Wide-open championship flight makes New Ulm Invitational interesting this year

Journal File Photo Andrew Peter holds the New Ulm Invitational Championship trophy after winning the 2017 tournament in a playoff over Ethan Krause. Peter had finished fifth and second in his previous two tournaments. He’s back to defend his title this year, as will Krause, who has finished second in the tournament the past three years.

NEW ULM — It could be a wide-open scramble for the 58th annual New Ulm Invitational Tournament championship at the New Ulm Country Club this weekend.

With a lot of good players and a lot of interesting matchups, it could be anyone’s tournament.

At the top of the championship flight are last year’s playoff combatants, Andrew Peter and Ethan Krause.

Last year, both shot 184s in regulation, and Peter, who had been close to the title a couple of times in the past, and he won it on the 10th hole over Krause.

It was Krause’s third straight second place finish, and his second playoff loss in a row.

Krause, a member of the Minnesota State University Mankato golf team, will be looking to break through for the chance to hoist the trophy this year.

Johnny Larson of Springfield, the winningest champion in the tournament’s history, may be back for this year’s tournament.

“It will be a game-time decision,” said NUCC Pro Tim Huffman. “But he only has nine holes under his belt.”

Participation in the Country Club’s signature tournament is up this year, said Huffman, and it could grow before tee-time on Saturday.

Some of the other potential contenders in the championship flight are a pair of Krause’s MSU teammates, Colin Huffman and J.J. Svac (SEE-vak). Svac has a -1.2 handicap, and Huffman, son of club pro Tim Huffman, has a lot of experience playing his home course.

The Championship Flight features a lot of golfers who call New Ulm Country Club their home course, or are New Ulm natives who come home for the tournament.

Jason Wieland, Nate Weisenburger, Aiden Guggisberg, Ty Hirth, Andy Metzen, Ted Wirtz, Josh South and Scott Paa and Glavine Schugel are all registered.

Tim Huffman said the interest in the tournament is growing, especially among the younger players.

This year, for example, the Reagan family from Mendota Heights, which includes 2011 champion Brian Reagan and his sons, Ned, Pat and Jack, are all coming, and the younger Reagans are bringing friends along.

The average age of the golfers involved is in the 30s, Huffman said, which bodes well for the future of the tournament.

“If they have a good experience, they have a lot of years to come back.”

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This year’s tournament will follow the format adopted four years ago. There is no more Senior Champions flight, which drew a lot of very good golfers away from the Championship Flight. Instead, those golfers start out in the Championship Flight for the first day. After Saturday’s round, the Championship Flight is cut, and those who are cut are placed in a President’s Flight, where they can compete for a flight championship.

The tournament is a 36-hole tournament for the regular flights, with the Championship Flight golfers playing an extra nine holes for the title on Sunday afternoon.

The public is welcome to come out and view the action. Rounds start at 8 a.m. Saturday, and 7:30 a.m. Sunday. The final Championship nine starts at about 4 p.m. at the 10th hole.

People can also come and view practice rounds today, and special events tonight and Saturday. There will be a Championship Flight “Shootout” Friday night, and a “shootout” for the rest of the field on Saturday night. There will also be a closest to the pin contest on the 10th holed on Saturday night, which is open to tournament players and guests as well.

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