Baley Lehr has taken home the top prize three of the past four summers at the Richard J. Berry Memorial Men's Golf Championships sponsored by The Times.
He won't make it four of the past five.
With the two-time-defending and three-time-overall Championship Flight winner out of state, the title picture at the top has opened up a bit for the 38th playing of the three-day, three-course, 54-hole tournament — formerly Streator's city championship but for the third year open to golfers from throughout The Times coverage area.
"It does open the field up a little bit," tournament director and Championship Flight contender Tony Muscato said of Baley Lehr, who last summer won the area triple crown by winning the Pine Hills Invitational, the Berry Memorial Championship and the Illinois Valley Championship. "Baley has been playing so well, he's been hard to beat.
"But we do have a good, strong field."
Play is scheduled to open this Saturday at Pine Hills Golf Club on Ottawa's south side, continue the following day at Anderson Fields on Streator's north side and conclude Saturday, July 20 a few blocks west at the Eastwood. Each day will feature 18 holes of golf across seven level of competition-based flights, with 83 linksmen currently registered and a handful more expected.
"We usually pick up a half dozen more, so we might hit 90. That's pretty good," Muscato said. "We lost some guys to a benefit scramble the same weekend that they're committed to and been playing in for years, but we still have good numbers across all the flights.
"We're pretty pleased with the numbers."
Golfers still hoping to register can do so by the end of day Thursday at any of the three host courses.
With Baley Lehr (champion in 2018, 2017, 2015) not playing, the early clubhouse favorite looks to be two-time champion and defending runner-up Josh Gass (2016, 2014), who led last year's Championship Flight standings heading into the final round by one stroke before his friendly rival overtook him on his way to a commanding five-stroke victory. Josh Gass is hardly the only contender to take home the top prize, though.
The field also includes tournament stalwarts and high finishers from last year such as three-time champion Brian Lehr (2013, 2010, 2009; third in last year's Berry), Rick Lehr (fourth last year), Muscato (fifth last year), former champion Rick Krumscheid (2005; sixth last year), Mason Kimberly (eighth last year), Patrick Guilfoyle (ninth last year), former champion Kevin Pflibsen (1984; 10th last year), Steve Limberg (11th last year), Chad Wahl (12th last year), Lane Barbier (13th last year) and former champ John Cinotto (1996; 16th last year).
There are a handful of other strong contenders in a Championship Flight field that also includes Greg Pflibsen, Al Retoff (22nd last year), Micah Mattingly (15th last year), former Streator High golf coach Beau Doty, Joe Cravatta (17th last year), 2018 A Flight champion Drew Sabol, Dane Lehr (18th last year), T.J. Masley (19th last year), Brent Tkach (20th last year), Bob Wilkey and recent Streator High School graduate and golf team ace Grant Mascal (14th last year).
Outside of the Championship Flight field, golfers will contend in an A, B, C, D and Legends (65-and-over driving from closer tees) flights, with A and Legends flight golfers already declared. The remaining golfers will be flighted based upon the leaderboard after this weekend's opening two rounds.
The forecast looks hot and humid but dry for this weekend's play as the Berry tees off for the 38th time bright and early at 7:20 a.m.
"We really appreciate the support from The Times again this year, and we have Midland States Bank back sponsoring the $10,000 Hole-In-One Challenge," Muscato said. "We also have 28 hole sponsors this year, which is an increase. We appreciate all the good support we get from the community for this tournament."
Richard J. Berry Memorial Championships
Here are the initial tee times for the opening two rounds of the Berry Memorial. The first time listed is for Saturday's opening round at Pine Hills; the second for Sunday's second round at Anderson Fields. Tee times for the third and final round July 20 at the Eastwood and final flight assignments will be determined after this weekend's play. Golfers who have been assigned a flight have that designated in parentheses:
7:20 a.m./1:40 p.m. — Jeff Harcar, Carlos Gonzalez
7:30 a.m./1:20 p.m. — Josh Gass (CH), Jake Strabala (A), John Washko, Lane Barbier (CH)
7:40 a.m./1:30 p.m. — Shane Dolieslager (A), Chuck Limberg, Christian Miller, Tyler Jenkins (A)
7:50 a.m./7:50 a.m. — Cork Pflibsen (CH), Mike Ferko, Tim Hagerty, Jim Riordan
8:00 a.m./1:10 p.m. — Tony Muscato (CH), Al Retoff (CH), John Cinotto (CH), Rick Krumscheid (CH)
8:10 a.m./1:00 p.m. — Todd Galyen, Greg Wargo, Mike Burnett, Eric Isermann
8:20 a.m./8:20 a.m. — Adam Brown, Auston Pflibsen (A), Austin Cinotto (A)
8:30 a.m./12:50 p.m. — Cole Holloway, Tommy North, Noah Colter, Jake Ursua
8:40 a.m./12:40 p.m. — Chad Thompson, Harv Middleton (LG), Dave Pinney, Matt Middleton
8:50 a.m./12:30 p.m. — Ken Gee, John Kern, Nate Gee, Chad Wahl (CH)
9:00 a.m./12:20 p.m. — Dave Durgach, Drew Barton, Mitch Barton, Todd Scudder
12:00 p.m./9:00 a.m. — Billy Missel, Ben Brown, Scott Limberg, Dustin Masley
12:10 p.m./8:50 a.m. — Jeff Kusnerick, Jim Muhlstad (LG), Todd DeMoss, Jeremy Walker
12:20 p.m./8:10 a.m. — Bill Mattingly (LG), Micah Mattingly (CH), Steve Limberg (CH), Beau Doty (CH)
12:30 p.m./8:40 a.m. — Joe Cravatta (CH), J.J. Cravatta (A), Dan Sabol (A), Drew Sabol (CH)
12:40 p.m./8:30 a.m. — Tyler Sabol, Tyler Wargo, Eric Phillis
12:50 p.m./8:00 a.m. — Kyle Hagerty, Brandon Urbance, Josh Eplin, Zach Garrison
1:00 p.m./7:40 a.m. — Bryer Lehr, Dane Lehr (CH), Rick Lehr (CH), Brian Lehr (CH)
1:10 p.m./7:30 a.m. — Marv Pflibsen (A), Jeff Studnicki (A), T.J. Masley (CH), Brent Tkach (CH)
1:20 p.m./7:20 a.m. — Bob Wilkey (CH), Patrick Guilfoyle (CH), Mason Kimberly (CH)
1:30 p.m./12:00 p.m. — Jared Strabala, Nick Yanello (A), Grant Mascal (CH), Alex Redd
1:40 p.m./12:10 p.m. — Aaron Biagoni (A), Jar Pflibsen (CH), Kevin Erschen (A), Bud Dilley