Dave Geddes still plays golf, but not as well as he did when he became the first two-time champion of the Kodiak Island Golf Championship in 1995.
“The 37-year-old Dave Geddes — even though I was a beginner back then — could definitely beat the 69-year-old,” he joked via cell phone on Wednesday morning from Seattle.
Geddes left the island in 1997 and now calls Anchorage his home. However, he spends half the year playing on golf courses in the Pacific Northwest. He has family there.
“I’ve got my 6-year-old daughter a set of golf clubs, and we are golfing,” he said.
Even though Geddes is decades removed from The Rock, he vividly remembers the first island golf championship held in 1987 — a year after Coast Guard opened the nine-hole Bear Valley Golf Course on Anton Larsen Bay Road.
Geddes played a prominent role in the opener by winning with a 36-hole total of 173 — the highest winning score carded in the 33-year history of the prestigous tournament.
The title fell his way when leader David Burnette folded down the stretch, hitting errant tee shots into heavy rough. That was enough for Geddes, who played solid, but not spectacular golf, to overcome a four or five-shot deficit, he said.
“The wheels just fell off,” Geddes recalled. “I think by the time we got to the ninth tee box, he was probably ready to throw up.”
Geddes said he wasn’t keeping track of his score because he thought he was playing for second. He was told of his triumphs moments after finishing the final hole.
“I felt worse for Dave than I did winning because we were friends,” Geddes said. “I was surprised by the whole thing.”
There was a perfectly good reason why the winning score was 173 — 29 strokes over par: The course was rugged and still taking shape. Temporary greens were used, which made the course shorter, Geddes said.
“The real greens were there, but they were just mounds of dirt. Not even grass planted on them yet,” he said.
Even worse was the knee-high grass that bordered both sides of the two creeks that cut through holes five, eight and nine. Geddes said Alaska Department of Fish and Game wouldn’t let the grounds crew cut the grass because a wildlife buffer had to be maintained to protect the passing fish.
And what about the fairways?
“There were pockets of deep grass where there were dips in the fairway. You had to watch where your ball went. You just didn’t walk out there and assume you were going to find your golf ball,” Geddes said. “Those guys who maintained the course did the best they could — I don’t think any of them had any golf course experience.”
And most of the golfers didn’t either. Some, like Geddes, grew up in the Lower 48 playing golf. Others were introduced to the game in 1986.
Golfers flocked to the island’s new entertaiment facility as Geddes said there were enough golfers for four flights in the 1987 tournament.
The course grew easier to navigate in the preceding years, and, in 1995, Geddes put his name on the island championship trophy one more time. This time, his score was a then-tournanment record 155, which is the average winning score in the tournament’s history.
The tournament record of 132 was established in 2009 and belongs to James McCarthy.
“Isn’t that amazing,” Geddes said. “The main thing (for us) was, hit your ball straight and just be able to find it — that was the challenge. It is hard to believe how hard that course was to play.”
Following a skiing accident where he broke both ankles and his back, Geddes returned to play in the 2018 island championship. Ironically, he shot a 173, which was good for second in the first flight.
“It wasn’t great golf, but at least I got to play,” he said.
A glance back at the past 14 tournaments:
2019 — Capt. Jeffrey Good became the first member of the Coast Guard to win the island title since 2015 when he carded a 159 — six strokes better than runner-up Charles Martin. Good and Martin were tied for the lead after the opening 18 holes with an 81.
Susan Schmeisser captured the women’s island title with a 16-stroke victory over Alyssa Hopkins. Schmeisser carded a 212 to top the four-lady field.
2018 — At the age of 66, Jamie Schilbach held off club pro Joe Rafson to capture his first men’s crown in his 12th attempt. Schilbach finished with a 161 to Rafson’s 164.
“I was grinding hard,” Schilbach said. “These guys are all young, and they have long drives and putt good. I’m just a short-knocker and up-and-downer.”
Rebecca Rebar shot a 217 to top the ladies field that featured three golfers.
2017 — Chuck Martin sealed his first island championship on the final hole of the 36-hole tournament. Deadlocked with Mike Burr atop the leaderboard, Martin stuck his 150-foot approach shot on the green and ended with a par, while Burr’s errant tee shot landed under a tree and led to a bogey. Martin won with a 152.
“I knew it was a sweet shot the second I hit it,” Martin said. “I looked at him underneath the trees, and I knew he didn’t have a backswing and knew he was in trouble.”
For the first time since 2014, a women’s champion was crowned, and that title went to Schmeisser, who shot a 205 just months after recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum.
2016 — A summer spent on the course paid off for Darin Ruhl as he carded a 165 to finish three strokes better than runner-up Dustin Roberson, the 2013 champion.
Ruhl logged over 90 rounds off golf before the tournament, which he had played in only once before.
“He has put the time in. He did the work and deserved it,” Roberson said.
2015 — Using exquisite touch around the green, Mike Currier, a chief warrant officer in the Coast Guard, fought off a charging Rick Kalil to win with a 150. Currier led by seven strokes, but Kalil cut his lead to two with six holes left. Kalil, the 2014 champion, finished three strokes back.
“He was pressing me the whole time,” Currier said. “He is a great striker of the ball, and I was making a lot of mistakes there on the turn.”
2014 — Kalil dominated the first 27 holes of the two-day tournament by so much that the final nine holes turned into a two-hour victory lap. Kalil’s 151 was 10 strokes better than runner-up Chuck Martin.
Kriss Larsen, again the only lady in the field, won the women’s title with a 171.
2013 — Roberson’s mammoth tee shots landed him the 2013 island title with a 152 — two strokes better than three-time champion Fred Barber.
“For today, I was the best golfer,” said Roberson. “Tomorrow, the guys that I played with will beat me nine times out of 10. It just worked out perfectly.”
Kriss Larsen, the only lady in the field, carded a 185.
2012 — Fisherman Mike Haymaker skipped work to grab his only men’s title with a 160. He finished four strokes better than 2011 champion Brett Larsen.
“It means a lot,” Haymaker said. “It has been over 10 years trying to chase these guys. I love the game. It is a thrill for me.”
Brett Larsen held a one-shot lead with nine holes to play, but two triple bogeys took him out of contention.
Kriss Larsen won the one-lady field with a 176.
2011 — It was the Larsen show — Brett and Kriss — at the 2011 tournament. The couple claimed both titles, with Brett shooting a 155 and Kriss a 180.
“Normally we go camping, but we sold our camper this year,” Kriss said. “It was fun. It was a lot of fun.”
2010 — Fred Barber took advantage of Brett Larsen’s misfortunes to win his third island title with a 157. Brett Larsen held the lead heading into the final nine, but a bogey on the third hole and a double bogey on the fifth hole handed the victory to Barber. Brett Larsen tied for second with John Sullivan with a 162.
Schmeisser’s 202 topped LaFollete’s 224 to win the women’s crown.
2009 — James McCarthy defended his 2008 title and lowered his tournament-record to 132, which is 12-under-par. He was 17 strokes ahead of Barber.
“Everything felt good,” he said. “My driver has been working awesome … it just all came together at the same time.”
Karen LaFollete grabbed the women’s title with a 199 over Schmeisser and Edwina Horn.
2008 — McCarthy displayed why he once was a professional on the Dakota Golfing Tour by breezing to his first island title with a 139 — 18 strokes ahead of runner-up John Sullivan.
“I have wanted to play this for a long time, but just never had the chance. Now, I can get my name on that trophy,” said McCarthy, who died in 2016 of cancer.
Schmeisser won the two-person women’s field with a 196.
2007 — Steve Axley recorded a then-tournament record 149 to take first over Peter Allan by eight strokes.
Axley entered the final round in a four-way tie for first with Jerry LaFollette, John Durham and Barber. He distanced himself from the pack with a 72 on the last 18 holes.
In one of the closest finishes in the women’s tournament, Sharon Horn’s 183 topped Schmeisser by one stroke.
Horn trailed Schmeisser by five strokes after the first 18 holes but made up the deficit with a final round 90.
“I just came out and played my own game,” said Horn.
2006 — Barber grabbed a three-stroke victory over Sullivan, finishing with a 151. Schmeisser won her first women’s title with a nine-shot win over Sharon Horn. Schmeisser carded a 190.
The rest of the results
2005 — Bryan Stotts, 157; 2004 — Bryan Stotts, 152; 2003 — Fred Barber, 150; 2002 — John Sullivan, 157; 2001 — Peter Allan, 154; 2000 — John Sullivan, 158; 1999 — Art Bors, 150; 1998 — John Sullivan, 157; 1997 — Peter Allan, 157; 1996 — Art Bors, 157; 1995 — Dave Geddes, 155; 1994 — Luke Rooks, 118*; 1993 — Sam Litzinger, 162; 1992 — Casey Russell, 162; 1991 — Frank Tennison, 160; 1990 — Paul Holland, 156; 1989 — Rick Palmer, 162; 1988 — Rick Lindholm, 125*; 1987 — Dave Geddes, 173.
Women (dating back to 1992)
2005 — Sharon Horn, 178; 2004 — Sharon Horn; 2003 — Sharon Horn, 186; 2002 — Sharon Horn, 189; 2001 — Jennifer Fogle, 225; 2000 — Karenia Hackett, 197; 1999 — Karenia Hackett; 1998 — n/a; 1997 — Karenia Hackett, 194; 1996 — n/a; 1995 — Amy Rooks, 199; 1994 — Karenia Hackett; 1993 — Rhonda Preslor, 158*; 1992 — Bonnie Jones, 231.
* 27-hole totals