Every golfer dreams of walking down the holly-lined 18th fairway at Augusta National with a one stroke lead… then calmly sinking a 10-footer for par to win the coveted green jacket at the Masters. Well, there might not be a green jacket to go along with the trophy, but the competition at the Marion Masters is just as fierce. Local golfers take this series of tournaments just as seriously as the big guns take the tourneys on the PGA Tour.
The Marion Masters consists of three tournaments: the Masters, the Seniors Masters and the Super Seniors Masters.
“Each tournament features some of our area’s finest golfers,” says Marion County Golf Association (MCGA) Chairman Ron Russo. “Competition is open to men and women with the only restriction being that you must be a Marion County resident. That is what makes this series of tournaments so unique and special. There are no outsiders involved… when you win one of these tournaments… you are the best golfer in Marion County in that age group. We invite all our local golfers to come out and compete. Everyone has a great time, and there is always a lot of thrilling golf action taking place.”
All three tournaments are held under the auspices of the MCGA, and this exciting competition allows local golfers a chance to play on some of the area’s finest courses.
The Marion Masters
The Marion Masters is open to boys and girls and men and women of all ages. This year’s event will take place Friday through Sunday, June 17 through 19, and although all area golfers can apply to enter the tournament, a qualifying tournament will be played prior to the Masters to determine the final field of golfers.
“This year’s qualifier will take place on Saturday, May 21, at the Pine Oaks of Ocala golf club,” says Russo. “The lowest 60 scores and any ties will qualify to compete in the June Masters. There are a number of other players who have already qualified, but this qualifier allows any county resident to take part in the tournament.”
Tournament Directors Jim and Kay Yancey help organize the three-day event, which is held on a different area course each of the three days.
“This year, the Masters will be played at three of our finest local courses: Country Club of Ocala, Stone Creek Golf Club and Ocala Golf Club,” says Jim. “This is a great event that includes some of the best golfers in Marion County, and it really gives our golfers a chance to play on some of the toughest courses the area has to offer. We have had some very notable winners, and there is a lot of prestige that goes into winning the Marion Masters.”
“Berger Warner, one of the area’s finest golfers has won the Masters twice, the Senior Masters four times and the Super Senior tournament twice. He is ranked by Golf Week Magazine as the No. 1 golfer over 65 years old in the country,” says Russo. “That gives you some idea of the caliber of golfers that can be found in this area. And what’s great is that any county resident can enter our tournaments, and everyone has an equal chance of winning.”
Anyone who wants to participate in the qualifying tournament, or any of the Masters series of tournaments, can either pick up an entry form at any of the local golf clubs, go online at marioncountygolf.com and print one off or use the email contact form on the website to request one from the MCGA. Once you have the form in hand, just fill it out and mail it to Marion Masters, P.O. Box 1943, Ocala, FL, 34478. The deadline to enter the qualifier is Monday, May 16. The entry fee for the qualifier is $50, and for anyone who qualifies, there will be an additional $150 entry fee to compete in the Masters in June.
“A very unique thing about this tournament is that anyone under 16 who qualifies, we pay their entry fee for the Masters through private funds donated into the Moot Thomas Amateur Golf Fund,” says Russo. “This is something special the MCGA utilized to help promote and help our young, up-and-coming golfers.”
Gift certificates ranging in value from $400 for first place to $50 for the 25th place finisher will be awarded. The gift certificates can be redeemed at the golf clubs participating in the tournament.
Ocala resident Matt Giovannelli won last year’s Marion Masters, pulling away from the field after trailing by several strokes at the start of the tournament’s final day.
“I was so pleased and proud to win the Masters,” he says. “I feel very fortunate and appreciative. It is a very prestigious tournament, and the competition is tough. It was one of the first tournaments where I just put my head down and played my own game… and it just all worked out. And it really helped that my wife and parents were there to support me all the way.”
Giovanelli attended St. John Lutheran high school in Ocala and played college golf at Florida Atlantic University. He says that Marion County is a wonderful place to play with top-notch golf courses and outstanding competition.
“It’s such a pleasure to have this arena provided for us so that we can all compete and unite together,” he says. “It’s a tradition that will be kept up and in place for a long, long time. The MCGA does an unbelievable job in making local golfers feel like we belong to our own small tour. And the local club professionals and directors of golf, course superintendents, maintenance crews—all those people behind the scenes who make all these tournaments possible—we owe them so much because they make this game we love possible. Ocala and Marion County is just a great place to play golf.”
Find Out More
For more information concerning the Marion Masters, contact Jim or Kay Yancey at (352) 629-3552.
The Marion Masters Seniors
The Marion Masters Seniors tournament is scheduled for February 13 through 14 and requires no qualifying for the event. The tournament is open to all men and women golfers over the age of 50—but as of yet no women have entered the tournament. The two-day tourney will take place at Ocala Golf Club and Pine Oaks of Ocala.
“The Seniors tournament is special,” says tournament founder and director Mike McGinnis. “The Marion Masters always gave the younger guys a chance to win, but I thought it would be nice for the slightly older crowd to have a tournament of their own. This upcoming tournament will be the 18th annual Senior Masters, and I’m proud to have been a part of it. It has been a labor of love for many years.”
McGinnis says that what makes the tournament so special is that anyone of any age over 50 can win it. If you are 70 years old and have the lowest score at the end of the tournament, the championship is yours. All players who finish in the top half of the tournament win gift certificates to the two participating golf clubs.
“There is a nominal fee of $70 to enter, and entry forms need to be filed at least one week prior to the first day of the tournament,” says McGinnis. “The event is very popular, as we don’t set the course up to be difficult. Everyone tees off from the same middle tees, and the flags are set up for low scores. Everybody has an equal shot,” he says. “And that makes for some fun golf.”
The Marion Masters Super Seniors
The Super Seniors tournament, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, September 17 through 18 is open to men and women golfers ages 65 and up. The tournament is divided into three separate age groups: Super Seniors, ages 65 through 69, Silver Seniors, 70 through 74 and Golden Seniors for golfers more than 75 years of age.
“This year’s two-day event will be held at the SummerGlen and Stone Creek golf courses,” says tournament director Jim Williams III. “This is a great event, and all golfers in these age groups are welcome to come out and participate, no matter what their skill level. Gift certificates from the two participating courses are awarded to the top half of the finishers in the field.”
There are no qualifiers for this tournament, so any Marion County resident in these age groups is eligible to participate. There is a $75 entry fee, and forms should be filed at least one week prior to the tournament date.
Like the Seniors Masters tournament, Williams says the event has yet to have a woman competitor but would like to extend a welcome to all Marion women golfers who meet the age requirements to come out and participate.
“Like all our Masters events, the women would have to compete from the same tees as the men, but what makes this type of tournament so great is that everyone has a chance to win,” Williams says. “There are some great players out here, but you don’t have to be a great player to play. We have a wide range of scores, but one thing everybody has is a great time.”
Find Out More
For more information, please call Jim Williams III at (352) 817-4172.
Local golfer Berger Warner, who has won eight of the different Masters tournaments, speaks volumes when he begins to talk about Ocala golf and this series of events.
“I can’t say enough about golf in Ocala and Marion County,” he says. “This place is simply an incredible golf environment that is known far beyond the boundaries of this county. Ocala is the best golf town in our state, and winning any event here is a source of pride. Ocala has a long tradition when it comes to the game of golf, and these Masters tournaments are a big part of that tradition.”
Berger believes that, locally, golf is more than just a game; it is an opportunity to cross cultural barriers and change lives.
“In Ocala, golf is a sport, not a social event,” he says, the passion evident in his voice. “Here, all golfers are welcome no matter what gender, financial status, race… all you have to do is show up at any local course with the desire to play and you find other players willing to play right along beside you. This sets this area apart and makes Marion County one of the best places to play in the entire country.”
Marion County’s Premier Golf Tournaments
Where: Country Club of Ocala, Stone Creek Golf Club and Ocala Golf Club
Where:Ocala Golf Club and Pine Oaks of Ocala
When: September 17-18
Where:Summer Glen and Stone Creek golf courses