The Birchbank Men’s Open launches its 74th year off the tee on Friday at the Birchbank Golf Course.
The event, formerly known as the Rossland-Trail Open, will see more than 100 golfers hit the fairways for the three-day, 54-hole tournament.
“The course is awesome, it’s so good,” said Director of Golf and Head Pro Jeff Papilion. “Mark (Lloyd) has thrown a ton of water at it this week just to soften it up a little bit, and keep it green. But I’m sure come the weekend, it’ll be the way he wants it, but it’s outstanding right now … the rough is so thick and lush, it’s so sticky, you definitely don’t want to be in it.”
The Birchbank course is a wonderful back drop for the event, with long undulating fairways, lined by deep rough and towering conifers, challenging greens, and the scenic Columbia River on one side and the Cascade Mountains on the other.
Lloyd, the Birchbank course superintendent, maintains the course throughout the year, and says that the biggest challenge recently is the absence of rain the past two months.
“The course is going really good,” said Lloyd. “With the weather it’s been a grind, but it’s looking good and we’re getting ramped up for the tournament.”
In preparation for the Open, Lloyd says his crew starts a program that keeps the fairways short, the rough deep, and the greens fast.
“Actually starting today, we start mowing and rolling (the greens) every day through the tournament, and I try to watch my watering, try to dry things out a little bit, but it’s hard when it’s hot. Health (of the course) is my main concern, but playability is always in the back of my mind too.”
A number of past champions will rejoin the field for the Round 1 tee off on Friday, including last year’s winner and 2010 champion, Kevin Hogg of Pitt Meadows, returning in an attempt to capture his third championship.
Hogg fired a 54-hole total of 10-under-par 206 to beat former Trail resident and 2013 champion Dan Dupuis and Vancouver Golf Tour (VGT) pro Darren Day by one shot in last year’s thrilling match, which came down to the final putt.
Dupuis is also scheduled to play, along with Washington State golfers Todd Tibke and three-time champion Dylan Maine. Greater Trail golfers Ray St. Jean, Brad Harding, Brett McLaren, Derrick and Steve Simister, and VGT pro Garrett Kucher, who won the 2016 event, will also tee off on Friday.
“The normal names you see at the top will all be there,” said Papilion. “Weather is suppose to be good, the golf course is immaculate, and the names I’ve seen coming back will make for a really fun Sunday.”
The Seniors Men’s championship, for golfers 50-plus, will run concurrently, with Castlegar’s Reg Clarkson the defending senior’s champion.
On Thursday, Birchbank executive members will host the two-man team Horse Race. The alternate-shot format eliminates the team with the highest score on each hole, and play continues until there’s one team left standing. Prizes will be awarded for all flights, with KPs, optional Net Honey, deuce pots, and skins game, and complimentary dinners served on Friday and Saturday.
Golfers can enter up until Thursday, with the Birchbank Open teeing off at 7:30 a.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Residents can follow the leaders in the final round Sunday when they tee off at around 11:30 a.m.