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Kulych defends club title in thrilling playoff

A pair of golfers starting their round at Mountain View Golf Club on Sunday were looking over their shoulders, likely thinking they were holding up a 24-some.

A pair of golfers starting their round at Mountain View Golf Club on Sunday were looking over their shoulders, likely thinking they were holding up a 24-some. That was not the case.

Landon Kulych, Dan King and James McGrath had a tie to break and no one wanted to miss it. More than 20 players who had just finished their own rounds followed along to see who would take the men’s title at the Mountain View Club Championship.

After two playoff holes Kulych took it, winning his fifth straight title in Yukon.

“This win means the most to me, I think,” said Kulych. “It’s my fifth tournament win in a row, but it gave me all three stroke play events this year. So I hold all three trophies this year, which is really nice.”

Kulych, 28, has now won the club championship two years in a row. Same goes for the Yukon Golf Championship, winning his third in total last month. He also nabbed the Mountain View Open men’s title in June.

What makes his latest triumph all the more special is that he broke the newlywed jinx. Kulych returned from his wedding and honeymoon on Maui just a couple days before the start of the club championship.

“For the first time in my life I put together a team for playing golf and that team came through and really changed my entire golf game. All of a sudden I’m able to hit shots I’ve never been able to hit before,” said Kulych. “I’ve been using (Mountain View pro) Graham (Frey) as my coach, I’ve been using Natasha Bilodeau at Absolute Physiotherapy for rehab, and I probably played 50 rounds with my grandpa (Harry Kulych) this summer. He’s kind of my unofficial caddie; he keeps me in check all summer long.”

Kulych, King and McGrath finished 36 holes tied with combined 153s. Kulych and King parred the first playoff hole while McGrath was eliminated with a bogey.

Things looked good for King in the second playoff hole as he sent a stinger down the fairway while Kulych duffed his tee-shot, leaving him 202 yards from the pin on the par 4 hole. Down but not out, Kulych pulled up his socks and used his six-iron to flush his ball 12 feet from the hole, eventually saving the par.

“I think that shot put me over the top because Dan was sitting in a really good position until that happened,” said Kulych “That’s probably the best shot I’ve hit this year.”

King, the 2014 Yukon men’s champ, put his second shot in a bunker and carded a bogey to end it. He also lost in a playoff at the 2014 club championships to that year’s winner, Phil Mullin.

McGrath finished Saturday with a 73 for a three-stroke lead over Kulych and King.

“James put together a heck of a round yesterday and today I came out giving him everything I’ve got,” said Kulych. “I forget that he’s only 21 years old. I wasn’t hitting the ball as well as him when I was 21 years old.

“It’s pretty awesome to be walking down the 18th fairway with Dan and James who are my best buds. It was like one of the funnest days ever.”

Just before Kulych pocketed his fifth straight title, Sheila Stockton got her first one ever. Stockton put together a 107 and 109 to win the women’s club title.

“I’ve always been the runner-up or the also-ran, the participant,” said Stockton. “I was bragging it up with my husband (Pat Malloy) because he’s not getting a trophy. So I’m the family winner today.”

Elaine Sumner placed second for a second year in a row and Ronda Horte took third. Four women competed in the tournament up from just two at last month’s Yukon championship.

“I did not have my best rounds, but I did not have any really terrible holes,” said Stockton. “I kept the mistakes to a dull roar. I had an unplayable and a lost ball, but it was mostly just limiting mistakes.”

Riley Smoler apparently had enough of finishing behind Bryce Anderson. The 17-year-old strung together a 79 and 87 to win the junior title, pushing Anderson into second.

“(Anderson) had a tough week for sure because he was playing hockey down south, so he didn’t get to come out this past week and practice like I did,” said Smoler.

“I shot well the first day, made a few putts and a few chip shots that helped me out around the green,” said Smoler. “Today I was doing well again and at the end I had a few shots that were a bit more difficult, got some bad lies, but again pulled it off and tried to stay steady.”

Anderson, this year’s Yukon junior champ, carded a 97 and 89. Jake Ekholm came third with 96 and 103.

Ken Taylor made a splash at this year’s championship. Literally. Taylor defended his senior title without a stroke to spare, saving one ball from a watery grave. With his shoes and socks off and his pants rolled up to the knee, Taylor knocked his submerged ball out of a water hazard on 10 for par.

“That’s probably the best shot I made today,” said Taylor. “The ball was about an inch under water, right up against the edge of the bank, but I already hit a provisional in the water so I was going to be hitting six if I didn’t hit it out. I hit it as hard as I could and the ball shot straight up in the air and came down on the grass, and I got it up and down for par.”

Taylor took the senior title with an 86 and 84, one stroke up from Vic Istchenko – the only person who seemed more surprised by Taylor’s aqua save than Taylor. Matt Lafferty came third with an 85 and 89.

“It feels great. I came from behind again,” said Taylor. “Actually, all three times I won it I came from behind.”

Durand Cornett (86, 87) placed first in the men’s second flight, Gord Starko (101, 91) first in the men’s third flight, and Les Chapman first in the senior men’s second flight with a pair of 95s.

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