WASAGAMING — For years, Ken Stadnek has been in the running for the Tamarack men’s title at the Clear Lake Golf Course.
He could be again this year but decided to take his own advice and leave the age group. The 59-year-old from Arborg talked to organizers last year about creating a new seniors event for players aged 50-and-over in which they have two qualifying rounds and then four rounds of match play instead of 18 holes of qualifying and flights of eight for match play. That became a reality this year with the debut of the new champion men’s division, and Stadnek felt obliged to enter it.
Based on his history, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he has found success in the new category. Stadnek, who has come to Wasagaming every year since the 1970s, became the division’s first medallist on Monday with a two-round total of 144 and followed that up on Tuesday by winning his first-round match 6 and 5 over former Brandonite Ken Hoy.
While he could still play in the main men’s competition, Stadnek feels the champion men’s event is just as competitive as the men’s.
"Guys still hit the ball good, it’s just that we’ve all lost about 40 yards, so we’re all in that same group," said Stadnek, who was the 1997 Tamarack men’s champion. "Where we used to be 300 yards off the tee, now we’re all 250 yards off the tee. There’s really no difference. You’re just in a different bunch of shorter and straighter and some guys are wiser. It’s still fun and a great golf course to play. It’s lots of fun."
Stadnek, who is missing his home club’s senior men’s championship to play in the Tamarack, has only played a handful of rounds at Clear Lake this year, but that hasn’t bothered him at all. He’s played more than 300 rounds in his lifetime and is relying on his memory to get him through the tournament.
"Greens here are the equalizer," he said. "Almost everyone you’re playing with here will hit it down the middle and it comes down to the flat stick and which way will it break. There’s so many greens where it looks like it will go this way and it breaks that way. Lots of local knowledge."
Stadnek will take on Melita’s Gene Banks in the quarter-finals on Thursday. Banks beat Elphinstone’s Dwayne Blackbird 2 and 1 on Tuesday.
Onanole’s Keith Fawcett and Calgary’s Don McDougall will meet in another quarter-final, while Carberry’s Lorry Broatch faces LaSalle’s Brent Young and Russell’s Brad Clement takes on Erickson’s Dan Deonarine. Clement and Broatch both won their matches on an extra hole.
Stadnek is looking forward to the quarter-finals and the rest of the week. He’s also interested to see how the champion men’s division grows over the next few years.
"I think more guys need to be here and realize it’s just as competitive and free up some space for the younger ones to play in the men’s," he said.
"Hopefully the tournament can get back to a total waiting list in every division, which is what we’re looking at is filling numbers. We pay so much for the course, so we need to get as many players out here as we can."