Pine Hills Invitational to be played for 74th time this weekend

Annual event will boast nearly 100 players, plenty of talent to be tested in a 36-hole battle

Despite the pandemic canceling or changing dates for many annual events from the professional to the local levels in 2020, the Pine Hills Invitational was able to keep its streak alive late last August.

This year, the event is back in its normal place on the calendar.

This weekend will mark the 74th annual Pine Hills Invitational at the par-70, 6,163-yard course at Pine Hills Golf Club south of Ottawa. The historic event is scheduled for 36 holes (18 on Saturday, 18 on Sunday) set to begin with a 7 a.m. tee-off on Saturday.

Ryan Cuitino returns to defend his championship from last year. Cuitino carded a 137 along with returnee Lloyd Roth before winning the title on the first hole of a playoff, while Jeremy Debernardi finished third.

“We were so grateful to be able to get the tournament in last year, especially with it being a long-standing, annual event,” said Pine Hills manager and tourney director Jeremiah Pike on Wednesday in the clubhouse. “Over the years, Mother Nature has complicated things, and last year with the pandemic we had to adjust.

“Now this year we have 99 entrees, with around 65 champion players and around 30 in A Flight, and that’s the most we’ve had entered in over a decade, so we are excited for that and the fact that we are back playing the tournament in its normal time of the year. I feel the competition is going to be the best it’s been in quite some time.”

Along with the top three from a year ago, Pike says some of the top competitors will include Dan Caparusso (2020 Super senior champ), John Wright (4th overall and 2020 senior champ), Baley Lehr (2018 champ), Gabe Aprati (2015 co-champ) and Jason Buffone (2015 co-champ). The field will also include Mike Sipula III (2005 champ), who will be playing in the tourney for the first time in a while, B.J. Sipula (1998 and 2003 champ) and Dave Loux (2000 champ), who Pike said returns with playing partners Jon Kolka and Hamilton White after a long absence from the event.

“Jeremy finished third last year and has been in the running a number of times, so with being the greenskeeper out here and his knowledge, we’ll see if he can finally get that first victory,” said Pike. “Then we also have local guys like Jesse Cavanaugh, Mick Resser, Baley Lehr, Rick Lehr, Brian Lehr, Josh Gass and Austin Gass, who are always in the hunt.

“As we’ve seen over the years, it comes down to who can put together 36 solid holes of golf, and if there is a stumble, who can recover from it. That’s more than likely going to be the player that takes home the title and glass vase. It’s funny how a lot of these guys play the course with no problems when just playing in a league or just coming out for a round, but put them in the tournament setting, and it just changes their mindset.”

Pike said midweek that the course is more than ready to challenge the players and adds a beef up in equipment and the weather will also be a factor as the weekend goes on.

“The course is in amazing shape right now,” said Pike. “We have added some new equipment to our groundskeeping arsenal, and that has helped, as well as getting a nice little rain a few days ago. It’s going to be hot, there is going to be a little breeze, and the course is going to dry out for sure. It’s going to be a tough course to play come Sunday, I believe, so the players are going to be tested both physically and mentally.

“The veterans of this course and tournament know how to handle the conditions we’ll see, but it’s always curious how the new players will handle it.”

Even with a long-running, well-established event like the Pine Hills Invitational, Pike says it takes the help and cooperation from so many to make things go the way it should.

“We have a number of tremendous sponsors again this year, which we are thankful for, as well as a solid group of volunteers that make this tournament run smooth and do a great job,” said Pike. “Running a tournament like this has so many moving parts, so having so many people willing to help out in any way they can makes my job so much easier, and I can’t even say how much it’s appreciated.

“I know I for one am ready to see who rises to the top this year.”

Saturday’s Opening Round Tee Times

7 a.m.: Matt Dwyer, J.D. Joanis, Nick Dilley, Dan Jankowski

7:10 a.m.: Llyod Chapman, Curt Trizzino Sr., Robert Anderson

7:20 a.m.: Josh Gass, Austin Gass, Micah Mattingly, Jake Strabala

7:30 a.m.: Dave Loux, Jon Kolka, Hamilton White, Jamie Schmitt

7:40 a.m.: Alex Blumenshine, Mick Resser, Baley Lehr, Jesse Cavanaugh

7:50 a.m.: Gabe Aprati, Andrew Blackburn, Ryan Cuitino, Parker Govern

8 a.m.: Tom Govern, Mike Mortell, Ed Moltzan, Tony Muscato

8:10 a.m.: Aaron Biagioni, Rob Lehn, Rod Lowery, Dustin White

8:20 a.m.: Adam Tobias, Brian Silvers, Jim Kintz, Justin Christiansen

8:30 a.m.: Curt Trizzino Jr., Tres Steffey, Jack Mortell, Mark Gilloffo

8:40 a.m.: Jeremy Debernardi, Tyler Bernardoni, Paul Snook, Mike Sipula III

8:50 a.m.: Eliot Offutt, Joe Inman, Bob Randall

9 a.m.: Tim Cho, Kelly Gillikin, Baxter Teal, John Lindberg

12 p.m.: Brian Fordon, John Finnin, George Glickley, John Wright

12:10 p.m.: Chris Dye, Brian Lehr, Rick Lehr, Dane Lehr

12:20 p.m.: Dan Caporusso, Mason Kimberly, Jake Seaver, Brandon Webb

12:30 p.m.: Rick Krumscheid, John Cinotto, Brandon Cinotto, Brian Watson

12:40 p.m.: John Gulbronson, Mike Van Duzer, Trevor Cushard, B.J. Sipula

12:50 p.m.: Brent Perryman, Stew Spencer, Dennis Muezenmayer, Derek Barnes

1 p.m.: Jim Gulbronson, Ron Noel, Scott Lilly, John Fisher

1:10 p.m.: John (Juan) Hernandez, Kim Dong, David Lee

1:20 p.m.: Ted Stone, Tommy Chalkey, Hyokyung Lee

1:30 p.m.: Charlie Dunkel, Matt Lindenbaum, Patrick Guilfoyle

1:40 p.m.: Andy Delao, Jim Zartman, Matthew Tamar, Bob Hart

1:50 p.m.: Aldo Buffone, Jason Buffone, J.F. Lafontaine, Roy Radke

2 p.m.: Chris Beyer, Scott Atkins, Lloyd Roth, Andrew Stineman

Past winners of the Pine Hills Invitational at the Pine Hills Golf Club.

2020: Ryan Cuitino, Joliet 137&

2019: Michael Fastert, Wheeling 139%

2018: Baley Lehr, Grand Ridge 102*

2017: Joe Zawaski, Glenview 144

2016: Kevin Flack, Rockford 137

2015: Gabriel Aprati, New Lenox 67#

Jason Buffone, New Lenox 67#

2014: Raymond Knoll, Naperville 133

2013: Michael Fastert, Des Plaines 142@

2012: Andy Mickelson, Lockport 142

2011: Andy Mickelson, Lockport 133

2010: Andy Mickelson, Lockport 135

2009: Brian Lehr, Grand Ridge 138

2008: Steve Kwasigroh, Dyer, IN 138

2007: Ben Hermes, Dixon 137

2006: Tim Streng, Sterling 102*

2005: Michael Sipula III, Ottawa 142

2004: Terry Werner, Schererville, IN 140

2003: William Sipula, Ottawa 141

2002: Larry Vaughn, Naperville 140

2001: Tom Bartman, Ottawa, IL 144

2000: Dave Loux, Plano 141

1999: Jean Lafontaine, Chicago 137

1998: Bill Sipula, Ottawa 106*

1997: Tom Copeland, Chicago 143

1996: Darran Stanek, Algonquin 143

1995: Tom Studer, Joliet 141

1994: Greg Foltynewicz, Tonica 138

1993: Darran Stanek, Algonquin 138

1992: Chris Carlson, Wheaton 140

1991: Greg Foltynewicz, Tonica 139

1990: Mark Small, Flossmoor 140

1989: Rick TenBroeck, Chicago 140

1988: Rick TenBroeck, Chicago 140

1987: Ron Ghidina, Peoria 139

1986: Bill Sipula, Ottawa 141

1985: Scott Matheson, Chicago 141

1984: Dave Esler, Chicago 142

1983: Rick TenBroeck, Chicago 143

1982: Scott Stillwell, Pontiac 138

1981: Bob Abdnour, Streator 70#

1980: Scott Stillwell, Pontiac 145

1979: Dave Ogrin, Waukegan 139

1978: Dick Terry, Ottawa 146

1977: Lloyd McWilliams, Rockford 144

1976: Phil Kenny, Chicago 142

1975: Steve Cisco, Chicago 70#

1974: Bill Stillwell, Pontiac 145

1973: Bruce Houdak, Schaumberg 142

1972: Joel Hirsch, Chicago 140

1971: Peter Summers, Springfield 143

1970: Ron Ghidina, Peoria 140

1969: Ron Ghidina, Peoria 140

1968: Ron Ghidina, Libertyville 71#

1967: Ray Chamberlin, Ottawa 141

1966: Ray Farro, Ottawa 144

1965: Ray Farro, Ottawa 139

1964: Ray Farro, Peoria 142

1963: Ron Ghidina, Barrington 141

1962: Malcolm Logan, Springfield 138

1961: Dale Schofield, Highwood 144

1960: Remo Crovetti, Indianapolis, IN 137

1959: Don Essig, Macomb 145

1958: James King, Ottawa 145

1957: Ray Farro, Joliet 146

1956: William Stricklen, Ottawa 108*

1955: Ray Farro, Ottawa 146

1954: Dante Vicini, Ottawa 136

1953: Dante Vicini, Barrington 144

1952: Dave Logan, Peoria 146

1951: Gus Moreland, Waukegan 143

1950: Mike Stolarik, Waukegan 144

1949: Leo Massa, Kankakee 144

* —27 holes. # — 18 holes.

@ —won second hole playoff vs. Jason Buffone

% —won second hole playoff vs. Baley Lehr

&— won first hole playoff vs. Lloyd Roth

Brian Hoxsey

I worked for 25 years as a CNC operator and in 2005 answered an ad in The Times for a freelance sports writer position. I became a full-time sports writer/columnist for The Times in February of 2016. I enjoy researching high school athletics history, and in my spare time like to do the same, but also play video games and watch Twitch.