City Open still going strong at 50

In 1968, Dave Karschnick Sr. and his golfing buddies started the City Open in an effort to determine the best golfer in Alpena.

I can’t speak for Karschnick, but I’d say it’s a safe bet that 50 years later he’s pleased with how well the tournament has endured.

“(River’s Edge PGA Professional) Jerry (McConnell) reminded me something I said that was in the paper 10 years ago, ‘As the years go by after 40, I hope I’m still around for the 50th’ and I made it. It’s been a tough road, but I made it,” Karschnick said on Saturday during a celebration of the event.

In a milestone year, all the elements were there for a celebration of 50 years over the weekend: familiar winners, new winners, past champions, live music and special touches for the tournament.

Oh and there was good golf too.

Fifty years after 23 golfers teed off in the inaugural modern City Open, 86 golfers across six different flights participated in the City Open last weekend. Coincidentally, 23 golfers competed in the men’s championship flight this year and two golfers from the original tournament–Phil Straley and Karschnick Sr.–competed.

In addition to the celebration in the clubhouse, the tournament had a different feel too. Each golfer’s score was tracked on an individual placard and their picture was displayed on a moving scoreboard to keep track of the tournament’s progress. Commemorative flags signed by former City Open winners flew on each of the flag sticks during the first round. Even the cups were painted white to give the tournament more of a professional feel.

But amid the celebration, the weekend also served as a reminder of just how difficult it is to win the tournament. River’s Edge and Alpena Golf Club are very familiar among local golfers, but putting together a good round at each course on back-to-back days is still a challenge and many golfers found that out the hard way.

After a windy first round, Tom Lahner was tied with John Hoos and Dave Karschnick Jr. at 77 and many of the regulars who are always near the top of the leader board found themselves near the bottom of the list as just five golfers posted sub-80 scores.

But even with the high scores, the title was still up for grabs on Sunday and even through the front nine, Lahner led Karshnick Jr. by two strokes. But on the back nine, Lahner made his move, shooting for birdie on No. 10 and making consistent pars while Hoos and Karschnick Jr. fell back. Consistency is usually what wins the tournament and Lahner definitely had it.

Lahner’s third title puts him in elite company with Jim Boynton, Bill Peterson and Phil Straley as the only three-time male winners of the event. In the last six years, Lahner has been one of the most consistent golfers, winning three titles and finishing runner-up twice. The championship flight, which featured six former champions this weekend, is still very competitive, but Lahner has definitely staked a claim as a man to watch.

Congratulations to Courtney Nunneley who became one of the tournament’s youngest winners at 17 and won the tournament on her first try. As many veteran golfers will surely tell you, they would love to have those odds.

It’s encouraging to see golfers Nunneley’s age playing in the tournament. In the past four years, three of the winners of the women’s championship have been recent Alpena High graduates and it’s definitely a plus to see an influx of younger golfers, male and female, choosing to play in the tournament at a time when the numbers have been dwindling.

Time will tell who claims the championship trophies in 2067, the 100th anniversary of the City Open, but if the first 50 years are any indication, the next 50 will be just as memorable.

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.