ROCK FALLS – Sure, there is a competitive element to the Women’s Lincoln Highway golf tournament, which is 91 years young and going strong.
Ember Schuldt keeps raising the bar higher and higher each year with her individual exploits, and the Kishwaukee women are always a force to be reckoned with. That’s only a small part of the picture, however.
The overriding vibe of the tournament is to have fun. Enjoy two glorious days of weather. See some old friends. Yes, maybe even consume a cocktail or two (none for me, thanks – I’m working).
Schuldt, who will be a senior at Illinois this fall, walked around with a perpetual smile on her face Saturday afternoon. Now 21, she’s been playing in the Lincoln since she was 13, when she wowed onlookers with booming tee shots at Sunset Golf Course in Mount Morris.
She’s played some high-level tournament golf this summer. Not quite a month ago, she made the semifinals of the Illinois Women’s Amateur.
Last week, she finished second in a regional qualifier for the United States Women’s Amateur, and she’ll try her hand against the nation’s best the first week of August in Charleston, S.C.
While performing well in events like those might be more satisfying to a golfer like Schuldt, there is also something to be said for the low-key atmosphere of the women’s LHT.
“I love this tournament,” said Schuldt. “I play a lot of golf in the summer, and a lot of it is pretty stressful. This is so relaxing. It’s just out playing with friends.”
Flight winners received a bottle of wine for their efforts, along with two wine glasses. Speaking for people with a few boxes full of trophies and plaques gathering dust and/or spider webs, I applaud that.
Everybody who wanted a can coozie courtesy of Rock River Golf and Pool to keep their beverages cold received one. There was free ice cream near the scoring area. The smell of cheeseburgers and brats was in the air, like a picnic.
Connie Ellett is a sophomore at Northern Illinois University. Her mother, Sue, is a long-time LHT player, but this marked the first time Connie and her older sister, Taylor, also an NIU golfer, competed. One got the feeling she’ll be coming back next year.
“It was a lot different than any other tournament I’ve ever played in,” Ellett said. “The host team did a great job of making it a first-class event. We had a lot of fun, and it wasn’t as high-pressure as some of the tournaments I play in in-season.”
Next weekend, the men’s Lincoln Highway Tournament will be contested at Sunset Golf Course in Mount Morris, and I’ll be teeing it up. My stomach will probably be in knots, just thinking about it all week, because I take it pretty seriously.
Perhaps I should take a lesson from the ladies and just lighten up a bit.