Four decades of reporting — and storytelling

The city tournament has always been about the people and personalities

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Former city champ Austin Murrow putts during last year's tournament.

For the better part of the last month, I’ve been digging deep into the archives around the office to deliver over two weeks of preparatory content leading up to this weekend’s Fort Dodge Ford Lincoln Toyota Webster County golf tournament.

It’s been a fulfilling experience: partly because I’ve rediscovered nostalgic moments of my own, partly because I’ve learned even more about a competition I’ve covered for over two decades, and partly because I’ve delved into the new opportunities that await the 150-plus golfers in this summer’s field.

I first played in this event as a Fort Dodge Dodger varsity team member the summer before my junior year in 1994. If memory serves, I teed up annually for the better part of the next decade. My crowning achievement, so to speak, was winning the first flight sometime in the late-90s.

Many of those years became an overlap of work and play. As a part-time sports writer for The Messenger, I would often finish my round, head to the leaderboard and piece a story together.

My oldest city tourney memory actually dates back to 1991. I was a few feet away from Dave Sergeant — one of Fort Dodge’s most iconic golfers and now a long-time friend — as a 13-year-old spectator when he made his famous hole-in-one at the Fort Dodge Country Club’ par-3 11th. Sergeant went on to capture the men’s open division that year, but he had to turn down the car he had won for the ace in order to keep his status as one of Iowa’s top amateur contenders.

I remember Phil Joselyn’s breakthrough victory in 1993 after decades of narrow misses and Top-5 finishes. I remember when my former Dodger teammates — Matt McIntrye, Jeff Peterson and Cory Braunschweig — reeled off five consecutive victories in the men’s open division field from 1995-99. I remember when FDSH classmate and close friend Stacey Bergman took the city by storm with five titles in a row from 1993-97 — a stretch in which she had also become one of the state’s best prep prospects and a Div. I recruit.

It seems like only yesterday when I had light-hearted post-tournament chats with senior staples and repeat champs Dean Underberg and Diane Blomker. That kind of dominance became almost expected during the reigns of Roxanne Kuhlman, or Jim Dalton, or Stef Nelson. Today, it’s Kelsey Faiferlick, Terry Miller and Peg Christensen. All incredibly talented, but more importantly, kind and gracious with their time.

Kevin Ault’s unprecedented run from 2006-10 — he shattered the all-time scoring mark three different times — always seemed to be challenged by then-teenager Tanner Kesterson, who finished at what would have been a record 13-under par overall in ’10 but was forced to settle for second. Colin Pearson, Ryan Kinseth and Lucas Peed have shown their own flashes of brilliance through the years.

The story that still sticks with me most, though, is from the 2004 vault. With family from all across the country visiting, Bill Huseman captured a city title in front of his father, Dutch; mother, Joyce; sisters, Jodi and Jana; brother, Terry; wife, Carol; and their children, nieces and nephews.

During the trophy ceremony at Lakeside Golf Course that Sunday evening, Dutch and I sat together at a table on the deck. The Hall of Fame Dodger coach and athletic director said it was merely a coincidence that everyone was in town to witness Bill’s victory, but he winked at me and added the timing ”ended up just right.”

To me, this tournament will always be about those personalities. It’s not just the best rounds or the low scores, but the people behind the trophies. Golf has a rich and storied place in our community. We’re lucky to have been along for the ride at The Messenger over the course of the last 38 years — with many more to come.