Gene Beck is ultra-competitive.
It's how he has always been. He remembers when his competitive nature drove him to great heights in 1988 when he became a motocross champion racing dirt bikes in Illinois. His days of pushing his body to the limit have passed, but his mind still wants that rush.
Now, Beck, 53, works in the refrigeration service business and has a "work first, play later" attitude that allows him to escape to tee boxes and finely manicured greens about two times a week to play golf with several friends. Swinging the clubs acts as an outlet for his competitiveness.
"Once I get the taste of something, I want to master it," Beck said. "Golf is so challenging. It's the most challenging sport I've ever played and because it's really hard it drives to me to get better and better."
That is a scary thought to his fellow golfers at this weekend's McHenry County Senior Amateur at Pinecrest Golf Club in Huntley, where Beck will try to repeat as champion.
The tournament will begin Saturday morning and continue through Sunday afternoon. More than 60 golfers age 50 and older will play 18 holes each day.
The tournament has taken place during the late summer months for more than 15 years and traditionally has been played on weekdays, but tournament organizer Mike Yackle moved it to a weekend in hopes of a more significant turnout with less work conflicts. He also moved it to late June in an attempt to escape late summer rain storms.
But even as one of the only senior amateur tournaments in the area, the numbers have remained steady at around 60 to 80 competitors despite the tournament's ability to accommodate 100 golfers. Yackle had said he would be happy to arrange other options in the event of a bigger turnout, but he hasn't had to do so.
"It's getting frustrating. We don't get the turnout we want to get even though we tried everything we could think of," Yackle said on the heels of closing the registration with just more than 60 golfers.
Still, the tournament has been a staple of the McHenry County community for golfers 50 and older. Yackle remembers back a few years ago when the course record at Pinecrest was broken in the tournament. He also remembers all of the camaraderie that is associated with the event when the golfers get together. The same names continue to return each year to the tournament, which shows its staying power.
"It's awesome to see the same people continue to come back each year," Yackle said. "Once you're here, you realize what a good time it is."
The tournament features a friendly atmosphere that is a step up from playing a laid-back foursome with friends, but also competitive enough to get the blood flowing and challenge top golfers.
"When you get out there I see some golfers get nervous when they are having their picture taken or being followed by a small crowd," Beck said. "People aren't used to it, but it makes it fun. I think you need a little edge to be able to play and be successful in something like this. It's fun."