A youthful, former multi-sport athlete who still works out to stay in shape, Bill Mathers of Cushing certainly doesn't look like the "oldest" player to ever win the coveted Cherokee Sioux Valley Amateur Men's Match-Play Golf Tournament.
But, lo and behold, that's who he became Sunday at the Cherokee Golf & Country Club's 76th annual match-play golf classic when he bested young Brian Schultz of Le Mars 2-1 to win the Championship Flight of the 2010 Sioux Valley Am.
Mathers, age 60, parlayed solid "par" golf in grinding his way through four 18-hole match-play matches Saturday and Sunday. He beat Jason Ruba of Remsen 9 & 7 in his opener on Saturday, and then took out this year's qualifying medalist Nick Dreckman of Remsen 3 & 2. He then defeated Shane Bellefy of Minneapolis 3 & 2 in Sunday's semifinal, before handling Schultz - the 2000 Sioux Valley Am Champion - in the finals.
"Thank God for carts," quipped Mathers, the River Valley Athletic Director and former football, softball, and golf coach, after prevailing through four grueling matches in two days on the hilly Cherokee course layout under ideal weather conditions.
"I started playing in the Sioux Valley back in the late 1960s when I was in college and I've missed some years when I was coaching, but I usually try to play here. It's a great course and tournament and ranks right up there with any golf tournament around, including all those in Sioux City. This is one big feather in my cap.
"I love playing this course. For just nine holes, it has about everything you need to have every shot in golf - uphill, downhill, sidehill, and flat shots. It's in beautiful condition. The Sioux Valley is great because it's so unique, which makes it more fun. There's the qualifying and the match-play golf format, and the people here are very cordial and very knowledgeable about the game."
Schultz, who beat two-time Sioux Valley Champion Todd Sapp of Sioux City 1-up in 20 holes on Saturday, arrived at the Big Show by beating Kyle Mallory of Lakeland, Fla. 6 & 4, Sapp, and Cherokee Braves golf coach James DeVos 3 & 2 in the semis.
Bellefy, a former Cherokee prep, finished third in a Championship Flight consolation match Sunday, nipping DeVos 1-up with a long birdie putt on the last hole.
"Being tough mentally has always been a big part of my game," said Mathers, whose highest Sioux Valley finish had been third. He also has won the First and Second Flights a few times.
"I think my coaching training and skills helps me on the course. I don't get down and I stay composed. I go out and try to make a play when things aren't going too well, just as we coaches are taught to tell our athletes."
Schultz and Mathers are very good friends and have played many golf tournaments with and against each other. In fact, Brian's mom Julie rode in Bill's cart all day Sunday cheering for both players.
"Either one of us could be champion," continued Mathers. "Brian said I deserved to win. He's a great guy and heck of a golfer. I was very fortunate. I think I finished just one or two over par. Not too many birdies or bogeys. Make pars. That's my game."
Seth Schroeder of Iowa City won First Flight with a 3 & 2 win over Blake Bengard of Alton. Ben Sessions of Sioux City was third, and former Cherokean Jason Anderson of Ankeny fourth.
Former Cherokean Curt Johnson of Spirit Lake won Second Flight with a 2-up win over Matt Hagen of Correctionville. Jim Rodgers of Cherokee was third, and Andrew Laing of Chariton fourth.
Mike Noah of Brandon, S.D. won Third Flight with a 4 & 3 win over Dana Braunschweig of Des Moines. Rob Deedrick of Urbandale was third and Bill Weathers of Aurelia fourth. Noah, Braunschweig and Deedrick are Cherokee natives.
Cherokee's Jason Spooner, the Sioux Valley Am Tournament Director, won Fourth Flight with a 2 & 1 win over former Cherokean Craig Johnson of Des Moines. Nick Peterson of Denver, Colo. was third, and Nick James of Chariton was fourth.
Paul Hyndman of Cherokee won Fifth Flight with a 3 & 2 win over former Cherokean Mike Cedar of Iowa City. Josh Cedar of Cherokee was third, and former Cherokean Patrick Greenwood of 29 Palms, Calif. was fourth.
Brian Mallory of Lakeland, Fla. won Sixth Flight with a 3-up win over Jeff Carlson of Houston, Texas. Both are former Cherokeans. Devon Dembinski of Le Mars was third, and Jay Phipps of Moville fourth. Jay smashed his Dad, Pat, who had a hole-in-one on #8 while qualifying, 4 & 3 in second round action.
Kent Simonsen of Cushing won Seventh Flight with a 1-up win over Jim Hoy of Sioux Falls, S.D. to bookend this year's Sioux Valley Am with Cushing Champions. Rich Kueny of Louisville, Neb. was third, and Eric Comstock of Cherokee fourth.
Prior to Mathers winning the Sioux Valley, the oldest player to win was the popular Norm Capps of Kansas City at age 59 when he won in 1995.