll be playing in his 23rd Lincoln Highway this weekend.
After not making the Timber Creek squad a year ago, Venier went out and won the team's qualifier last month. The two of us, Timber Creek pro Scott Hargrave and Timber Creek member Scott Burkitt headed to Indian Oaks on Tuesday afternoon to check out this year's LHT venue.
Between tales of our various brushes with the law in our youth, the occasional raunchy joke or story, and solving the world's problems, we played some pretty decent golf on what promises to be a challenging test this weekend.
Venier was the medalist, with a 4-over-par 76, two fewer than myself and Hargrave. Burkitt, the only non-LHT player in the foursome, finished with a 90, but undoubtedly was responsible for the most laughs in the group.
We had to dodge a few rain drops late in our round. On the 17th hole, before teeing off, he made a statement dripping with sarcasm: "I think we should go in and get some rain checks."
"You're a golf pro's nightmare, Burkitt," Hargrave said, sending Venier and myself chuckling down the fairway.
That, folks, is the cleanest story I can tell from the day. Boys will be boys, and thankfully I got a piece of the action that day.
As for the course, Indian Oaks is worth the trip, tournament or not. The fairways are perfect, the greens are huge and undulating, and at 6,715 yards from the tips, the course is long enough that you're not hitting wedges for approach shots all day.
Add all that to a favorable weather forecast, and the ingredients are all there for another great LHT weekend.