Residents brave winter conditions for annual Chili Open Golf Classic

CRYSTAL LAKE – Golf enthusiasts in McHenry County had the opportunity to dust off their clubs Saturday afternoon, although they were swung in a chill they are not generally accustomed to during the regular season.

With temperatures in the mid-teens, 33 foursomes slid their way onto Crystal Lake to participate in the 41st annual Chili Open Golf Classic.

Spirits were high and players were bundled up to take on the 9-hole, 32-par course constructed on Crystal Lake’s frozen surface. Coolers and mini charcoal grills were fastened to sleds and hand-constructed carts to keep the participants fed, watered and laughing.

The event, hosted by the Crystal Lake Park District, had been canceled in the past because of weather, but this year’s freezing temperatures made for a successful event.

“The interest is always there,” Crystal Lake Park District’s Recreation Supervisor Joe Davison said. “That’s what makes this so successful.  If the ice is playable, we always have people wanting to participate. It’s unique, and I haven’t heard of another open like this in the Midwest.”

The attention of foursome Steve Massie, Jeff Frost, Dave Sherman and Todd McWilliams was certainly caught.

Frost, a Carpentersville resident, saw the information online and thought it best to be added to their groups bucket list.

“We were at the Chicago Bears versus Dallas Cowboys game when we had that terrible ice storm,” Frost said. “I saw this and I told the boys that this was our next mission.”

Sherman admitted he had some second thoughts when he emerged from the group’s van only to be hit with the cold chill of the early morning.

“I should have stayed in bed,” said Sherman.

The four hit the links, or rather rinks, with ample layers of insulation, a small charcoal grill and a hefty cooler.

“I just hope I’m able to swing in all of these layers,” said Massie, stiffly moving his arms while talking against the density of his snowsuit.

Not far behind the early birds were foursome Mike Roller, Anthony Reeves, Mike Czarnik and Steve Hippler.

Czarnik is a four-year veteran to the classic, and with a grill cooking venison steaks and eggs and all the needed fixings for mimosas, he was a man who definitely looked like he knew what he was doing.

“The strategy changes every year depending on the course,” said Czarnik, a Cary resident. “This dusting of snow we have here changes the game a bit, and we should be able to get some nice chip shots. We should do well ... might even be able to catch some fish.”

The group estimated it would take them about two and a half hours to complete the course and said they had no intention of rushing.

“We have to cook, drink and golf,” said Roller. “It’s just great. You don’t find these types of activities anywhere else, and Crystal Lake has so many natural resources it’s nice that they don’t pigeon-hole themselves with strictly spring and summer events.”

All participants were awarded a hot bowl of chili, golf gear and bragging rights. Separate raffles were held to win golf accessories such as golf bags, clubs apparel and gift cards.

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