While competitors were concentrating on winning a national title, the hosts of a recent golf tournament were pleased to be laying out the welcome mats.
The First Nations Cup, a men’s event featuring eight-player teams, was staged at the Palm Springs Golf Course on the Cold Lake First Nation July 29-Aug. 1.
A total of 19 teams, featuring players aged 18 and up, participated in the tournament. All competitors were vying for team points. The tournament featured two-man scramble, stroke play and match play competitions.
Alberta’s Paul First Nation ended up winning the over-all team award.
As for the hosts, they were thrilled to put on the tournament in their community, which has a population of about 12,000 people.
“That was a big deal for us,” said Randy Metchewais, the recreation director for the Cold Lake First Nation. “We had never hosted a national championship before.”
The First Nations Cup was first staged in 1999 in Enoch. Only six teams took part in that event. The tournament’s popularity has increased considerably since then. A record 32 teams participated in the 2005 tournament in Saskatoon.
The First Nations Cup was held annually until 2008 when the organizing committee decided it would be better to stage it every two years.
The host site for the 2012 tournament is expected to be announced next year. Early speculation is that event will land somewhere in Saskatchewan.
Metchewais said Cold Lake First Nation will probably submit a bid to host the national tourney again in 2014.
“We have a couple of other courses here in Cold Lake that can handle it,” he said.
Metchewais said the tournament was well received within the community. The hosts landed $20,000 in corporate sponsorships.
Organizers hosted three dinners for the participants, something that had not been done at some other previous national tournaments.
“Everything went off without a hitch and it was all well received,” Metchewais said. Metchewais added the Cold Lake tourney had a definite family feel to it, something some previous tournaments were lacking as often accommodations were an hour’s drive from courses.
“They loved the amenities,” he said of the participating golfers. “And the hotels were within 10 minutes.”
Though it was dubbed a national championship, only teams from Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan took part this year.
“Winning any national title is a big deal, even if it was just (teams from) the western provinces that were there,” Metchewais said.
Saskatoon is the furthest east the First Nations Cup has ever been held.
Metchewais would love to see a future tournament in one of the country’s eastern provinces. “Going east would be another feather in our cap,” he said.
Though most participants are focussed on their golf, Metchewais said some also take part in the First Nations Cup for another reason.
“The networking aspect is always a part of this tournament,” he said. “Some teams do bring their (band) councillors or chief. The whole point is being together with people of your own kind.”