Since 2005, the annual Lake Challenge invitational golf tournament has been contested at Reynolds Lake Oconee (RLO), usually during early fall. In its 16th year, the tournament founded by Tim O’Leary (now Commissioner Emeritus), is a Ryder Cup-like, match play event played over three days at three different RLO courses. Since inception, more than 100 RLO members have competed in this tournament.
Approximately 30 golfers are invited each year. The field is split into two teams of 15 golfers each, in such a way as to achieve equivalent team handicaps. In other words, each team has equivalent talent. Each team is led by a designated captain.
•Day 1: Seven 4-Ball matches
•Day 2: Seven “Shamble” (modified 4-Ball) matches
•Day 3: 14 Singles matches
This year, the tournament was led by captains Joe Shea (Green Team) and Jim Blankenheim (White Team) and “rising Captain” Harry Cardillo. (Captains serve 2 years with staggered terms, with one “retiring” each year to be replaced by the rising Captain next year. James Hey, an Oconee course golf pro, did an outstanding job managing the players. James has been the tournament pro liaison for recent years. Wes Forrester, Director of Golf Operations and Head Professional, Reynolds Lake Oconee, orchestrated the seamless schedule of games to ensure all the members had an enjoyable tournament.
Match pairings are arranged by the team captains. This year, pairings were done by random draw with some minor tweaking done by the captains. One of the pairing goals was to not have the same players pitted against each other every match. The captains relied on the USGA Handicap System to “even the playing field.”
During normal times, in addition to the golf competition, there are significant social events for the players:
•Pre-tournament outing at the Monroe Golf and Country Club
•Each player receives a custom-monogramed golf shirt. This year, dark green Nike shirts were procured through RLO.
•Opening night prime rib dinner hosted at the home of one of the players with the majority of
the heavy cooking performed by RLO Chef Billy Greenwald.
•Putting contest on opening night
•Pizza and adult beverages after the Day 1 matches
•Lunch and adult beverages after the Day 2 matches
•Awards banquet with wives and trophy presentation the evening of the Day 3 matches
This year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all social events were cancelled with the exception of the Monroe outing and some beverages consumed on Day 3 while waiting for the final singles matches to be completed.
Results from the 2020 Lake Challenge tournament:
•Day 1, September 8, 4-Ball at the Preserve Course
White Team – 5 points
Green Team – 2 points
•Day 2, September 9, Shamble at the Oconee Course
White Team – 3 1⁄2 points
Green Team – 3 1⁄2 points
•Day 3, September 11, Individual Matches at Great Waters
White Team – 8 1⁄2 points
Green Team – 3 1⁄2 points
White Team – 17 points
Green Team – 11 points
Members of the winning White Team were: Captain Jim Blankenheim, Peter Allutto, Al Anderson, Dave Angner, John Baird, Jim Degnan, Mike Fuller, Dave Goldrich, Howard Goldstein, Frank Lanzarone, Jack McDonald, Bill Necel, Tim O'Leary, Mike Reagan, Walt Sarokas, and Dave Wiencek.
Members of the Green Team were: Captain Joe Shea, Karl Burgess, Harry Cardillo, Brian Carlson, Bob Desmond, Arnie LeClair, Chuck Merrill, Andy Nash, Bill Sawls, Jerry Schonhoft, Joe Shea, Larry Sloan, Mike Sullivan, Rick Thompson, Jim Todoroff and Mark Volker.