Geneva Golf Club brought spectators and golfers from across town to cheer and compete at the first annual Saturday Night Lights tournament capped by a championship shootout under the lights late into the evening in Alexandria.
The first-time event, sponsored by Elden’s Fresh Food, featured a five-hole, par-three qualifier earlier in the night with over 50 entries before finishing with the survivor-style shootout on hole No. 6 on the marsh course.
“It went very well. We had more people that we were hoping for; anytime you run a new event like this, you set a number in your head and we got to 50-plus,” Geneva Golf Pro Grant Hanson said after the competition wrapped up slightly after midnight. “Elden’s was such an important factor in this. Anytime you can get a local business to sponsor an event, we were fortunate to have them. Not only do they bring some extra funds to it, they also bring people.”
The championship began with 10 golfers in each of the two men’s divisions and five in the women’s competition.
That field was whittled down as the late-night shootout progressed, beginning at 60 yards out from the pin and increasing to 154 yards back at the No. 6 tee-box.
While the bright construction lights illuminated the green, a movable lamp traveled with the qualifying golfers at their tee locations.
“It’s just a beautiful sight to see to seen the green and the tee lit up,” Hanson said. “It was something that nobody has ever done in northern Minnesota and maybe not in the cities. I’ve seen it done down in the South a little bit – not a tournament – but to see the golf course lit up like this is a different view and is fun to play with a gallery.”
The top-two finishers in each of the three divisions received $150 gift cards, while the champions added a pair of Oakley shades to their spoils.
Elden’s and Geneva Golf Club also awarded dozens of gift card prizes for spectators if they correctly predicted a given shot or putt’s trajectory.
“It was all fun. It was just a great environment and playing in the night is better than playing in the day, as long as you play good golf,” Frank Kalina of Lowry said after winning the Division II championship. “The shadows were tough, but it was a lot like golfing anytime.
Kalina held off Eric Hartmann in the final round with a par-three to secure the win.
“I hit it well and it came down right by the pin, so I was real happy,” Kalina said on his final drive. “If they keep doing it just like this and it isn’t raining, I’d imagine it’s going to explode. It was awesome all the way around – hard to complain when you play good golf.”
Chris Kowalczyk of Plymouth was victorious in the 10-man Division I shootout after edging Randy Thompson in a chipping playoff.
“This was just a great experience and was just a lot of fun to play in it,” Kowalczyk explained. “Just make par and keep making par – that’s what I was kind of trying to do all day. It’s once in a lifetime; you don’t get to play under the lights that often. I’d like to thank Gary and Barb [Thompson] for letting us have this little soirée out here and it was a great time.”
Alexandria native Jana Horstman also won in a playoff over Penny Brundell in the women’s division.
“Geneva has a great group of individuals who support the community and thanks to Elden’s. Being good friends [with Penny], it’s not hard. It doesn’t matter if I win or she does,” Horstman explained. “I lived in Alexandria my whole life and moved back nine years ago. The support that Geneva has for our community is unreal.”