Past champions saluted ahead of 100th edition of Men’s Northern

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Pete Lukoni, left, Danny Jutras, Ron Stewart and Jim Scissons took part in a ceremonial tee shot on Friday afternoon to help kickoff the 100th edition of the Men’s Northern tournament at the Cooke Municipal Golf Course.

Tournament runs from Saturday to Monday at Cooke

A who’s who of golf in Saskatchewan was at the Cooke Municipal Golf Course on Friday as the 100th edition of the Men’s Northern tournament got underway with a past champions luncheon.

“There’s a lot of excitement here and to be able to be here and see so many people that I haven’t got that chance to see in a while has brought back some wonderful memories,” said Danny Jutras, who served as the head golf professional at the course from 1975 to 2009 and was the runner-up to John Eagle in the 1963 tournament.

“This tournament has gone through a World War and a pandemic, but it was still played. It brings together so many different people and age groups that love the game of golf. I think that great atmosphere and everyone being happy to be here is something that always stood out to me, especially when watching the guys tee off from the first tee during the tournament.”

Jutras was one of four golfers who took part in a ceremonial tee shot on Friday afternoon as practice rounds got underway for the tournament, which officially starts on Saturday.

He was joined on the first tee by three-time champion Jim Scissons, six-time winner Ron Stewart and Pete Lukoni, who captured the title in 1962 over Doug LaCroix.

“Obviously the way that the game was played was different than what you see now, but what I remember the most from that weekend was just the competitiveness of the field and the fellowship we all had,” Lukoni said.

“Being able to attend this event and to be a part of that opening tee shot was really enjoyable. All four of us were able to get the ball airborne, which is what we were hoping for.”

Stewart’s success around his home course is well known, as he’s tied with the late George Bigelow for the most Northern crowns with six.

“There are different things that stand out from each of them but one that I definitely remember was in 1982 as we had a full-day delay after the course got three inches of rain,” Stewart said. “The final between Brian Bamford and I got pushed back to Tuesday, so it felt a little bit anticlimactic compared to usual.

“I think what’s made this event successful over the years has been the volunteers. You have guys like Tom Wormworth, Ron Harris, Frank Harris, Martin Ring and everyone involved with the men’s golf club, along with people at the course and the sponsors that help out. I may be a little bit biased here, but I think this is the best match play tournament in the province, especially with how well it’s organized.”

The most recent of the Men’s Northern is Prince Albert’s Danny Klughart, who had lost in the championship flight final to Cory Sawchuk in 2018 before beating out Greg Swenson last summer.

“To win the Northern was very special as it was the last tournament I had on my list of things I wanted to accomplish,” Klughart said. “It’s such a tradition up here and to be able to say that I’ve won it is very special.

“Just to even qualify for the championship flight is a major accomplishment, as you have to shoot at least a round of 73 just to make it in there. Everyone in this field is good and anyone has a chance to win it.”

Following Saturday’s qualifying round, the match play tournament will get underway on Sunday, with the championship flight final slated to begin at 1 p.m. Monday.

“I’ve been really keyed up to get going over the last couple of days and I told my wife last night that I just wanted to get things started,” Stewart said.

“I think this is one of the strongest fields that I’ve ever been part of here,” Klughart added. “You have guys like (2006 champion) David Stewart back up here along with other past champions and guys who haven’t competed here for a while. It’s great to have them around and it should be an awesome weekend of golf.”

A putting and longest drive competition will also be held on Saturday night, starting at 7 p.m.