Masters week approaches

The 33rd annual Pinto Bean Classic golf tournament is next weekend

It’s Conquistador Golf Course’s “Masters” week, as 250-some golfers from nearly a dozen states descend on Cortez for the 33rd annual Pinto Bean Golf Classic next Saturday and Sunday.

These amateur golfers, of course, don’t measure up to the quality on display each April at Augusta, Ga., but the thirst for victory --- sprinkled with a heaping helping of just plain fun --- is no less palpable. Like the real Masters, the Pinto Bean Classic is open by invitation only, and that invitation is treasured.

“We’ve got a lot of players who have played with us for at least 20 to 25 years,” said Jack Tanner of Midland Bean Co., the tournament sponsor since its inception. “The strength of our tournament is we have a lot of people who plan their vacations around the Pinto and the chance to come back to Cortez, and visit with families and old friends. It gives a lot of people a reason to come back to Cortez every year.”

Only three players --- Jack’s brother, Rodney, insists it’s just two --- have played in all 32 of the Pinto Bean Classics. Rodney Tanner of Midland Bean is undisputed, as is Tommy Bryant, who has assisted the Tanners in organizing the tournament from the beginning. The third is Bob Harrah, and Rodney Tanner maintains that Harrah missed one in the distant past.

But Jack Tanner believes Harrah has played in every one, citing an unimpeachable source, his and Rodney’s late mother, Marian.

“Mom, who absolutely loved this tournament, kept those records carefully back in the day, and according to her, Bob definitely played in every one,” Jack Tanner said.

So, with a nod to the gracious matriarch Marian Tanner up in heaven, three it is.

As always, Conquistador’s 18 holes have been meticulously groomed by Wayne Becker’s crew in readiness for the tournament.

“Oh boy, they’ve really got the course in great shape,” Jack Tanner said. “They’ve really got its best clothes on. It’s going to be tough. The greens are going to be fast. We have such a maintenance crew here who really knows how to get a course in top shape for a tournament.

“For a municipal course, I think this is as good as it gets.”

The late Cortez Realtor Dean Hanson designed the tournament in 1978, calling it “a golfing party.” One of his foremost ideas was the Saturday night fireworks show --- an excellent production over the years under the guidance of Bill Hutchinson and a continuing marvel since Hutchinson’s death. Keenan Ertel and his son-in-law, Jake Huff, have picked up the baton after being trained by Hutchinson several years prior to his death.

“For a golf tournament, it’s got to be one of the better shows,” Jack Tanner said. “Actually, you never see fireworks at golf tournaments, and I really can’t say what fireworks have to do with golf, but Hondo (Hanson) knew what he was doing, so we just keep on doing it.”

The only contributing sponsor that has been with the Pinto Bean Classic from the start is Keesee Motors, which has put up a Ford car or truck as a hole-in-one prize each year at No. 7. Owner Joe Keesee has had to pay off twice.

“We’ve always appreciated Joe’s participation in the tournament,” Jack Tanner said. “I don’t know what vehicle he’ll be putting up this year, but I know it will be beautiful.”

Golfers are assigned to one of five flights, ranging from scratch or near-scratch handicaps to 30-plus. Shreve Tso will be back to defend his low-gross title in the championship flight.