MITCHELL — “It’s a competition, but it’s more about fellowship and friendship.”
That is the main reason most golfers over the age of 50, including Murdo native Steve Reed, play in the men’s Great Plains Senior golf tour.
What was once a small tour that Mitchell’s Dave Huber began playing in since he turned 50, has grown over the past 18 years, especially since Huber became hands-on in the scheduling process back in 2017.
Huber transformed the tour from 12 tournaments a year in 2017 to a new season-high of 37 tournaments in 2022. The tour consists of two-man teams playing twice a week, helping not only those looking to stay active and compete, but also helping local golf courses with popular events that bring dozens of golfers to small communities each week.
With Huber working the schedule and contacting golf courses, the interest in the tour and its dates has only grown. Most of the events are on Tuesdays and Thursdays at small-town courses spread across South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska.
“What got me spurred on getting a schedule put together was when Platte and Beresford had their tournament on the same day, but I like to play golf so I wanted to go to both,” Huber said. “Since the courses were so far apart, they weren’t in communication and didn’t know they were having a tournament on the same day. From that point, I began doing my part and created a schedule.”
Soon, the schedule flipped for Huber, to the point golf courses began calling Huber, asking him if they could be a part of his tour the following year. The tour now stretches as far west as Presho, South Dakota, and as far as east Brunsville, Iowa.
“This thing has just absolutely exploded beyond my wildest dreams, in a short period of time,” Huber said. “More and more guys are coming to events, more courses are getting added to the schedule every year and us as competitors, just get hooked on playing. It’s fun competition, but it’s the fellowship more than anything.”
Reed, 64, has been playing golf for 40 years, but mentioned playing in this tour for the last five years has been an amazing experience.
“I’ve been playing golf for a long time and I’ve always played in some type of competitive nature, but since these tournaments have become available, they’ve been a fun activity to go play in and enjoy rounds of golf,” Reed said. “We get to revive some old acquaintances or meet new people because it gives us all reasons to travel the state and it’s just a way to get out and compete at different golf courses.”
Throughout the process of creating the tour — which took on the Great Plains Senior tour name two years ago — Huber worked alongside Wayne Bartlett, of Scotland, who manages the Dawson Creek Golf Course.
Bartlett helped construct the rules of the tour that allows more winners and more qualifiers for the Tournament of Champions in Mitchell at the end of each year. Depending on the entry amount of teams, each tour stop is broken evenly into separate flights, providing better competition and more top finishers to the year-end tournament in Mitchell. Bartlett’s efforts made him one of the inaugural members of the GPS Hall of Fame, which is recognized at the Scotland course.
This year’s Tournament of Champions will be on Wednesday, Sept. 21 and with more events being on the schedule than ever before, the Tournament of Champions is on pace to have a record-setting number of qualifiers. In the first year in 2019, 34 teams competed, followed by 46 teams in 2020 and 73 teams, or 146 golfers, in the year-end event in 2021.
While the Tournament of Champions is essentially the last competitive tournament of the season, the 2022 GPS tour schedule is set to run through Oct. 4 in Scotland.