It was one of those rounds in which everything clicked. It was his best round of the season, and he only had one club rattling around in his bag.
Armed with his trusty 7-iron, Whitehorse’s Vic Istchenko hit a tournament record 77 to win the One Club Wonder Invitational on Saturday at Mountain View Golf Club.
“It was one of those magical days where I could do no wrong,” said Istchenko. “It is an amazing feeling. It’s like, ‘That was just luck,’ and then you get to the next hole and you do it again, and you say, ‘This never happens.’”
“I’m sorry to say 77 is the best score I’ve posted all year,” he added. “I had a 78 with a full bag … (But) I’ll keep the rest of the clubs.”
Istchenko, a two-time Yukon men’s champ and one-time senior champ, had three birdies, five bogeys and a pair of doubles to win the golden cardigan – the tournament’s answer to the green jacket of the Masters.
He’s buttoned up the winner’s sweater a few times before. Saturday was his fifth time winning, which puts him in a tie for the most wins with last year’s champ Blaine Tessier, who set the previous tournament record last year with a 79. Istchenko won the tournament with an 89 in 2008, the last time he donned the cardigan.
Even his putting, which is usually a weak spot in his game, was working with the iron. He had the fewest putts in the tournament with 25 over the 18 holes.
“I’m known as the worst putter in town, (but) you should see me with my seven iron: I was unbelievable,” said Istchenko. “I was knocking them in from everywhere – a couple of chip-ins. I think I only made one mistake in the fairway.”
Mountain View pro Jeff Wiggins, who won in 2010, placed second with an 86. Former Yukon champ Landon Kulych came third with an 87.
“The hardest part about the seven-iron is hitting the par-threes that are only 140, 150 yards,” said Istchenko. “That’s a really tough shot.”
A 7-iron was also working well for Leif Lassen, who was surprised to learn he won the low net competition. He had no idea he was in the running for the title.
“I didn’t even know I won anything. It’s crazy!” said Lassen. “I had an awesome round.
“I missed like three or four putts, but I was stroking it. It was awesome.”
Lassen, who played the tournament for his first time last year, hit a 91 with a handicap of 16 to card low net of 75.
“I parred number one, right away – that was wrong,” said Lassen. “It’s never good to start with a par.
“Basically, I shot my handicap – just over. That’s bullshit. There are a lot of clubs (in my bag) that can just go away.”
Gord Starko placed second with a net score of 78. Garry Potter and tournament organizer and co-founder Patrick Michael tied for third with low-nets of 79.
“We started 18 years ago when seven of us went off on the 10th hole,” said Michael. “It was the first week of October and we were on temp greens. We hit our first drives and it started to snow – that’s where the whole thing started.
“We kept coming back to it, got it up to doing 18 holes, and it got to the point where we didn’t want to have it too late in the year to be past having the real greens open.”
With his name etched on the low-net trophy, Lassen is now ensured a spot in the tournament next year, like all past winners. This year’s edition saw 34 players take part, close to the maximum of 40.
One-club tournaments are not unique to Yukon. A One Club Golf UK charity tournament was established last year in Northampton. There was a one-club world championship held in Atlanta in 2010, but the championship website has since been taken down. (Whether or not those tournaments allow a putter, which Mountain View’s does not, was not specified.)
Golf Digest reports two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson enjoys playing the occasional round with just one club. He reportedly shot an 81 at the Tom Fazio-designed Pine Hill Golf Course in New Jersey last year using a 20-degree hybrid.
The Guinness World Record Book has American Thad Daber holding the one-club world record with a two-under 70, hit with a 6-iron in 1987.
“The one club is a special day,” said Istchenko. “It’s a unique tournament, it’s a unique experience, everybody who does it can’t wait to play in it again next year because it’s just that much fun. It’s fun walking out there with just one club and knowing you’re going to hit that for every shot. It takes all the guesswork out.”
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