Times Sports Editor
Forest Park Golf Course will play host to the annual Brazil Open golf tournament on Saturday and Sunday.
The tourney, played on the Pete Dye designed course, is in its ninth year of existence and has continued to grow each year. The 2008 edition has already attracted near record participation through early sign-ups, though there are still spots open.
This year's tourney will add just one more reason to enjoy Forest Park over the weekend's 73rd annual Brazil Rotary Club Fourth of July Celebration.
According to club pro Mark Rogers, the tourney has continued to grow throughout its history.
"I think the two-day format helps those players who have to work," Rogers said. "One thing that helps is settling on this weekend to coordinate with the Rotary celebration.
"The golfers have a good time and we've had a lot of great people and sponsors who have helped us to put this tourney on," Rogers continued.
The Brazil Open has had a prestigious list of professional winners in the past, including Cloverdale's Chad Collins, currently on the PGA Tour and a top-40 finisher at the U.S. Open in 2006.
Other professional winners include Justin Werkley, playing out of The Preserve in Carmel, Jamie Broce and Darret Brinker.
Brazil's own Troy Farris is a multiple winner of the tournament and is the defending champion, posting rounds of 65-64 to score a 129. He edged out Mike Nakai, the assistant pro at the Country Club of Terre Haute by three strokes.
In the Senior Championship Flight, Steve Paquin shot a 140 to best Jeff Eaglin by six strokes and Bennie Kiburis shot a 139 to win the Super Senior Division.
Northview High School's Kade Baker topped the Junior Division with a 141 and was the first-round leader after a seven-under, 64 on Saturday. Baker bested Jeff Ackman by one stroke.
The continued addition of younger golfers to the tourney is an exciting proposition for Rogers and the Forest Park staff.
"I really envision the Brazil Open being a tourney for the next 40-50 years," Rogers commented. "I think it'll continue to get bigger and we'd like to eventually do a one-day Pro-Am to help draw in more professionals.
"We're getting a lot of junior golfers playing and that's exciting," added Rogers. "The caliber of their play is amazing and we hope that as they get older that this tourney will be one that they come back to play in. We have so many great volunteers (working the tournament) and we're all so happy to see kids taking up the game of golf."
With so many players coming into town for the two-day tourney along with the park's celebration, Rogers believes Brazil will benefit from the exposure.
"I think the tourney has a positive impact on the city of Brazil,' said Rogers. "Last year was the first year that we had television coverage and it's exciting that we've progressed that far. We should have a lot of people from outside the area stepping in and buying dinner, visiting the local shops and I think it's a good reflection of the city of Brazil."
One concern for many courses has been the disastrous weather that has descended over the state and has hammered both Clay and Vigo Counties. While Rogers admits that Forest Park was not spared from the weather, the course has rounded into shape nicely for the weekend.
"It's been very difficult," Rogers said in regards to keeping the course in good condition. "One month ago, the course was in the best shape I've ever seen it in since I've been here, but since then it's been hard. It's been disappointing to see the rain and then the heat, but a lot of work has gone in to get the course ready," admitted Rogers.
Superintendent Tom Cain and Farris, the Assistant Superintendent, have played a big role in that as well as a very diligent maintenance crew that takes great pride in the course.
The tourney, sponsored by the Forest Park Pro Shop, The Brazil Times and Titleist, tees off just before 8 a.m., Saturday morning, and will be flighted according to those scores for Sunday's play.