MARION — Motivation depends on your perspective. For Cindy and John Bender, they have opened up their home to players competing in the Greater Cedar Rapids Open since the golf tournament’s inception 21 years ago.
“We think this is a great opportunity for the community in general,” Cindy Bender said. “We need to support this event and hosting is one of the best ways. We’ve done it since day one and it’s been a great experience, you meet a lot of nice guys who take this very seriously.”
Luckily for the Benders, their first time hosting multiple golfers ended up being a blessing.
“We’ve always just had one, but it was fun and they kind of act like siblings,” said Cindy Bender of welcoming traveling partners Sam Cyr who tied for third at 8-under, and Dan Woltman who jumped from a fourth-place tie after two rounds up to the championship podium with a final-round 67 that put him at 12-under (204) for the tournament. “It’s fun to watch and I’m just glad that we have the winner out of our group. I think it’s really amazing.”
The 12-under posted by Woltman almost wasn’t enough with Piri Borja struggling down the stretch after sitting at 13-under headed into the apparently unlucky-for-him 13th hole.
“Instead of taking a driver out, he should have taken an iron out and hit the center fairway,” said club member John Nieland, who plays Hunter’s Ridge three times a week and has learned the secrets it holds.
“He lost one there and then on 14 he hit it over the green and had to take a drop before bogeying the hole, on 15 he drove it too far and ended up in trouble and then he was done on 16 when he started pressing.”
What could Borja have done to avoid the 71 that dropped him to a tie for third at 8-under?
“He needed someone like me,” joked Nieland. “I’m nearly 80 years old, but I should have been walking with him.”
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With the $30,000 purse secured, Woltman will now head to Riverside next weekend, motivated to defend his 2018 Iowa Open title.
“I need to stay patient down there and hopefully have a good week like I did last year,” Woltman said. “I’ll be busy playing the next three weeks, with a short break before Q-School starts in September.”
The Benders nearly got to meet Marissa Woltman Dan’s wife of six years who considered making the three-hour road trip from Wisconsin on Friday night before reconsidering to avoid jinxing her husband.
“I probably would have played bad if she drove down,” Dan Woltman said, “but now we can put this money in the bank for a down payment on a house.”
One of the sad things about a host family’s player doing well, is that it means they may not return to Cedar Rapids as they climb the ranks in hopes of reaching the PGA Tour.
“I’ve had some success in Iowa and I’m grateful for that,” said Woltman who also finished in the top 10 at the Waterloo Open last week. “Hopefully, I can make it on the Korn-Ferry tour next year, but if not, I’ll be happy to be back. I think this is a great tournament and talking with the other players, the private housing has been a great experience. This is a tough golf course, it’s a very fun weekend and everyone I’ve talked to has enjoyed it.”