Country Club to host Mike Fatke Memorial Hickory Tournament

MANISTEE — Established in 1901, the Manistee Golf & Country Club is one of the oldest operating courses in the state, and with its shoreline location along the bluffs of Lake Michigan, it’s arguably one of the most picturesque as well.

No one loved — nor cared for — the historic course more than longtime superintendent Mike Fatke, who sadly passed away earlier this year at the age of 55.

Since the spring of 1994, Fatke had maintained the grounds with thorough care and meticulous attention, considering the course his home away from home. He also had a passion for the game of golf and regularly played the Country Club’s back nine in the evenings, notably with his collection of vintage hickory clubs.

“Mike was such a great guy,” said Fred Niles, a club member and friend of Fatke’s. “It was such a sad thing to lose him of course, personally, and for the club to lose him too, in light of how much he loved and took care of the course.”

On Sept. 20-22, a memorial tournament will be held in Fatke’s name as participants will fittingly play with hickory golf clubs, or “hickories.”

The Mike Fatke Memorial Hickory Tournament is formatted as a two-person best ball/four ball matchplay event, as teams will play four nine-hole matches, each with 10 points up for grabs (one point for each hole won and one for the match). Handicaps will be in play, with modern club handicaps adjusted.

The overall winner will be determined by the team accumulating the most points by the end of the weekend tournament. In case of a tie, a chip-off will determine the victor.

The event will kick off with an optional practice round on Friday, Sept. 20, which will also include an evening picnic. Two matches, with lunch served in between, will be played Saturday, with a casual dinner slated for that evening. And the final two matches will be played Sunday, with lunch and an awards presentation following.

Niles, the tournament’s organizer, said the idea was initially sparked in conversations he had with Fatke.

“He and I had talked several times about doing some kind of a hickory event at the club,” Niles said. “Then one day, some fellows from Traverse City showed up with hickories, and Mike asked if he could play with them and ran home to get his.

“Subsequently, I ended up through happenstance meeting one of those guys he had played with, Howard Vogel,” Niles explained. “With Howard, we talked about getting a tournament together, and he has a friend, Roger Hill, who’s the commissioner of the Michigan Hickory Tour.

“So, we all kind of put this event together, and I had mentioned to them I’d like it to be a memorial tournament to Mike, and they were enthusiastic about that.”

The inaugural memorial tournament is now part of the Michigan Hickory Tour, which, according to its website, is one of the largest hickory playing groups in the country. The tour is comprised of golfers who play with pre-1935 hickory clubs and is affiliated with the Society of Hickory Golfers.

Niles, himself, has picked up the hobby in recent years and even played in the US Hickory Open this past summer at the Belvedere Golf Club in Charlevoix.

“It was the first tournament I ever played in with hickory clubs,” he said. “I was thinking maybe I’m a bit in over my head here, but really what you find is it’s as much a social event as it is a golf tournament.

“There are golfers there that are very interested in scoring well and winning, but a lot of it is about camaraderie of those who have a common interest in golf and the history and antiquity of it.”

With his career in education and experience in the arts, Niles said he was naturally drawn to hickory golf. And with its history and layout, the Manistee Golf & Country Club is the perfect place for a hickory tournament.

“The aesthetic of it is something that had always intrigued me,” Niles said of the sport. “The whole idea of playing with these old clubs and recognizing that our course — the Country Club — is just an ideal place for hickory golf. The history of it, the set up, the length, the small greens, the winds off the lake: it really is perfect.”

The tournament will be held the same weekend of Manistee’s annual Hops and Props Craft Beer Festival, which features a classic boat show.

“Originally, we were going to play five nine-hole matches, but we’ve altered that to two on Saturday and two on Sunday,” Niles explained. “We recognized that the Hops and Props event is going on at the same time Saturday, so instead of three matches that day, we limited it to two in the morning, and as part of the participants’ entry fee we provide them a ticket to Hops and Props, thinking that those who are interested in hickory golf may be interested in wooden boats as well.”

The tournament is open to anyone, Niles stressed.

“It’s not only for seasoned hickory golfers,” he said. “If there are individuals who simply want to participate as a tribute to Mike, or just because they are intrigued by the idea of playing with these clubs, they are welcome.

“They don’t have to even own clubs, themselves,” he said. “We can provide a set of clubs for them to use if they have an interest. It’s not nearly as intimidating playing with these clubs as one might think”

In fact, the Country Club has a set of hickories in its pro shop that are available for a free test run to those interested.

The cost to play in the tournament is $125 per player (with an additional $20 fee applied for social events guests) or $250 for a team. Registration forms can be found at manisteegolfandcc.com. Participants can register individually or as a team. Individual registrants will be teamed up with a partner. The deadline to register is Sept. 16. For further information, visit the website or call the Country Club at (231) 723-2509.

“It’s always a bit of a challenge getting the first one off the ground, but we’re starting to create some interest,” Niles said, “and it’s something we hope to continue in the future.”

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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