It was a beautiful Monday on August 15 for the 40th annual Rockford PRO-AM, fittingly held on Rockford Day (815). The event brought professional and amateur players together at Rockford Country Club for the second straight year for a fun and exciting day of golf.
The day began with a four-hole scramble as the invitees split up into quartets for a best shot competition, won by a group of younger players consisting of Illinois grad Charlie Danielson, Bobby Wyatt and Emma Talley of Alabama, and Stanford graduate Mariah Stackhouse.
Immediately after the scramble, world-renowned long driver Dewald Gouws of South Africa put on a show for the spectators, driving with various clubs off tees low and high, and squaring off against two-time LPGA majors winner Brittany Lincicome, who is also Gouws' wife. He ended the exhibition by driving a golf ball through a watermelon and onto the fairway.
The 18-hole tournament was won individually by former NCAA national champion Brenden Todd of Georgia, and the winning group featured 2015 Quicken Loans National champion Troy Merritt, playing with Frank Graceffa, Bill Bremner, Clark Wangaard, and Amos Yoder.
Familiar faces from the PGA returned to Rockford, such as Billy Hurley III and Ken Duke, and a new participant made his presence known as Boo Weekley delighted the crowd with his easy-going personality.
Local flavor was felt throughout the course as the Alpine Bank group played with Charlie Danielson, consisting of an all NIC-10 quartet of Harlem's Austin Young, Hononegah's Varun Menon, Auburn's Joseph Rock, and Josh Cassaro of Belvidere North.
The LPGA's Austin Ernst, a former national champion from LSU, played with an all local female group of Claudia Conness, Erin Markley, Leah Ports, and Kristen Sayyalinh.
Boylan graduates Danny Gorman, a former IHSA state champion, and Kyle Slattery, the reigning back-to-back Men's City champion, played in a group with the PGA's Martin Piller, whose wife Gerina is a former Rockford PRO/AM player, now competing in this year's 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.