The Million Dollar Shootout has reached its 10th year.
The tournament – set for Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 at the Hay River Golf Club – will reach the milestone by once again giving two lucky people the chance to win $1 million by shooting for a hole-in-one.
And each participant will have 36 chances to win $10,000 during tournament play, again if the player happens to hit a hole-in-one.
“There are a lot of chances to win some money, definitely,” said Mike King, one of the organizers.
The course is modified to all Par 3 holes for the tournament to give everyone an equal chance of hitting a hole-in-one.
While no one has hit a hole-in-one on the special million-dollar shot, some people have won $10,000 during the years of the tournament.
Jay Planidin, the other organizer of the event, said five players have won $10,000 each.
“We haven’t had a hole-in-one winner since I think it’s been three years,” he said.
Aside from those big-money prizes, there are closest-to-the-pin prizes throughout the weekend, King noted. “So every hole is worth a certain amount of money, too.”
The name of every player who enters the tournament is entered into a draw for one of the two chances to shoot for $1 million. The other shooter is selected in a raffle.
In years past, both Planidin and King have had a chance to shoot for a $1 million.
Planidin said he was lucky enough to shoot at it once.
“You don’t think about it until you get up there. And when you’re actually shooting for $1 million and you put it in your head, you get a little bit nervous,” he said. “It’s surprising.”
Planidin took that shot two or three years ago.
“I did terrible,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t think I even got 30 yards within the green.”
King had a shot at the $1 million two years ago, and recalled that he had the same kind of nerves.
“You play earlier in the day,” he said of taking the big-money shot. “You’re just not really thinking about it all then, and then you go and hit a golf shot worth a million dollars.”
The two organizers can remember only one golfer who came within 10 feet of the hole on the million-dollar shot.
“But other than that, I don’t think we’ve even had anyone scare it,” said Planidin.
The financial risk of somebody actually hitting the $1 million shot is assumed by an insurance company. The club buys the insurance, and the insurer would pay out the $1 million prize.
The Million Dollar Shootout is the best attended tournament each year at the Hay River Golf Club.
Planidin thinks the players are attracted as much by the $10,000 prizes as by a possible chance to shoot for $1 million.
“I think it’s more the $10,000 because it’s a lot more realistic,” he explained. “Even a hole-in-one isn’t realistic, but one swing and one shot is very low chance to make it. I think people with 36 chances at $10,000 is a big draw.”
Each year, between 80-100 people participate in the tournament, with a few players coming from Fort Smith, Fort Simpson, and occasionally Yellowknife.
The tournament is played with a two-person best ball format.
“It’s an easy event. I think that’s one of the draws to it,” said King. “The course is shorter. It’s a different course than normal, and you’re playing with a partner. So if you do mess up, it’s not the end of the world.”
One goal of the tournament is to raise money for the Hay River Golf Club.
“On average, we’re raising about $10,000 a year for the club,” said King. “Some successful years have been up to $20,000. We help offset operating costs for the club and renovations.”
Previous earnings have resulted in updating the rental cart fleet, building two tee boxes and purchasing maintenance equipment.
Planidin and King, who are both directors on the club’s executive, have been organizing the event for three or four years.
Planidin said the 10th anniversary of the tournament says something about its popularity.
“We’re just happy that people continue to support it,” he said. “I know we love playing in it and being a part of it. So we’re just happy that people keep coming out.”
The deadline to register for this year’s event is Aug. 28. The registration fee is $100 per player.