The tournament honoring Rockford’s first great black golfer is back, but now in a format unlike any other golf tournament in Rockford.
The Ballard was started in 1969 by the Rockford Sportsman Golf Association, a group whose members played extensive golf with a black barber named Melvin Ballard, who was killed in the Vietnam War in 1966. A year earlier, at age 22, Ballard , had won the pro-am at the Rockford Cosmopolitan, a former LPGA tournament at Macktown in Rockton. Ballard drove the green on the No. 3, 350-yard hole en route to his win.
For 51 years the Ballard had been a 36-hole event with one round at Ingersoll and another at Sandy Hollow or Elliot. The tournament seemingly ended three years ago, with Cody Rhymer winning the final title in 2019 in the event’s 51st year. But the Rockford Park District is bringing it back as the best two-ball event Saturday and Sunday in Ingersoll.
History lesson:Ballard’s big day led to $100,000 in prize money
“It’s always been a very popular event to honor a popular guy,” said Lynn Blevins, head pro at Ingersoll and tournament manager for the park district. “The Park District thought it was something we needed to bring back. I hope this revives him and he gets bigger and bigger.
On Tuesday, 26 teams were registered.
“I’ve heard comments that the Ballard was never a two-way deal,” Blevins said. “I’m aware of that, but we formed a tournament committee two years ago and they thought it would be a cool format. It’s different to anything the park district does. We thought it would be a fun format. was something you could have fun with. The best two-handed balls are fun.
Changes to the Rockford Town Tournament
The Rockford Men’s and Women’s Urban Tournaments will undergo a big change this year, going from four rounds to three and from two weekends to one. The two tournaments will run concurrently from July 29-31, with the first round in Ingersoll, the second in Sandy Hollow and the final round in Aldeen.
Last year, with the closure of Elliot, Tournaments added Mauh-Nah-Tee-See Country Club to the rotation. Plans were to include the other country clubs on a rotating basis, but Blevins said the park district scrapped that plan because they couldn’t use a country club until 11 a.m. and it could plunge their tournaments into darkness. .
“I heard both sides,” Blevins said. “Some people say, ‘I would love to play but I can’t play both weekends.’ Others say it’s devastating not to play 72 holes. But 54 holes will be a good championship. You can play on our three golf courses. Where we ended up, it’s a good compromise. there had never been a City Championship and should we decide to start one, 54 holes is the perfectly logical choice to go in. We’ll give it a try this year and see how it goes.
City of men:Baker, Rhymer tied for 1st in Men’s City; top 12 after first round never won a title
Blevins, the former Oklahoma, Florida and Iowa men’s golf coach, likened this to changes to the NCAA golf tournament.
“I’ve played in four NCAA championships where it was 72 holes and they’ve crowned a team champion and an individual champion,” Blevins said. “Now it’s 54 qualifying holes and then three rounds of match play. I understand that’s history, but everything is changing and improving. That’s progress.
And this is not the first time that the Men’s City has changed. It started 95 years ago with a pool of 32 in match play after qualifying, then dropped to 16 in match play before finally becoming stroke play decades ago. But it remained match play for more than 20 years.
Departure of Park District Golf Manager
This is Lynn Blevin’s last week for the park district. The former Oklahoma, Florida and Iowa golf coach came here three years ago as a coach from Rockford University and then worked for the Park District because his woman has been hired as dean of student affairs at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford. She has now been hired as Senior Associate Dean at the University of Montana School of Medicine.
Blevins’ final days for the Park District are hosting the Ballard Tournament Saturday and Sunday in Ingersoll before moving to Billings, Montana.
After:Former SEC, Big Ten Coach of Year, launches golf program at Rockford University
“It was great working for the park district,” he said. “I love the passion of the golf community and have made some great friends and relationships here in a short time.”
Aldeen repairs his bunkers
The largest bunker in town – over 60 yards long guarding the left side of Aldeen Golf Club’s No 15 green – is finally being repaired. It was marked as ground under repair for two years, giving golfers a free drop. The bunker to the left of the 14th green also began repairs this week.
“They just fixed number 14 (Tuesday) morning,” Aldeen Superintendent Charlie Mongan said. “They ripped out all the drain pipes and put in new fine gravel and sand. It took seven weeks to get bunker sand. There was a shortage of bunker sand, like everything else.
No. 15 won’t be finished for a few weeks, but eventually all of Aldeen’s bunkers should be upgraded.
“The bunkers need a lot of help,” Mongan said. “Last fall I put 150 tons of sand because they were very thin on the sand. It was very problematic. In the past years, with the budget cuts, these are things that have not been Luckily now we are more on the up (financially) so we can do those things and add sand to those bunkers.
Matt Trowbridge is a sportswriter for the Rockford Register Star. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @MattTrowbridge. Sign up for the Rockford High School newsletter at rrstar.com.