ROCKFORD – Ella Greenberg competed in the Rockford Women’s Golf Classic at age 13, but has been banned for the past two years.
“I got to play at 13 because I won Girls City and got a waiver to play in Women’s City,” Greenberg said. “When I was 14, they changed the age limit to 16. When I was 15, they brought her down to 18. Now it’s 14 years old again.
“They have changed a lot. I feel like I can hang out with older women. It was upsetting not being able to play the last few years, but it’s okay now. I’m just happy to be able to play this year.
Except now she can’t play in Girls Junior. City’s junior tournaments last year were canceled due to COVID reasons. This year, the Rockford Park district decided not to host the Junior Boys Classic, which took place every year between 1936 and 2019, and the Girls Classic, which started in 1953.
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“It really makes me happy,” said Butch Pegoraro, a former Boylan State Champion who was the longtime professional chef at Forest Hills Country Club before retiring several years ago. “When I was born there was a city for boys and girls, and that was 71 years ago. They have all these tournaments that we called the Friday tournaments and think that’s enough and they don’t. no need for a City tournament for boys and girls.
“It’s terrible. It’s the future of golf. Why isn’t the Park District supporting the future of golf? It’s really bad for Rockford Junior Golf.
The Park District hosts six youth tournaments throughout the summer. One in Forest Hills drew 77 golfers on Tuesday. But Lynn Blevins, the district tournament director, says elite Rockford golfers tend to skip local junior events.
“The Ella Greenbergs and all those girls don’t come to our events because they aspire to college golf,” Blevins said. “They participate in (American Junior Golf Association) and (Illinois Junior Golf Association) events. The thought of the park district is why have a two day junior championship if you don’t get the best players? And when the county chose not to be in our junior series this year, we wanted to reconstruct those six events. “
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Greenberg will participate in an AJGA tournament in Indiana Monday through Thursday. But she will also play at Women’s City on Saturday and Sunday before her departure, then next Saturday and Sunday when she returns. She said she would have found a way to play in junior girls as well.
“I have no idea why they don’t have Girls and Boys Junior,” she said. “I think a lot of juniors would have played there. My two sisters would have played there. I would have played in it. I have been playing it since I was 4 years old and now I won’t be able to play it anymore.
Greenberg said if organizers want better players in their city’s tournaments, they need to let those players know when.
“The Rockford Park District doesn’t release its schedule until the start of summer,” Greenberg said. “I have already planned my summer schedule in February. If I knew when the tournaments are taking place, I could plan my schedule around all these tournaments.
Former Junior Boys Champions included some of the greatest golfers in Rockford history, such as 1947 NCAA Champion Dave Barclay, 1948 United States Junior Amateur Champion Dean Lind, five-time State Amateur Champion Arizona Ken Kellaney and recent Illinois High School State Champions TJ Baker and Danny Gorman. The last time the tournaments were in 2019, Baker and Greenberg won.
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“It breaks my heart,” said Kara Soderberg, 46, who won three junior women’s titles before winning the 1992 State High School title as a senior from Guilford. “It was such an honor and a big deal for a young child. In other sports, everyone receives medals and plays as a team. Golf, especially as a woman, is a solitary sport. To be recognized like this is very important. “
If the park district hears enough complaints, there is a chance it will bring back the tournaments.
“This is something that we are going to review and talk about again next year,” Blevins said.
Matt Trowbridge: [email protected]ar.com; @matttrowbridge