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Lincoln Highway prep underway

Did I happen to mention this is my favorite time of the year?

The grind of putting together a football tab is still more than 3 weeks away. Us sports types are using up some well-earned vacation time, gearing up for another high school sports season.

And for me, first and foremost, it’s tournament golf season.

The 97th annual Men’s Lincoln Highway Tournament will be played Saturday and Sunday at Deer Valley Golf Club, about 10 miles south of Rock Falls. As has become a tradition, yours truly has packaged a Links With Locals with a practice round for the event.

This week, my playing partners were two fellow tournament players, Bob Venier and Ryan Marshall. Come Saturday morning, Venier will be manning the No. 6 spot for Timber Creek, while Marshall is the No. 2 player for Deer Valley.

I’ll be occupying the No. 3 spot for Sunset.

It was Venier who helped my home course get back into the LHT after a long hiatus. I was covering the 2000 event at Clinton Country Club when I mentioned Sunset had some pretty good golfers, we could be competitive, and what did we need to do to get in?

Venier said we needed to make our pitch at the following year’s tournament, during the Saturday meeting held each year. We did, Sunset got voted in, and starting in 2002 at Rock River Country Club, we’ve been in ever since. It’s always the focal point of my summer.

Venier is a partner at Venier’s Jewelers in downtown Dixon, and has worked in the family business for the past 38 years. He lives off the eighth hole at Timber Creek, and last week while trying out that course, I hit one out of bounds on the eighth, right toward Venier’s pool.

If we have a post-LHT party come Sunday night, I’ll be looking for that Titleist.

This weekend will mark the 26th time Venier has competed in the Lincoln Highway. He has evolved into the unofficial ambassador for the event.

Whenever the host team has a question about anything related to the tournament, they call Bob. He also conducts the Saturday meeting most years, taking over that role from Lou Cesarek after he moved away about 7 years ago.

Venier has been a member at Timber Creek for 40 years, and is a six-time club champion. He is thrilled to have the opportunity to play there again, as it re-opened this week after being closed for all of the 2018 season.

“Many, many thanks to Rick and Brenda Humphrey,” Venier said of the couple that is leasing Timber Creek for the next 2 years. “Without them, we would not have our golf course back. Hopefully it’s going to be a success.”

Marshall was nosed out by Venier for the sixth and final spot on Timber Creek’s team, but no worries – he had already secured a spot on Deer Valley’s squad. He’ll be competing in his fourth LHT this weekend.

Marshall is the owner of one of my favorite watering holes in Dixon, The Stables. There is no finer place to watch NFL games on Sunday. That is where I watched Cody Parkey double-doink the potential game-winning kick for the Bears in a division round game last January, a loss that still stings.

In addition to running the bar, Marshall has been a Dixon City Council member for the past 2 years, and ran for mayor in the spring of 2019.

As for the golf on Tuesday afternoon, Marshall had it rolling. He finished with an even-par 72 and was +8 in the best-against-bogey scoring system that will be used in the Lincoln Highway.

Venier was next with a 78, and was +3.

Me, I was a ball-losing machine (four, to be exact) and chopped it around in 80 strokes, and was even best-against-bogey. It was enjoyable, though, making our way around a course that will present a nice test this weekend. I can’t wait.

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