ANAMOSA - Following two days of intense men’s Eastern Iowa golf tournament action, Wapsi Country Club team captain Dan Messerli stepped to the microphone Sunday, Aug. 12, and spoke to the huge crowd assembled in front of the Wapsi clubhouse during the awards ceremony in Anamosa.
Everyone in attendance quickly quieted to a hush and intently listened to what Messerli had to say.
Over the last several years, the Wapsi Country Club family has lost some iconic members.
Al Norton, Jim Wunder and Doug McNamara have all passed away in recent years, and Messerli wanted everyone to know that those three stars were still looking out for their fellow Wapsi brothers who were competing Saturday, Aug. 11, and Sunday, Aug. 12, on their own Wapsi Country Club course, and threesome helped bring another Eastern Iowa championship home to Anamosa.
“As Solon was making a charge on Sunday, I know Al, Jim and Doug were looking down on us and saying, ‘hey these guys need our help,” Messerli said. “They all came through for us once again.”
Did they ever.
Wapsi claimed their first Eastern Iowa tournament championship since 2013, when they won in Tipton, and defended their home course for the second straight time when they hosted and won the tournament back in 2007.
Wapsi has now won five of the last 14 Eastern Iowa team championships. No other club in the nine-team Eastern Iowa league can make such a claim.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that Al, Jim and my dad (Doug) were all looking out for us,” said an emotional Bret McNamara, who had tears in his eyes as Wapsi’s title-winning score was announced Sunday night.
McNamara (67-66) tied with teammate Al Recker (66-67) to post Wapsi’s top score of the two-day event carding sensational one-over par rounds of 133 that placed fourth overall.
“There’s no doubt, those three guys were with us there at the tournament, too. For me, though, the two days were about my dad. I was thinking about him all the time, and I know he, Al and Jim are all proud of what we were able to accomplish. We came into this tournament with the expectation of winning, and we did it.”
The tournament, which was reported to be tight heading into the final few holes, opened up at the end as Wapsi won the title by an impressive eight strokes over two-time defending champion Solon.
McNamara, Mike Carrier and Lenny Rhomberg III all came through with clutch birdies late in the day on the 18th and final hole Sunday, allowing the hosts to pull away.
McNamara chipped in for his birdie, sending the crowd sitting just off the green into a huge roar that could be heard clear across the course.
Wapsi carded a two-day total of 1,349 while the Solon team made their way through the challenging Anamosa course with a card of 1,357.
But in the end, it was the hosts who led from start-to-finish.
Wapsi opened their tournament with an nine hole team score of 344 and tied with Solon before making their move to the top of the standings all by themselves with a second-round 327.
Anamosa wrapped the first day of the tournament with a 671 score and led runner-up Solon (677) by six shots.
While Solon made a run at the hosts on Sunday, it was Wapsi who kept making clutch shot after clutch shot to hold on at the end.
“To be honest, I was getting a little nervous there at the end,” McNamara said. “We had heard Solon was making a charge. They were the two-time defending champs and were returning a really good team.
“But we have a pretty good team here, too, and to realize our summer-long dream of bringing an Eastern Iowa championship back to Wapsi is an amazing feeling.”
Wapsi dominated the individual leader board as well posting five scores in the tournament top-10, as Rhomberg III (65-70), Carrier (66-69) and Dillon Eggers (69-66) all finished with three-over par cards of 135 to join teammates McNamara and Recker.
The low individual round for Sunday, and for the tournament overall, came from Monticello’s Brian McDonald.
McDonald was absolutely on fire Sunday shooting a mind-boggling six-under par round of 60 (32-28), that also included his first-ever hole-in-one (on hole No. 1).
McDonald finished with a two-day total of eight-under par 124 (64-60) to win the individual title by five shots over Solon’s Sterling McIlravy, who tallied a 129 (62-67).
Also helping the Wapsi team to the Eastern Iowa championship were: Mitch Martensen 137 (69-68), Joel Downing 137 (68-69), Brett Seeley 137 (66-71), Sean Smith 138 (69-69), Dennis Kula 138 (68-70), Scott Nemmers 142 (70-72) and Dave Marshall 144 (73-71).
Rounding out the 91st annual men’s Eastern Iowa team scoring were: Monticello (1,397), Mount Vernon (1,401), Dyersville (1,412), Bellevue (1,455), West Liberty (1,480), Tipton (1,488) and Wahkonsa (1,491).
Anamosa also had two members inducted into the Eastern Iowa Hall of Fame as Marshall and Ron Ruess were enshrined while Logan Seeley and Jeremiah Snow were the club’s 2018 scholarship recipients.
“It was just meant to be for us this year,” McNamara said. “The Al Norton trophy is back where it belongs. Back with the Wapsi family.”