Wheaton man wins video golf championship
"I've been to a lot of tournaments, but I've never actually won a big one."
Those were the words of Wheaton's Ed Godfrey following a Golden Tee tournament Feb. 22-24 near St. Louis.
The local video golfer and Wheaton North High School graduate can no longer make that claim, and he turned a lot of heads in the process.
The tournament featured 20 Golden Tee machines at Side Pockets Restaurant and Sports Bar as more than 120 players competed for a total purse of $20,000.
"The best of the best" were there according to Godfrey, acknowledging a list of competitors that included world, national and regional champions; Team USA members; and even former Players of the Year.
If Godfrey, 30, was intimidated by the elite competition, he never showed it.
"By far this is the best I've ever done," he said. "It's the only tournament I've ever won. I've come close. I've finished third and fourth, but mostly in the top eight consistently. But I've never actually won a tournament before, especially with all the players that were there."
The entire field played three qualifying rounds (54 holes) to determine who would advance to the double-elimination bracket of 64 contenders. Godfrey finished 38th to qualify and defeated Anthony Dakis in the first round.
In round two, he upset Team USA member Ryan McCook of Tampa, Fla., and followed that up with an even greater upset over Chicago's Graig Kinzler, the 2002 and 2007 World Champion. Godfrey's sudden death victory over Kinzler certainly had the room buzzing.
His next opponent -- and ultimate upset victim -- was Andy Haas of Stowe, Ohio, winner of the 2004 Tournament of Champions.
With four opponents down, Godfrey would need only three more victories to claim the championship. He proceeded to defeat Jimmy Parker, a former Team USA member, and Chris Litzinger in round six. Litzinger then defeated Naperville's Marc Muklewicz in the final round of the losers bracket to earn the right to face Godfrey once again.
It should be pointed out that Muklewicz, after losing in the first round, proceeded to win nine straight rounds in the losers bracket before bowing out to Litzinger and taking third place.
Godfrey's final round went down to the wire against Litzinger, as they were tied after 16 holes.
Although Godfrey had not won a tournament before that weekend, he was very familiar with his opposition.
"A lot of those guys that I beat I know well just from (other) tournaments," he said. "It's not like I'm a newbie just coming in. I know a lot of those players."
Billed as the second Players Charity Championship event, PCC II was also a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, as the video golfers, along with their families, friends and sponsors, raised a total of $42,384 for the charity.
Based on the number of players, this was a large tournament, according to Godfrey, and tying it into Make-A-Wish helped.
"They probably have about four or five tournaments a year, besides Vegas," he said. "They're mostly like 60 or 70 people, but this one was a big one because it was a charity event. That brings more players."
Almost from the beginning Godfrey has had a "when in Rome" approach that has helped him improve his game over the years.
"When I first started I didn't really get good until I started playing with the people that were going to these tournaments," he said.
"And then picking their brains and playing with them and seeing how they do certain shots. You only get better when you play with (people that are better than you)."
That's not difficult to do in this area since it is a hotbed of Golden Tee talent.
"Illinois has a ton of talent because the game originated in Arlington Heights," Godfrey said. "Illinois has the most Golden Tee machines in the country out of any other state."
Since its inception in 1990, the track-ball controlled arcade game has become a staple in the bar room scene. In fact, Godfrey has invested more than just time in the game. He owns several of the video golf games himself in the area.
"It's like any vendor business," he said. " I actually got into this after I started playing Golden Tee."