61st Annual Saginaw District Golf Invitational 3-Day Tournament Defines the Best Amateur Golfer in Saginaw County

    icon Jun 11, 2015
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A Storied History & Colorful Legacy

Beginning back in 1955, The Saginaw District Golf Association’s annual District Invitational Tournament has been held each year at different golf courses throughout Saginaw County for over half a century. Thanks in large part to the vision of former Saginaw News Sports Editor Joe Hart, and the equally tireless effort, passion, and long-time commitment of my late father, Fred Martin, Jr., who served as Chairman of the tournament until his passing in 2004, this tournament has evolved into the premier amateur golf event in Saginaw County. 

With an intent & purpose centered upon the objective of identifying the very best amateur golfer in Saginaw County, this year the 61st Annual Saginaw District Golf Invitational Tournament will again consist of two components: the Qualifying Round that will be held at Swan Valley Golf Club on Sunday, June 14th, with an 8 AM shotgun start; and the actual 2015 SDGA Tournament that will be played at Apple Mountain Golf Course on Friday, Saturday & Sunday, June 26-27-28.

The Open Division remains for players under the age of 50 and the Legends Division has been added to replace the Senior Division for players’ age 50 or older by the first day of the Tournament.  The final field of golfers will consist of 72 players: 48 in the Open Division and 24 in the Legends Division.

Players 50 years & older may attempt to qualify in either the Legends or Open Division, but not both. Players under the age of 50 must try to qualify in the Open Division. A minimum of 24-spots is available for players hoping to qualify for the Open Division. Both the Open & Legends Divisions are 3-day, 54-hole events that are played concurrently.

Tees for the Legends Division will be set at approximately 6300 yards and a minimum of 12 positions are available for players 50 and over hoping to qualify in the Legends Division. Players of all ages, both male & female, are eligible to compete provided they are a resident of Saginaw County and possess Amateur Status.

Since the initial tournament, 32 different players have earned the distinction of District Champion, with Bill Strong, Sr., being the first in a long line of talented & gifted players. Ron Stelter is the Dean of Participants, having played in every District Tournament since its inception, with this year marking his first year of retirement from the event, and the end of a legacy.

 In the years from 1956 to 1979 Ron Stelter and Stan Murphy owned the District, accounting for wins in 15 of the 24 tournaments. Ron’s 10 victories likely will stand as a record for many years to come. Stan’s 5 victories put him second on the list of multiple champions, a title he shares with Matt Pumford, also a 5-time winner who has managed to secure the Championship title for the last three consecutive years.


Saginaw District Advances into the Digital Age

While the Saginaw District Golf Association has had their website at wwwsaginawdistrictgolf.com up for several years now, which has been a great resource for posting tee times, scores, rules, and information the Association wishes to communicate, according to District Committee member Trace Hendrick, further changes are currently being instituted.

“The development of our website was ell timed because shortly after it was launched, The Saginaw News stopped doing a daily newspaper, so tee times weren’t always available as they had been for prior years,” he notes.

“We also added a facebook presence a couple years ago that we post news and link on, as it also gives participants an easy way to provide feedback to the committee; and we can respond to questions right through the site.

“The newest thing that we’re doing for 2015 is accepting credit card payments for the tournament through PayPal. We’ll have a tablet set up with a ‘swiper’ at the qualifier and rather than having to bring cash or check in the case that you qualify, we’ll be able to accept credit cards right on site. We think this is something most participants will like.”

“Our plan for the 2016 tournament is that we're going to move to online registration for both the qualifier and tournament,” ads Hendrick.  “Currently you have to mail or drop off your entry and we think that this will be an easy alternative for participants who are accustomed to registering and paying for things online almost every day.” 

“We'll have a simple form to fill out and will continue to use PayPal giving the players a trusted source to complete their online transaction.  We're excited to simplify the registration process for participants and look forward to other technological changes that may come in the future.”



An Interview with 2014 Saginaw District Legend’s Champion

Roger Alverson

Although last year marked the first Saginaw District Golf Tournament win for Roger Alverson, who has played in the district for 16 years prior to his win; he is a living example of how great accomplishments can be achieved by so-called ‘late bloomers’.

While he started golfing when he was a little younger, Alverson says he didn’t really get into the game until he was 47 years old and had reached retirement. “That’s when I had the time to focus upon my game,” he explains.  “Prior to that I would go out once a week with the guys on weekends, but it was nothing serious.  I did play a couple District tournament Qualifying rounds in the early 1970s, but never made the final cut.”

Apart from the Saginaw District, Alverson says he hardly plays tournament golf. “I play a lot of golf with my friends, but when it comes time for Tournament golf, that’s a completely different animal.  Most of the guys I hit the links with are good golfers, but they just don’t play enough and never try to get into the District, for whatever reason.”

When asked what he feels is the most challenging component involved with the Saginaw District, Alverson says that “You tend to get nervy. When you’re out playing normal golf and having fun, that’s one thing; but with the District there are no ‘gimmes’.  Whatever you shoot you can’t pick up and give yourself a double, so it’s a hard adjustment, especially If you’re not accustomed to playing tournament golf. Things can be going just fine and then so south very quickly, so you’re kind of afraid of embarrassing yourself. But I love the competition, which is why I play it.”

Roger says that he does feel now that the Saginaw District tourney is spread over 3-days it’s become easier to tackle, as “you can have a bad day or a bad 9-holes and still make up for it..”

Because the Saginaw District rotates at different courses throughout Saginaw County each year, which courses does Alverson feel pose the biggest challenges for amateur golfers?

“Apple Mountain is challenging and I was a member there for a year,” he reflects; “while the Sawmill is also a good test. You have to be accurate or can get into a lot of trouble. The Saginaw Country Club for a short course is not easy, so that’s also a good test because the greens are tricky plus it has a lot of trees. I’m playing at Swan Valley now and even that is a tricky little course with easy and tough holes. You can get into a lot of pine trees.  But overall I have a fondness for Maple Hill, because I played my best golf there.  But if you’re not hitting the ball very good, every course is a test.”

According to Saginaw District tournament Chairman Burris Smith, this year’s tournament could prove to be a defining and pivotal year for the District Tournament, given that so many courses have closed not only throughout Saginaw County, but also throughout the State of Michigan, coupled with the fact that not as many younger people are taking up the game anymore. Back in 2006 at Swan Valley there were 108 golfers in the Qualifying round and in 2005 at Kimberly Oaks there were 104 attempting to qualify.   While registrations have always been cut off at 120 golfers, numbers of golfers attempting to qualify have been dramatically down in recent years.

“Unfortunately, kids aren’t playing golf today like they once did,” reflects Alverson. “My sons play Disc Golf and I’ve tried to involve them in regular golf, but they’d rather play with the discs. I don’t know why because I’ve never played it.  Plus a lot of couples are working two jobs and just can’t afford it because golf can be very time consuming.”

“I try and get out 3 or 4 times a week if I’m lucky, but it does involve a lot of time and commitment. You have to practice and you get better at golf in small increments, so you don’t always see yourself as improving. It takes a lot of time and years. You don’t go out and get better at the game in a couple weeks.”

“Back when the 21 Club was still going, that acted as a farm team for many young and future District golfers, but today kids play basketball and soccer year round and are on the phone and the computer all the time. They don’t hunt or fish anymore, either, which is kind of disturbing. One of my sons still likes to fish, but I think their life is so fast-paced they can’t even take 3 or 4 hours to go out and play the game anymore.”

When asked who he feels the toughest competitors are in the District, Alverson sites Matt Pumford along with the entire Pumford family. “Gary Trumble I played head-to-head with in the Legends division and he’s really a competitor; but here are in reality many competitive golfers. But one is hard-pressed to beat the Pumfords right now because they’ve all proven their talent. Some are born into the game and naturally gifted with it, white others have to work their butts off.”

When asked what he feels are the most common mistakes made with golf, Alverson jokes that “The biggest mistake might be just taking up the game! But honestly, I think the biggest mistake is taking the game too seriously.  If you’re starting out its best to get a lesson and learn the basics and go out and simply enjoy it and don’t take it too seriously, but have fun with it.  If you can get good quickly it can be a challenge to get better, but its more important to go out and have fun playing and not beat everybody down that you play with. A lot of guys take it too seriously and get mad at themselves and those around them and bring everyone down. But I’m fortunate to play with a good group of guys.”

Finally, what are Alverson’s most memorable golfing moments that stand out most within his mind? “First would be my hole-in-one at The Sawmill, which I accomplished a couple years ago on a par 3 hole on the back nine.  And making the last couple shots last year to win the Legends division was another high point. I came in second three times at the District and could never get the job done.”

“But I didn’t grow up playing golf, you know,” concludes Alverson. “I grew up at Sixth & Janes Streets and nobody played golf down there.  But it really is a fun sport and a great way to pass the time.  It gives me something fun to do and I’m amazed at how many good golfers are out there over the age of 60.  Golf is one of those games you can improve at with age.”


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