Golf: Stillwater Country Club captures senior league title

Contributed photo
Members of the Stillwater Country Club team that recently captured its first-ever Twin Cities Senior Golf League championship include, from left, Rick Shefchik, Mike Finnegan, Greg Otto, Bernie Jordahl, Rick Hoffbeck, Tim Giebler, Joe Eichten, Jeff DeCoster, Joe Hammer and Tom Murphy. Team member Dave Kelley is missing from the photo.

Stillwater Country Club recently celebrated a senior moment — the good kind — after capturing the Twin Cities Senior Golf League championship for the first time in club history.

The 16-team league, which includes most of the top clubs in the metro area, has been dominated in recent years by Hazeltine National, but the locals disrupted that club’s grip on the title after a four-team playoff hosted by SCC on July 26.

“It was a great feeling,” said team captain Rick Hoffbeck, who is also the current Twin Cities Senior Golf League President. “It was surreal, something that you all look forward to. Hazeltine has won like the last seven years and they have some excellent players. It was great, everybody was elated.”

SCC ranked second behind Hazeltine, but in front of the other two finalists Edina Country Club and Mendakota Country Club as the field was trimmed to four for the finale. Hoffbeck, 65, has played in the league for 16 years and said this was only the second time SCC has qualified for the four-team finals.

Eleven players make up the team for SCC, although just six compete each week. Each team ranks its lineup by handicap and each of the No. 1s compete against each other during the regular season. The top finisher (gross score) at each position earns 16 points and second receives 15 on down to just 1 point for the player finishing last.

“The top four teams are in the playoff and you could be the top team leading by 100 points, but it doesn’t matter when it comes down to the last week,” Hoffbeck said.

Four points were awarded to the top players at each spot in the final round and SCC finished first at three of the six positions with Joe Eichten shooting 73 to win at the No. 1 spot and Tom Murphy (71) and Hoffbeck (75) prevailing at the No. 4 and 6 positions. Stillwater also received 3.5 points from Bernie Jordahl (79) at the fifth spot, 2.5 points from Greg Otto (80) at No. 3 and 2 points from Mike Finnegan at the second position.

Additional members of the team who did not compete in the finals include: Rick Shefchik, Tim Giebler, Jeff DeCoster, Joe Hammer and Dave Kelley.

“It’s a team effort,” Hoffbeck said.

Stillwater was not an original member of the league, which Hoffbeck said is the oldest continuously running senior golf league in the country, but has played in the league for more than 53 years before finally winning its first title.

The league is open to players who have turned 50 and a few newcomers helped bolster Stillwater’s lineup for this season, Hoffbeck suggested.

“Tom (Murphy) turned 50 and Dave Kelley, another good player, turned 50, so we started filling in the holes that we had,” Hoffbeck said. “We had some very good players that were 50, but you have to have six good players, or 11 to fill out those six spots every week. We filled that out to the point where we could compete. Because the final was at Stillwater, that was also kind of a little edge.

“It’s not a blood-and-guts type of league, as far as that goes. Everybody talks with one another and enjoys one another and there’s a lot of camaraderie there. I would say most of us in the whole league are friends and it makes it a little bit easier, but there’s still pressure there.”