For the past 11 years, top senior amateur golfers from around the nation have been drawn to The Farm Golf Club to take part in the Clay Dykes Invitational.
Today, 120 golfers will begin the three-day chase around the Rocky Face course in the 12th installment of the tournament that honors the memory of Dykes, a friend of tournament founder Bob Shaw and a charter member of The Farm who died in 1997. The two-man best ball, 54-hole event for ages 55 and older begins today with tee times at 7:42 a.m.
Defending champions Mike Rice and Jerry Hudgins, who in 2011 teamed up for their third title in the event — they also won in 2008 and 2010 — return to the course and will finally receive their trophies from last year. The pair won after a four-hole playoff and had to leave immediately in order to catch their return flight to Houston at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.
For Rice, last year’s tournament victory marked the Texas golfer’s fourth CDI title, with his other win coming in 2002 while playing with Columbus’ Bill Ploeger. But Rice’s familiarity with the course extends even beyond that, though — he won the 2005 USGA Senior Amateur at The Farm.
Rice and Hudgins beat out Bill Bader and Rocky Costa at last year’s CDI, but Bader and Costa didn’t return this year. That doesn’t mean the field will be easy as the duo goes for its third straight title.
John Darr and Rick Luzar, the 2009 champions, will be in the same grouping with Rice and Hudgins for the first two days of action. Richard Tatum, who won in 2007 with Jerry Greenbaum, is playing with Don Wood this year. Bob Nance and Mike Townsend, the 2006 winners, have teamed up once again.
The action at the course began on Tuesday with practice rounds for most of the competitors this week, and despite a morning drizzle and cloudy conditions that broke shortly after lunch, Deck Cheatam, the club’s director of golf, expects three days of top-notch competition in five flights.
“We had another waiting list again this year, and we are so pleased that these guys keep coming back year after year,” Cheatham said. “We try to do everything possible to make this one of the most hospitable tournaments they will ever play in.”
Welcoming the golfers to the area will be a course that Cheatham said is in excellent shape after a mild winter and with summer’s brutal heat not here just yet.
“We have a bunch of very good players in the field this year who are capable of winning the event, and the course is in great shape,” Cheatham said. “The greens are in excellent condition, and the weather should be absolutely perfect for the guys.”
Dale Bentley, who has played in the CDI every year except one and is one of the tournament’s organizers, said this year’s event has an excellent field as more and more players seek an invitation.
“Mr. Shaw started this as a senior invitational for some of the best golfers in the nation, and it is just an outstanding event,” Bentley said. “It has grown and we have players from Ohio and Texas and New York and just from all over now. I know that everyone looks forward to it every year.”
This year also marks the 11th tournament for Herm Plybon, who is playing again with partner Randy Rowland. The two have previously been flight winners in the tournament, and Plybon said the event is always circled on his calendar.
“Before it is over, I start looking forward to next year,” he said. “It is just a fabulous tournament and such a good time for all of the people involved. It is a can’t-miss event, and I feel very fortunate to be in it year after year. Mr. Shaw goes all out with this thing in memory of his good friend, and it is just a great bunch of guys to be around.”