KENDALLVILLE – It never hurts to be nice.
Because the city of Kendallville and Great Indiana Golf, based at the Cobblestone Golf Course, rolled out the welcome mat in 2007, a group of golfers from all over the United States and around the world return each year to play the Kendallville Open.
While here, they eat at local restaurants, stay in local accommodations, and shop locally. They also make financial contributions to a community where they do not live.
On Friday morning, the group of 36 players gathered under cloudy skies in Cobblestone for their 15th annual tournament, hosted by Pete Levine of San Diego, one of the original four founders. Fellow founder Brendan Yoshimoto donated $2,000 to East Noble High School athletic director Nick David for uniforms, cart fees, bags, golf balls and other gear for the Knight Golf Program.
Kendallville City Council member and avid golfer Jim Dazey had the honor of hitting the ceremonial first tee shot before the foursomes took off in their golf carts. Dazey welcomed the guests and delivered a humorous speech, written by the tournament founders.
Levine said the tournament was on hiatus during the pandemic, but this year’s return has drawn players from Chicago, California, Arizona, Denver, Atlanta, Washington, DC, Ohio and other parts of the Midwest. The player who has traveled the farthest is from Bermuda.
The 2022 Kendallville Open took place in Cobblestone on Friday and will move to the Glendarin Hills Golf Club in Angola on Saturday. Cobblestone hosts the tournament annually on Fridays, and the tournament rotates between Great Indiana’s other golf courses on Saturdays.
In a Zoom interview in April, the four founders, Levine, Yoshimoto, Mike Robinson and Michael Cahill chose Kendallville to play golf. Levine was the last to join the group.
“I didn’t know the Midwest,” Yoshimoto said. “A friend googled golf packages in Indiana and Great Indiana Golf.”
Cahill knew Great Indiana Golf. His aunt, Brenda Rummell, is a golfer and lives in Kendallville.
Others couldn’t believe how affordable golf is in Kendallville. Rummell vouched for the quality of the courses and the prices.
“The city has always welcomed us, Kathy Dues at the golf course, the Best Western and Applebee’s,” Levine said.
The Kendallville Open, or TKO, has evolved to expand the field of players, none of whom are from Kendallville, and added a tournament flag, championship cup, Bixler Blazer and dinner of champions at Applebee’s. The restaurant has a framed photograph of the band in its dining room.
Gamers grew to love the Kendallville community and decided in 2012 it was time to give something back. The founders contacted Mayor Suzanne Handshoe and made a donation to her Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council. Donations for the next two years went to the East Noble Golf Program.
Then cancer struck, both for Handshoe and one of the founders. The tournament turned its generosity to Northeast Indiana Cancer Services. To date, donations from TKO Cares have totaled nearly $7,000.
Dazey said the value of the Kendallville Open to the community is immeasurable,
“I love having them in Kendallville,” he said of the players. “They are fun and love to have fun. Stay and play packages do wonderful things.
Indeed, Great Indiana Golf boosts the local economy to the tune of more than half a million dollars a year. Coordinator Kathy Dues said this year 3,000 golfers will generate $700,000 in business.