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Tom Bauer hemmed and hawed, weighed his options and then reconsidered his decision.
In the end, friends and family came first.
Bauer — the 2012 Illinois Valley Men’s Golf champion and a seven-time area-wide winner — will not defend his title at this year’s IV Men’s Golf Championship, which starts Sunday at Senica’s Oak Ridge Golf Club and concludes next Sunday at Mendota Golf Club.
Instead, Bauer decided Monday morning to follow through with a preplanned getaway this weekend with his wife and friends rather than canceling the trip to defend his title.
“It was a hard decision, but it’s what I had to do,” said Bauer, who noted his wife and friends let him make the final decision. “I’ve been pondering it for about three weeks now. It was made even harder being that I was the defending champion and I won’t be able to defend it.”
While the defending champion will not be in the field, this year’s IV Men’s Golf Championship is shaping up to be the deepest in the five-year history of the event.
The tournament features past area-wide winners in Chris Coleman — the 2011 champion and 2010 runner-up — and four-time winner Fred Steele.
There also are veterans Jim Moskalewicz and Tom Prescott as well as youth in Alex Arbogast — the head professional and director of golf at Senica’s Oak Ridge who finished second last year — as well as Eric Ciucci, Patrick Goy, Steve Stachowiak and Troy Bauer.
Then there’s the return of a familiar face in four-time champion Jeremy DeBernardi, as well as possibly others.
“As a golfer, you’d rather have all the top guys playing because it gives a lot more meaning when you play well,” Coleman said. “It’s a lot better feeling to know that they are all there instead of on vacation or somewhere else.”
After an off tournament last season, Coleman returns to the IV Men’s Golf Championship more focused and prepared. This summer he’s played 2-3 times a week and has been working on putting and driving.
“I knew last year I was pretty much a sitting duck and that I didn’t have much of a chance,” Coleman said. “This year, I’m really looking forward to it and it’s exciting to be up there (as one of the favorites).”
Arbogast is back as the highest-returning finisher from last year when he edged Collin Slattery — who is not playing this year due to a family vacation — in a playoff.
Now with an area-wide tournament under his belt and nearly 1 1/2 years in the area, Arbogast is looking to win his first title and aims to get off to a good start with the first round on his home course.
“I haven’t played a whole lot because this year has been extremely busy, but I have played a few rounds of golf,” he said. “It will be a pretty substantial benefit for me (to be playing at Senica’s Oak Ridge ) because I know all the ins and outs of the golf course, so I definitely have an advantage over those who don’t get an opportunity to see Oak Ridge as much as I do.”
The tournament is getting an infusion with the return of DeBernardi, the assistant superintendent at Pine Hills Golf Club south of Ottawa. He last played in the event in 2010 but skipped the past two tournaments as Pine Hills participated in a two-round, one-weekend Ottawa city tournament.
After interest in the Ottawa city tournament waned, the event — which was held on the first weekend of the IV Men’s Golf Championship — was canceled and has allowed more Ottawa-area players to compete.
“The tournament was canceled — which was unfortunate — but now I am freed up again so I decided to play in the event, which is so much fun,” DeBernardi said. “I would’ve always kept playing if not for the Ottawa city tournament and that I work at Pine Hills.”
Despite not playing as much as in years past, DeBernardi is still one of the favorites as he won four area-wide titles in a six-year span from 2004-09.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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