Partially due to necessity and partially with an eye toward the future of the game in the area, the venerable Richard J. Berry Memorial Men's Golf Championships — long known both officially and unofficially as Streator's city golf championship — expanded the geography of both its playing sites and its pool of eligible golfers last year.
The 2018 edition of the Berry Memorial will do it again.
All male golfers residing in or belonging to a golf club located inside The Times circulation area will be eligible to compete in this summer's Richard J. Berry Memorial Men's Golf Championships sponsored by The Times. The 38th playing of the event will be held July 14, 15 and 21, opening again with 18 holes on Ottawa's south side at Pine Hills Golf Club on Sat., July 14, continuing the following day at Anderson Fields on Sun., July 15, and concluding on the north side of Streator on Sat., July 21, at the Eastwood Golf Course.
"I think we weren't sure exactly how it would work," said tournament director Tony Muscato of the changes to the three-day, three-course, 54-hole tournament. "We didn't know if we'd have Streator guys willing to embrace it or how the Ottawa guys would respond. ...
"We didn't have quite as many as we were hoping for last year, but that was expected in the first year, and after the feedback they got from the other Ottawa guys who played, we're thinking we're going to have a bigger turnout."
Prior to last year's playing, the Berry Memorial was held at Streator's then three courses — Anderson Fields, the Eastwood (previously Streator Country Club) and Twin Creeks Golf Course — and open the vast majority of years only to 61364 residents or members of one of Streatorland's courses.
The closing of Twin Creeks during the winter of 2016-17 and " kind of stagnant" tournament numbers, according to Muscato, led the tournament committee to consider its options. Eventually, an agreement was reached to include Pine Hills as one of the Berry Memorial's three courses and expand the boundaries for participants to include the entire circulation area of The Times — a longtime title sponsor of the event.
The area for eligible linksmen is a large one, running from Seneca to Ransom in the east; Cornell in the southeast; Dana and Rutland in the south; Toluca and Wenona in the southwest; Peru and Mendota in the west; Paw Paw to the northwest; and an arc extending through Earlville, Leland and Sandwich to the north and northeast.
Participants who sign up and pay their entry fees at one of the participating three courses by June 30 will receive a punch card for free green fees at the courses between July 1-13 (excepting July 4). All participants will receive a Pukka golf hat and a commemorative ball-marker/bottle-opener designed by former champion Bobby Berry.
There also will again be a $10,000 hole-in-one contest sponsored by Midland States Bank.
The initial year of tournament expansion went altogether well, according to Muscato, and the tournament committee is expecting more of the same when this year's tournament hits the tees next month.
"We weren't expecting Year 1 to get 60 new players or anything like that," said Muscato. "We know it's going to take some time to build. Hopefully we get a few more this year and continue to build from there."