Kulych wins second Yukon golf title without a stroke to spare

Whitehorse’s Landon Kulych is fast becoming a fan of the two-iron. The new addition to his bag, swapped in at the expense of a wedge, beefed up some tee shots and helped him win the 2015 Yukon Golf Championships.

Whitehorse’s Landon Kulych is fast becoming a fan of the two-iron.

The new addition to his bag, swapped in at the expense of a wedge, beefed up some tee shots and helped him win the 2015 Yukon Golf Championships at Mountain View Golf Course on Sunday.

“I put a two-iron in the bag, which is new for me this season,” said Kulych. “Our associate pro Graham (Frey) was nice enough to lend me a two-iron … It helped me immensely on the tee shots on a lot of our par 4s to give me that extra yardage and a little bit of control. That was big.

“I’ll have to try to buy one or steal his … Maybe he’ll forget.”

It’s Kulych’s second Yukon men’s title, but his first in his hometown. The 27-year-old captured his first in 2007 when the championships were held in Dawson City.

Kulych carded a personal best two-under-par 70 on Saturday, with six birdies along the way, and hit an 82 Sunday.

“(The two rounds) were really opposites. Yesterday was a personal best for me: I shot two-under-par 70, which I was really happy with,” said Kulych. “Today I struggled. I was probably holding on more than I was attacking the golf course and I was able to hold on by one (stroke).”

Whitehorse’s James McGrath almost caught Kulych with his own personal best on Sunday. After hitting a 79 on Saturday, McGrath followed up with a 74 Sunday for a combined 153, a stroke behind Kulych.

This is McGrath’s first season playing open since aging out of junior. The 19-year-old won the Yukon junior title the last two years.

“It was good. I guess I haven’t done my best in the past playing here, but now there’s less pressure,” said McGrath, who eagled hole 6 and sunk three birdies Sunday. “Playing junior the last couple of years I was one of the best and it was a lot of pressure.”

“James put together just an incredible round,” said Kulych. “One of the hardest things in golf is to shoot a good round and then go out and shoot another good round, and he did that.

“He shot a personal best today, I shot a personal best yesterday – it’s good to see those kinds of numbers.”

With monster tee shots well over 300 yards, Saskatoon’s Sean Dunphy was in the mix both days. The 27-year-old finished third with 156.

Saturday’s opening round was his first on the course, posting a 75 to finish second on the day. Following a wedding in Atlin Saturday night, Dunphy admitted the festivities left him a little fuzzyheaded for Sunday’s round.

“I was at a wedding last night and it hit me hard today,” said Dunphy, who won the Lobstick Invitational in Saskatoon last month. “It was awesome. The course is beautiful – it’s very similar to two courses I like in Saskatoon. This one is less forgiving though.

“If I have the chance to come back, I’ll definitely play this again.”

Six-time Yukon champ Phil Mullin placed fourth Sunday with a combined 158, one stroke ahead of last year’s winner Dan King.

After missing the championship the last few years, Whitehorse’s Birgitte Hunter regained the women’s title. Hunter, who won three straight titles between 2009 and 2011, shot an 84 Saturday and a 90 Sunday for a combined 174.

“It was good, the weather was great and I had three other nice ladies to play with,” said Hunter. “I was pretty nervous Friday night when I saw all that rain. But it worked out really nice.”

Cheryl Olsen grabbed second place with a combined 213 and Elaine Sumner third with 215.

The weekend marked the second year in a row a field of four women played the championships. None played in 2012 and only two in 2013.

“We’re really struggling to get more women involved,” said Hunter. “It would be really nice to get more women playing overall.

“We have to get rid of the stigma of it being intense – it’s not really intense. It’s just another round of golf in which you have to count everything.

“We used to have lots of women out years ago.”

Yukon’s junior title is on its way to Quebec – but at least it was taken by a Yukon-born player.

Montreal’s Philip Isabelle, 15, who was born in the territory, won the title with an 85 and 83 for a combined 168. Isabelle started playing golf by hitting balls into the river in Carmacks at just one and a half years old.

“Yesterday I didn’t play well: my tee shots were not very good. But my putting was very good,” said Isabelle. “Today I played very good … I played 45 on the front nine, but I’m happy because I played 38 on the back.”

Isabelle placed eighth in Quebec’s bantam championships last season.

Younger brother Simon claimed second with a 173, ahead of Whitehorse’s Parker Olsen at 175.

“My brother helped me a lot to win this tournament,” said Philip. “He finished second – it was his goal.”

The senior men’s division was the closest of all at the end of Sunday.

Whitehorse’s Ken Taylor hit a 92 Saturday and an 87 Sunday to win his first Yukon senior title by a stroke. Multi-time champ Matt Lafferty placed second, a stroke ahead of Dan Hogberg.

“I’ve won the club championship one but I’ve never won this one,” said Taylor. “My rounds got better, but they weren’t very good. Everyone was struggling a little bit.

“I had one bad hole – I had a nine on a (par 5) hole – but I hit the ball pretty solid today.

“The course is absolutely gorgeous … The work superintendent Derek Wirth and his crew has done on the course is absolutely spectacular.”

The Yukon championships, along with a round on Friday in the rain, also decided the team that will represent the territory at the Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship this August in Toronto.

Kulych, McGrath and Mullin took the spots. King is first-alternate for the team.

“We’re sending a great team to nationals now,” said Kulych. “It should be a really good time.”

“It’s going to be my pleasure, for sure, to represent the Yukon,” added McGrath. “I’ll be working on my game and try to get into the best shape as possible for it … If I get my game into good shape, I can do pretty good down there.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com