On Sunday, Aug. 6, the 47th year of the North End Open teed off at Wyaton Hills Golf Course.
This year’s version included six groups of five players, 29 men and one woman. According to Max Halberg, all 47 years have been held at Wyaton — both when Carl Gustafson owned the course and the 36 years that Max has been in charge.
If you have heard of the North End Open, your thought probably was that everyone participating needed to currently or previously have lived in what is considered to be the “north end” of Princeton. After talking to one of the founders of the outing, this really is not the case.
Brad Dall, one of the two original founders, tells the story of he and his high school and college friend, Chuck Cook, challenging their fathers to a golf match. The young college boys were sure their fathers had no chance. Dall didn’t share who won that original match, but that father/son match was the beginning.
Dall, a bartender for the summers he was in college, shared with many of his older customers, the fun he and his dad had in this father/son match up, and he also shared with his college friends. His college friends wanted to participate and his bartending customers wanted to too, but the customers didn’t have anyone to make a twosome.
Dall matched up his college friends with a bar customer, and so the North End Open began.
From those simple beginnings, 47 years of the North End Open has been played. This year’s participants traveled from California, Colorado, Nevada, and Indiana, as well as many locations around Illinois. Steve Miller, a 46-year veteran, had his notebook and was organizing the golfers; Frank Herring was waiting his turn; and “Wabba,” that’s the only name given, was sitting in his cart, all here in Princeton to enjoy the company of their old friends.
Elaine Mitchell was setting up a tripod and video camera. Mitchell has videotaped the North Enders teeing off every year for many years. She and her parents hosted the after-golf party and dinner too. Finally, after many years, her mom called a halt to hosting the dinner. Now, the golfers and their families gather at Alexander Park for a meal and to hand out the “prizes.”
A “bragging rights,” a trophy is presented, including a green jacket like the golf world’s jacket given at the Master’s Tournament, and a floating trophy putter is awarded. The participants said you don’t want to get the putter. No more description was forthcoming about this putter. The guys know, and they aren’t sharing.
The name was coined because the original “dads” did live in the North End, but it is so much more than the name. The North End Open is not a location, it’s a feeling, it’s the camaraderie, it’s friends coming together one more time.
If you talk to these men you sense the strong connection; you feel the commitment they have with one another. You find out just how special the North End Open is.
Nita Wyatt of Wyanet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.