Blown off course
WILLMAR -- This is what we've come to expect living in Minnesota.
Cold rains that turn to sleet and bitter winds that call for gloves and stocking caps in mid-April.
But the Willmar/Litchfield Boys Golf Invitational has always slogged ahead, like the proverbial mail carrier.
Until this year.
The two-day, 20-team meet was called off on Wednesday, two days before teeing off at the Willmar Golf Club for the first of two days.
"This spring does seem to be one of the toughest I can remember," commented Willmar head golf coach Dave Ellwood. "We have battled some horrendous conditions in the past, but nothing that compares to what they were predicting for this year."
It's the first time in his 17 years that the event has shut down totally and the first time since the Willmar Invitation became a two-school, two-day event in 1987.
The decision to cancel was made at mid-week based on gloomy forecasts and the need to keep the 16 invited schools informed of whether the event would be held or not.
"We wanted to make the decision as early as possible," said Ellwood. "Since some teams spend the night (in Willmar), they needed time to cancel their rooms and other reservations."
Litchfield head coach Dave Whitchurch noted that with the ominous forecast it was only right to let the other schools off the hook as early as possible. He added that it's easy to recall past tournaments held in a wintery backlash that weren't a lot of fun.
Athletic directors and coaches from the participating schools were informed by email Wednesday afternoon that the invitational was being cancelled.
While there was some disappointment, coaches and players seemed relieved they would not have to play in harsh conditions, Ellwood added.
The temperature was 43 degrees with a 24 mph east wind under a gray cover at mid-day Friday.
Willmar activities director Jamie Thompson said the meet will not be made up due to the lack of available dates in the short spring season. That also holds for Thursday's Optimist's Track and Field meet in Willmar.
Internet sites are useful in making an early call, Thompson noted.
"But in the end we are still making an educated guess. Sometimes we cancel when it looks like rain and the clouds clear and the sun comes out ... and sometimes we don't cancel and it pours," he stated.
But with school districts having such tight budgets, it's better to be overly cautious, Thompson believes, "Because we do not want to drive one or two hours down the road and have to turn the bus around without playing the game."