Sportsmanship is always par for the course

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ChallCupTrophy52.jpg

Marion team captain Jerry Smith (left) hands the Bruce-Crofoot Challenge Cup traveling trophy to Hillsboro team captain Doug Dick following Hillsboro victory Sept. 7. The rivalry has remained keen through nine years, but has always remained friendly, say participants.

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Members of this year?s Bruce-Crofoot Challenge Cup championship team from Hillsboro are: front row (from left) Max Terman, Jay Kimberly, Doug Dick, Carl Long, Tim Hein; middle row, Clint Seibel, John Knaak, Gary Andrews, Joe Lovelady, Phillip Thiessen, Scott O?Hare; back row, Brice Foth, Mike Padgett, Stan Utting, Ken Johnson, Lonnie Kent, Joe Jennings, Anthony Thiessen. Not pictured: Mike Unruh.

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Playing for Marion at the Bruce-Crofoot Challenge Cup are: front row (from left) Jerry Hess, Russ Hake, Russ Cain, Steve Shiplet, Tim Young; middle row: Tim Christensen, Pat Moore, Jerry Smith, Bryan Hess, Kevin Burkholder, Jeff Goering; back row, Tod Gordon, Dusty Hett, Aaron Hett, Bill Lundy, Don Bredemeier, Greg Carlson, Gerry Henderson, Don Noller. Not pictured: Tom Anderson.

There may be other reasons why golf courses acquired the nickname ?links,? but one novel golfing event has been strengthening the link between the sometimes rival communities of Marion and Hillsboro over the past nine years.

Since its debut in 2000, the Bruce-Crofoot Challenge Cup has pit 18-player teams from both towns in a head-to-head matchup that participants universally describe as both competitive and fun.

?I tell you what, it has been a blast,? said Chris Costello, an attorney from Marion who first suggested the event after hearing about a similar tournament in another Kansas community.

?The sportsmanship is very good, and it?s been great getting to know players from Hillsboro better than we did before,? he added. ?And it?s improved collaboration running other tournaments, too.?

Carl Long, a Hillsboro banker who was part of the tournament planning team eight years ago and plays in the tournament each year, echoed Costello?s assessment: competition can be friendly, even healthy.

?I?ve played in a lot of golf tournaments in my years,? Long said. ?This one, for some reason, it?s easier to make the competitive juices flow a lot harder than anything I?ve ever played in before. You really want to do the best you can.

?But it has always been on a friendly basis?no matter who you?re playing with, or the whole Hillsboro team against Marion?s whole team,? he added. ?I don?t know of any harsh moments that have ever occurred in this match.

?We have a good time, we joke around with each other. There?s been some shots that have won or lost the tournament, and we still talk about those to this day.?

Ryder Cup format

The format of the tournament was modeled after the Ryder Cup, which annually pits a team of professionals from the United States against a team of counterparts from Europe.

The local tournament begins Saturday morning with a ?two-man best ball? round of 18 holes in which two players from one team match up with two players from the other. On each hole, the lowest score from each two-man pair determines which team wins that hole.

Later that day, the teams follow a ?modified alternate shot? format for 18 more holes, again with each team competing two against two.

In this case, all four players tee off. Then, based on the best tee shot from each team, the two players from the same team take turns hitting the same ball along the course. Again, the team with the lowest score wins the hole.

On Sunday, the two teams play 18 more holes in regular match play, where an individual from one team is paired with an individual from the other team based on their handicap ranking?No. 1 versus No. 1, No. 2 versus No. 2, and so on.

The results from the three 18-hole rounds determines who gets to possess the traveling championship trophy, which was purchased by the respective families of two avid golfers and civic leaders from each community: Bud Bruce from Hillsboro and John Crofoot from Marion, both deceased.

The tournament switches sites each year, and the host team provides a midday meal on Saturday. After the third and final round, the defending champion supplies champagne, and the winning team toasts its accomplishment.

This year?s results

This year, the team from Hillsboro prevailed in the tournament, snapping a three-year winning streak by the team from Marion?which still holds a 5-4 edge in the nine-year event.

?There?s never been any hard feelings,? Costello said about the tournament outcome. ?Every?body wants to win every year?which can?t happen, of course. But it?s been balanced enough that it?s been very competitive.

?It?s just been a fun thing that we started, and it?s working out real well.?

Jerry Smith, captain of this year?s Marion team, has played in the tournament every year except one, when family obligations kept him away from it.

?I think it?s been a good building block for relationships between Hillsboro and Marion,? he said. ?I don?t think it was all that bad to start with, but it?s been good because we?ve all kind of gotten together and developed some friendships with people that we know over there?especially for me. I didn?t know a lot of people (in Hillsboro).

?There?s been some really neat rivalries and a lot of trash talk goes on before each match?friendly trash talk, of course,? he added.

Long agreed that the dark side of the Hillsboro-Marion rivalry is less evident these days than it may have been in the past.

?I?ve lived here 20-some years now,? he said. ?I don?t think the younger crowd has the anti-Marion, anti-Hillsboro attitude that the older crowd had. With the exception maybe of me, most of this (Challenge Cup) crowd is fairly younger-generation type people.?

Even so, Long said the event has strengthened the link between the two communities.

?It definitely hasn?t hurt anything having this match,? he said. ?I?ve gotten to know people from Marion that I probably wouldn?t have gotten to know if we hadn?t had played this thing.

?That helps establish a little better relationship between the communities?just getting to know each other.?

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