Nerves were running wild as the leader group approached the 18th tee in the final round of the 2013 Yukon Golf Championships on Sunday at Mountain View Golf Course.
Whitehorse’s Phil Mullin had a one-stroke lead on Blaine Tessier and Dan King and any given swing of the club could make the difference between success and failure.
Making matters worse, a small calculation error led them to believe they were in a three-way tie at the time.
“It looked like we could have a three-way playoff,” said Mullin. “It was exciting.”
Mullin’s nerves didn’t get the better of him. He parred the 18th – as did Tessier – for a one-stroke win and his third men’s title in a row.
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The 29-year-old has now won the championships six times.
“It was awesome,” said Mullin, who started Sunday’s round with a three-stroke lead. “It wasn’t close until the back-nine on hole 11 – I took a nine (for a quintuple bogey) – and I was behind after that. I had a couple-stroke lead going into that hole and I hit it in the bush, had to take an unplayable, couldn’t get it out of the bush, had to take another unplayable before I got it out.
“After that, I thought it was over. I didn’t think I could recuperate from that.”
Mullin took first with a 72 on Saturday and a 79 on Sunday. Tessier, a multiple-time Yukon champ, hit a 75 and 77. King placed third with a 78 and 76. Landon Kulych, the 2007 champ, was close behind with a 76 and 79.
“Yesterday my putting was lights out – I was making everything – but I was hitting the ball poorly,” said Mullin. “Today I hit the ball better, but my putting was atrocious. I was just nervous all day.”
Mullin missed a two-footer for birdie on 15 in the final round.
“I was just pissed after that,” said Mullin. “I was just nervous. It’s been a while since I was nervous like that.”
King’s game has been raising eyebrows this season. The 30-year-old defeated Mullin, Tessier and Kulych at the BCGA Provincial Qualifier at Mountain View last month.
“Dan has been solid all year, he’s never played golf like this before,” said Mullin. “He’s a six-, seven-stroke better player this year.”
King hooked a shot into the brush on 18 and his approach shot ran through the green. A failed chip then took him out of the running.
“(Hole) 18 killed me all week, I don’t think I parred it once,” said King. “It was probably a little bit of nerves. But I got lucky all day: I chipped in on number two, hit a long putt on six … On number nine I hit the pin with my chip.”
On hole 16 on Sunday, after missing the green with his drive on the par 3, King chipped on within a couple inches of the cup.
“Lessons and trying to stay consistent,” he said, explaining the improvements in his game.
This year’s championship was the second in a row Tessier came up short against Mullin.
“It was good. I think everyone, despite the nerves, played fairly well,” said Tessier. “I’ll get Phil next time maybe.”
After placing second last year, Whitehorse’s James McGrath claimed his first junior title on Sunday.
“It feels good,” said the 17-year-old. “I’m always trying to play the best I can. It doesn’t seem like I play as well as I can in the tournaments, but it’s nice to come out and win.”
McGrath carded an 86 with four birdies on Saturday and a 90 on Sunday. Chris Anderson placed second with a 93 and 89 and Parker Olson third (through a count-back) with a 96 and 86.
“In years before we had maybe five or six juniors and this year we had 12,” said McGrath. “That’s great for the sport, to get more kids playing golf.”
McGrath and fellow Whitehorse player Trever Harris just competed at the BCGA Junior Boys Championship at the Revelstoke Golf Club last week. Neither managed to make the cut of 154 over two rounds.
“It was not my best, but it was a good learning experience,” said McGrath. “It was a good learning experience for the Canada Games.”
McGrath, Harris and Olson will tee-off at the Canada Summer Games next month in Sherbrooke, Que.
After a complete absence of female golfers at last year’s championships, three threw their hats in the ring over the weekend.
Whitehorse’s Nicole Baldwin took the title with an 81 and a 95 to beat Sheila Stockton and Gwen Hogan.
“My first round was fantastic … I shot an 81,” said Baldwin. “Today was more of a struggle with the wind and a little bit of slow play.
“But all and all, I had a fantastic time with the group I played with. The course is in excellent condition.”
One title left the capital as Dawson City’s Coleman Johnson topped the senior men’s division with a combined score of 168. Dan Hogberg snagged second with a 170, a stroke up from 2011 senior men’s champ Vic Istchenko in third.
As the top-three finishers, Mullin, Tessier and King will now go from opponents to teammates at the 2013 Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship next month in Victoria, B.C.
For the first time in history, Yukon has been allocated a spot at the biggest amateur golf event in Canada.
Spots for the territory’s three best players came following a meeting between officials from the Yukon Golf Association and Golf Canada at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont., last year.
“They were immediately interested in what I was talking about,” said Ken Taylor, a director with the association. “They wanted to know the calibre of player we had. They didn’t want us to send three people down there that would shoot 114. But guys like Blaine, Phil and Dan can play on any golf course with anybody. They are that good.
“I’m really excited. I think we have our three best players in the territory on the team.”
The Canadian amateur championship is a four-round event. The first two rounds decide which province or territory receives the prestigious Willingdon Cup by combining the scores of each team. Players who make the cut then go on to compete individually in the last two rounds.
“It’s going to be thrilling, fun to watch how our guys do,” said Taylor. “And I think it’s doubly nice that N.W.T. will be in next year because then we can have a nice healthy competition with them.
“It’s not about winning the thing, it’s about going down and doing your best and our people have an opportunity to compete at that high a level.”
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