Special to the Empire-Tribune

The TexasBank Golf Classic will tee off next weekend, bringing three days of golfing excitement to Brownwood Country Club. The annual tournament, a two-man shamble, will be played over Saturday and Sunday, but things get kicked off with a $250,000 hole-in-one challenge Friday evening.

“Each year we try to add some events or elements to keep the tournament fun and entertaining,” TexasBank President Joe Thompson said. “In the past we’ve made changes to the course such as adding a lake in front of the second green, moving tee boxes and changing out-of-bound lines. This year we’ve added a $250,000 hole-in-one challenge. Ten players will qualify during their practice rounds on Friday, followed by the finals at 8:30 Friday night under the lights.”

Friday will also be a demo day for players, with a Titleist representative and clubs set up at the driving range. A pro shop featuring Titleist equipment will be open both Saturday and Sunday.

The “shamble” format allows each two-man team to select its best drive, and then each golfer plays their own ball through the hole, with the lowest score being the team’s score for that hole. The tournament has grown so popular that the field had to be limited to 84-90 teams in recent years.

Players from the Stephenville and central Texas area will make up a large part of the field, but teams will also travel in from as far away as Oklahoma and Colorado meaning that each year the tournament has a positive impact on the local tourism industry.

One of the most successful parts of the tournament has been its charitable fundraising. According to Thompson, TexasBank wanted to show its commitment to local charities in the communities that are served by the bank.

“In 2005 we embarked on a new mission called ‘Drive to $100,000 by 2008.’ This campaign was started to help various charities in our community who needed our financial assistance,” Thompson said. “Quite simply, we wanted to capitalize on the success of our golf tournament and give back to those in need in the communities that we serve. Our goal was to raise $100,000 in four years concluding in June 2008. We have had a tremendous start in our first two years with $60,000 raised and contributed to local charities.”

In 2005 the tournament raised $20,000 for three charities, one in Stephenville and two in Brownwood. Last year the amount grew to $40,000 for three charities.

“This year, we hope to raise $40,000 to reach the goal. We also included more charities this year - three in Brownwood and two in Stephenville,” Thompson said. “If we accomplish our goal this year we will have completed our mission one year early. That is a tribute to all who have assisted us in making this campaign a reality.”

The two Stephenville charities that will be the beneficiaries of this year’s tournament are the Cross Timbers Pregnancy Care Center and Cross Timbers Family Services.