The third stop of the 2006 Dakotas Tour landed at The Bluffs golf course in Vermillion last weekend and featured 96 amateurs and 96 professionals. For the up-and-comers in competition, the three-round tournament gave them a unique opportunity to hang with the big boys.
"This whole thing was a great experience for me," said Michael Billet, who teaches in Gayville. "We got to meet a lot of the pros and see just how good we are."
Billet, who is a member at The Bluffs, finished in seventh place on the amateur side with a three-day score of 219.
"I thought I shot pretty well," he said. "I was pleased … especially with this weather."
The weather was a constant factor throughout the weekend, as South Dakota saw record temperatures take a fall. More than that, Billet says, the humidity was the biggest annoyance.
"The key for us out here is to just stay hydrated," he said.
Dustin Wigington of Oklahoma City, OK, was the champion on the professional side, finishing 23-under-par (193) for the tournament.
Entering the S.D. Open, Wigington was ranked 28th in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Eddie Heinen is familiar with two things, he says. Golf and hot temperatures. The 36 year-old hails from Las Vegas and is a member of the Canadian Professional Golf Tour. He finished sixth in last year's Pro/Am tournament at The Bluffs, but says this year was different.
"I'm used to playing in the heat, but not this humidity; it definitely plays a factor," said Heinen, who was born on the Philippine Islands. "It can get you if you let it."
Heinen shot a 67-68-75 to finish with a three-day score of 210, good enough for 27th place. Although there was a first place prize of $11,000 at stake, Heinen couldnt' help but rave about The Bluffs.
"This is a great event, and a beautiful golf course," he said. "A lot of good things can happen out here. I play in several tournaments, but this happens to be one of my favorites."
Last year's second place pro finisher at the S.D. Open, Ryan Vermeer, returned to Vermillion this year to challenge for first place. However, the Lawrence, KS native wasn't expecting the heat.
"The golf carts were nice to have, but we all just had to pace ourselves," he said, echoing the sentiments of his peers. "Even the warmups were hard."
Vermeer shot a 70-65-69 to finish with a tournament score of 204, which placed him in a tie for ninth place.
At 18 years old, Brian Bye was one of the young ones in action last weekend. The recent graduate of Gayville-Volin High School says his experience at The Bluffs gave him a slight advantage over some competitiors, "but not the pros."
Bye shot a 74 on Friday, a 69 on Saturday and a 67 on Sunday to finish at 210. With his round on Sunday, Bye finished second in the amateur competition.
On Aug. 3-6, the Dakotas Tour will be in Yankton for the Hillcrest Invitational and Aug. 8 for the Red Rock Pro.