One of Thunder Bay’s oldest golf courses has likely seen its last round of competitive golf.
That’s the sad reality for Tony Stokaluk, as he acknowledged that the 20th annual Stokaluk Shootout on Sunday will likely be the last, at least at the Municipal Golf Course.
Thunder Bay city council voted in April to close the golf course at the end of the season.
“If it is the last year, which I really think it is, it’s unfortunate but you just have to let it go,” he said with resignation in his voice. “What’s done is done, and that’s it.”
The event, which closes the Thunder Bay golf season, started in memory of Tony’s father. Paul Stokaluk was one of the most influential golf figures in the city and helped grow the game.
The course has been like a second home to the Stokaluk family and Municipal has always played a part in Tony’s life.
“This is the place I grew up at,” he said. “I’ve golfed here since I was two years old. Just to come back here and play on my dad’s old course means a lot to me.”
One of the reasons the tournament is so popular is because of the connection it gives current golfers to the Stokaluk name.
Three members of the family took part in the 20th edition, as Tony was joined by brother Paul Stokaluk Jr. and son Anthony.
Former two-time champion Walter Keating Jr. said the course and the tournament are linked to the family.
“To me, it’s all about the Stokaluk family and what they represent to the community of Thunder Bay and the golf community,” Keating said. “What they’ve done to grow the game in this neck of the woods is pretty spectacular.”
The tournament uses the rare shootout format, where the golfer with the lowest score on each hole is eliminated until a champion stands alone.
Entry is earned by amassing points and qualifying through the Thunder Bay District Golf Association’s season.
Knowing this could be the final installment, many players this year played extra tournaments or traveled to regional events to collect enough points to qualify for the year-end spectacle.
The players were accompanied by a large gallery on Sunday, as many came out of respect to the Stokaluks and watch some high end golf.
Joe Scharf successfully defended his title from one year ago, as he edged Keating in a playoff on the final hole.
Part of Municipal’s charm is the ease of which players can move around the flat course, and the lack of hazards and rough give beginners an opportunity to learn the game in a relaxed setting without being penalized for poor shots.
Stokaluk is worried about the impact losing the course would have on older members of the golf community who would struggle with the terrains at Chapples and Strathcona, and Keating is concerned losing the rewarding course would negatively impact the development of golf in Thunder Bay.
As vice-president of the TBDGA, Keating is determined to have the tournament continue in some capacity, but admitted it would lose some of its charm without the home course.
“I’d try to find a way to continue it in some way, but obviously it would never be the same because Municipal is attached to the Stokaluk name. I would be very disappointed to see Municipal go,” Keating said.
“Hopefully things will change, but if not we would try to find a way to keep this thing going using the Stokaluk name and making them proud of how we end the golf season every year.”
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