The ninth annual Craig Bowers Monster Ball Memorial Golf Tournament will proceed as planned this weekend at Webb Hill Country Club amid concerns about the coronavirus.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, following a spike in reported COVID-19 cases in the state, issued an executive order on Friday, ordering that “outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people must be approved by local governments, with certain exceptions.”
Kevin Bowers, one of the tournament organizers, said the tournament committee obtained the approval of Hunt County Judge Bobby Stovall and Richard Hill, the interim head of the Hunt County Heath Department, to continue with the tournament that features 103 two-player teams competing in eight flights in a scramble format. The 36-hole tournament tees off on Saturday and concludes on Sunday at the 18-hole layout near Wolfe City.
“They said we were OK,” said Bowers. “We need to do stuff to encourage social distancing.”
Social events that were connected with the tournament planned for Friday and Saturday nights were canceled, according to Bowers.
“We just need to keep people from gathering up,” he said. “Make it just golf.”
Bowers said the sand bunkers will be taken out of play so that golfers don’t handle the rakes.
“At our check-in tables, people will be wearing masks,” he said. “We’ll try to promote social distancing (keeping at least six feet away from the nearest person).”
The tournament was in limbo in March through May but the Bowers family announced the tournament was on after Abbott announced phase III of reopening Texas activity that had been restricted due to the pandemic. It then didn’t take long for the tournament to fill up with registered golfers.
“It filled up in six days,” said Bowers. “We’ve got 103 teams. I didn’t know if it was going to fill up because of everybody’s situation with COVID. I’m shocked.”
Scott Coffman, who finished first last year in the championship flight with partner Todd Mayfield, is entered in the field with Greenville golfer Matt Neyra, a former Webb Hill club champion who has won several local tournaments. Coffman and Mayfield shot a 90 for 27 holes after the tournament ended nine holes early because of a heavy thunderstorm.
“Since it was based on 27 holes, my goal now is to win in 36 holes,” said Coffman, who was a close friend of Craig Bowers, who died in 2112 in a skiing accident. Bowers was a former Greenville Lion athlete and coach and also was an assistant principal at Royse City High School.
Another entrant is Steven Bowditch, a native Australian who is a two-time winner on the Professional Golfers Association Tour. Bowditch won the Texas Open in 2014 and the Byron Nelson in 2015. He competed in the 2016 Monster Ball tournament but withdrew during the final round of the tournament. He’s paired this time with Greenville golfer Alan Hawkins, who has finished atop the leaderboard at several local tournaments.
Dustin Stephenson and Geoff Moulton, who won the first flight last year, have been moved up to the championship flight.
Paris golfers Jack Nottingham and Gatz Nottingham, who won the first flight in the 2014 tournament, will be another team to watch in the championship flight.
Golfers in the top four flights will tee off at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, followed by the other four flights at 1:30 p.m. The flights will switch on Sunday with scheduled tee times at 7 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Proceeds from the tournament benefit local charities.