By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Manager
TROY — For Gareth Johnston, it was a fitting reward for a job well done.
Or, in her case, 25 jobs well done.
“This is like icing on the cake for me,” Johnston said Monday, just before teeing off in the Troy Bicentennial Golf Classic Monday at the Troy Country Club. “I was a bundle of nerves all weekend. But now I feel like I can settle down and enjoy this.”
Sunday, Johnston captured her 25th Troy Country Club championship, a mark that puts her amongst the nation’s leaders in country club championships. The next day, she had the opportunity — along with a number of area pros and amateurs — to play alongside three-time U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin and two-time PGA tour winner Frank Lickliter.
Monday’s event was the second golf exhibition celebrating Troy’s history. Fifty years ago, grand slam (U.S. Open, Masters, British Open, PGA) champion Gary Player and 1964 PGA champion Bobby Nichols were at Miami Shores for the city’s sesquicentennial. They played 18 holes with Miami Shores pro Dixie Rutherford and Troy CC pro Jim Geram.
Irwin and Lickliter played alongside Troy Country Club pro Kyle Courtright and Piqua CC pro Mark Robart, along with perennial Troy Country Club champions Johnston and Michael Walker.
Others who played in the event included Piqua club members Doug Eakin and Jeff Schaffner, along with Ryan Groff from Miami Shores, Caroline Elsass-Smith from the Troy High School girls’ team, past Troy CC president and two-time club champion Brad Nimer and Bob Cooley, director of golf and head coach for more than 25 years at Ohio University.
“This is the opportunity of a lifetime,” Walker said. “There’s always some nerves when you get started, but after the first couple of holes, you usually settle down. It’s quite an honor to have (Irwin and Lickliter) in town and have the opportunity to play with them.”
Both Irwin and Lickliter have local ties. Irwin’s daughter married former Troy resident Tim Meyer, a 1987 Troy High School graduate. Lickliter, a Franklin native, played collegiately at Wright State University and played against Walker — a Troy High School and Ohio University graduate — several times in college.
Monday was not the first time Lickliter had played at the Troy Country Club. The club hosted the Wright State Invitational while Lickliter still was playing for the Raiders.
“I played here about 25 years ago — today I’m going to play it all from memory,” Lickliter said with a laugh. “Michael and I did play against one another in college, probably eight or 10 times. I’m looking forward to it. It should be a fun event. It’s a great course they’ve got here.”
Proceeds from the event will go to Hospice of Miami County.
“It doesn’t matter what your status is, you always like to give back,” Irwin said. “Monday events like this are an opportunity for all of us to give back in some way to those in the community who have given our sport the grass-roots support. Hospice is a particularly good charity to give back to. Hospice worked with my dad before he passed away.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong