Two familiar names to Mills Creek golf have spent hours upon hours of preparation in an effort to celebrate the 70th year of golf at the nine-hole municipal course in grand style.
Pete Koelsch and Arnie Schuessler have collaborated with course officials to create something special for the anniversary July 11-12.
Mills Creek was built in the late 1930s, and it officially opened on Memorial Day in 1940.
The first Mills Creek Club Championship event followed shortly thereafter, and the late Bob Cassidy was the first official champion. Although the name was changed to the city tournament, it remains the Mills Creek Championship tournament.
"I played there when I was a young boy, and there is so much tradition that goes with this course," Koelsch said. "People like Paul Bertholy and Mike Fritz and their wives come to mind. Paul Bertholy was the driving force to build the course with great support from his wife, Missi. Mike Fritz, along with his wife, Dorothy, took over in 1947 and ran the show for 22 years."
"Those four individuals truly are the people who built the golf course," Koelsch said. "Both men were teaching pros and are responsible for the playing ability of many of the senior golfers still playing today."
Schuessler also talked about the memories of years gone by.
"Everyone who played golf around here wanted to win this tournament. It was easily the most important of all golf tournaments we had for years," said the four-time champion. Koelsch is a four-time champ, too.
Schuessler came up with an idea that has been met with solid approval.
"We wanted to make the 70th tournament special and Pete and I came up with the idea to welcome back all living former champions," Schuessler said. "Sure, we want all of them to play, but we also know that is impossible because of one reason or another. However, I think we have 16-17 former winners who could come back and play this year, and that would be great.
"We are hoping the public comes to the course July 12 to see the former champions. All of them will be introduced before we start the matches. It will be a day most of those men will never forget, and they certainly deserve to be recognized."
Schuessler is the tournament director and has established the governing rules for the event, which begins with an 18-hole qualifier July 11.
"How many from the qualifier advance to the beginning of match play the following day (July 12) will not be determined until the registration deadline July 6," Schuessler said.
"By then we will know just how many former champions have entered the tournament.
Schuessler continued by explaining that if 15 former champions sign up, the defending champion, Shawn Bahnsen, will be seeded no. 1. He will be followed by the July 11's low qualifier as the no. 2 seed.
Seeds 3-15 would be seeded in order by who has the most titles. If there are former champions with the same amount of titles, names will be drawn out of a hat to determine seeding.
"Going back to the qualifier, we may need 13-14 to fill out the 32-man field from the group, and that is how we reach the match play field. It could be an interesting day in the qualifier, and a playoff may be needed to fill the final spot or two," Schuessler said.
The entry fee of the qualifier is $35.
In the opening round of match play July 12, there will be eight four-man groups with the first group teeing off in the scheduled 18-hole test at 8 a.m.
The second round is set for July 18 with the quarter-finals (eight players) on tap July 19. The semi-final round goes off July 25 and the title match follows July 26 with the 70th Mills Creek king to be crowned.
For information about the event, call Schuessler at 419-626-8328. Entries are available at the clubhouse.