By Grant Lucas

The Bulletin

Despite the smoky air from wildfires that has been lingering for several weeks, Chris Meyer is certain the course is ready. The question is: Are the players?

For the first time in its 33-year history, the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Men’s Mid-Amateur Championship, featuring some of the region’s top amateur golfers over the age of 25, will be staged at Bend Golf and Country Club this week. The 54-hole stroke-play tournament tees off Tuesday, and the 77-player field will be trimmed to 60 for Thursday’s final round.

“If you think of the major population bases and the great golf courses within that area, to come to Central Oregon is huge,” says Meyer, the Bend Golf and Country Club head professional, referring to the field of players representing Oregon, Idaho, Washington and British Columbia. “It’s a great highlight for us and for what we offer from a golf standpoint.”

The tournament returns to Central Oregon for the first time since Juniper hosted in 2010. It is the fourth time the championship has been staged in the area since the first men’s mid-amateur championship in 1985.

Among the players competiting is Mike Haack, from Bellevue, Washington, who won the 2016 and the 2009 men’s mid-amateur championship.

“The names on the list are pretty impressive,” Meyer says. “There’s a lot of really great players coming and guys who have won a lot of tournaments recently, including last year’s champion. We’re excited for the quality of the field that’s coming. I know the course will stand up and provide a good test for them and showcase a great golf course.”

Certainly the players from outside Central Oregon are eager to attack the area’s oldest course, but a strong contingent of local players are ready to defend their home turf.

Fourteen players from Bend and one from Sisters (Mike Peyton) are expected to compete in the tournament. Jeff Ward, the 2014 men’s mid-amateur champion who tied for seventh last year, is in the field, as is Charlie Rice, who was third at the 2014 championship and tied with Ward for second at the Mirror Pond Invitational at Bend Golf and Country Club earlier this year.

Other notable Bend players include Clare Langford, who was part of the runner-up team at the Oregon Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Black Butte Ranch last month; Tim Cecil, who tied for 18th at last year’s championship and was fourth at the 2017 Mirror Pond Invitational; and Cody Pinkston, who tied for 20th at last year’s mid-amateur championship.

“They’re all excited,” Meyer says of the local players. “We have eight members from Bend that are in the field and a few other Oregon guys in there as well. They’re excited to show off their home course but also to have a chance to claim the title on their home course and have that be part of their resume going forward.”

The first group Tuesday, which includes Haack, is scheduled to tee off at 8:30 a.m.

“The course is going to be in great shape,” Meyer says. “Knowing this was coming up, we kind of planned around it the last couple weeks and gotten it to where we’re going to be able to dry it out a little bit, make it play firm and fast. The greens are very true right now and will be pretty quick next week. The smoke obviously brings a challenge. … But the course has come through that really well. And if we can get a couple great days between now and then, the course will be in great shape by Tuesday.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0307,