By VINCE PELUSO
For the 12th-straight year the Karl Pearson Invitational will return to Maple Ridge to mark the start of the 2013 fall sports pep season.
On Tuesday morning, boys and girls golf teams from the Star Beacon’s coverage area will descend upon the course in Saybrook Township on the first day the OHSAA allows teams to compete.
Maple Ridge General Manager George Bellios said the course is in good shape and excited about hosting the tournament once again.
“I think the course has held up extremely well with the rain we’ve had this summer,” he said. “We are absolutely thrilled to host this event again.”
Originally named the Star Beacon Invitational, this will be the second year the event takes the name of the person who helped organize it for many years, late Star Beacon sports writer Karl Pearson who passed away on Aug. 21, 2011.
Bellios spoke to Pearson’s dedication not only to the event, but the sport of golf and area athletics in general.
“Karl’s dedication wasn’t just involved with golf, he was a dedicated person period,” he said. “I knew Karl for many, many years and any time you needed some information you just give Karl a call and in all probability he knew where to find it.
“His involvement with the golf tournament, by his own admission he wasn’t a golfer, but he was involved in terms of being there very year and was involved with the pre-, during- and post-tournament writing. He was the epitome of a good sports writer.”
Bellios said he and Maple Ridge take great pride in holding the event as it helps keep the younger generation involved in the game.
“It’s important to have this kind of event because we do believe in getting kids and younger people involved with golf,” he said. “Maple Ridge doesn’t host a high school golf team unfortunately, we haven’t had a high school team for a handful of years and we’d love to have one back.
“But any time we see the younger golfers out there, it’s very important to get those people involved.”
Maple Ridge offers a little bit of a different challenge to each player.
A par 71 that measures 6,001 yards, the course is fairly open and long on the font side, while much narrower and shorter on the back nine.
“For a high school player, I think it’s a good golf course,” Bellios said. “You realize that the elite golfers are at a premium for high school golf and most are not going to be the low handicap, scratch golfer. At 6,001 yards and not having an over abundance of hazards for players to hit, it’s challenging enough I think.”
Bellios said he believes it’s a fair course that will provides an opportunity for both the best player as well as the less experienced player to have an enjoyable round.
That said, he also admits it isn’t necessarily an easy course to score on.
“It’s a fair course and provides an opportunity for the low and high handicappers to have fun,” he said. “It’s not as easy to score on as you might think. The front nice has some challenging pars, No. 2 is a tough par and No. 4 is a tough par 4 or a par 5 if the tee box is on top. No. 7 is one of the most challenging par 4s around here then the par 3s on the front side are all long to mid irons.
“Once you get to the back if you’re not hitting it straight you’re going to elevate that number. You have to play halfway decent or you’ll get into trouble.”
Bellios said one of his favorite parts of the course is that it offers to different styles of play on the front and back nine.
“I always liked that about this course,” he said. “It provides two different nines. Depending on which side you start on it gives you a chance to make up for a poor nine with a better back nine.”
The event will begin with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. with boys being shotgun off one side with girls on the other nine.
On the girls side, looking for a three-peat as medalist at the event is Geneva junior Danielle Nicholson.
Bellios said he’s never seen anything like the 2011 Division I state champion.
“No, no, she’s just, wow,” he said. “She has that talent, that gifted talent, that she’s worked so hard to obtain. It’ll be a long time before we see anyone like that around in here in boys or girls golf.”
There will be a closest to the pin contest on hole No. 3 for boys and No. 12 for girls.
The Star Beacon asks that all teams and coaches be at the course by 7:30 a.m. for a coaches meeting in the clubhouse prior to the round.