After winning the US Open in 2007, PGA player Angel Cabrera commented, “Some players deal with nerves by hiring sports psychologists. I just smoke.”
Playing in the Yukon Golf Championships, held over the weekend at the Mountain View Golf Club, Whitehorse’s Blaine Tessier had his own approach to calming his nerves.
On his way to capturing his first Yukon Open title in three years, Tessier drank nine cans of beer during Sunday’s final round.
“Yeah, a beer every two holes calms the nerves,” said Tessier. “They take the edge off for sure. Although, if I had to play five more holes, I may not remember any of it.”
Not only did Tessier win the open men’s division, defeating second place finisher Landon Kulych by seven strokes, he came close to setting a new course record on Sunday. Had Tessier sunk a 25-foot putt on the hole-18, he would have surpassed the record by a stroke with a 68. Instead he three-putted, giving him the still very respectable score of 70 for a combined score of 144 over the two rounds.
“I really, really wanted to make that putt,” said Tessier. “But I left it short and missed a three-footer to shoot 69 – 70 is good.”
Tessier, who finished second behind Phil Mullin in last year’s open, dropped a two-stroke lead over Kulych over the first eight holes on Sunday, but got back on top with birdies on holes nine and 12, and an eagle on hole 10, hitting 33 on the back-nine.
“I kind of scraped it around for a while, and then on hole-six today I found a swing-thought and played the last 14 holes four under par,” he said. “I could have really shot a (remarkable) score today, but I’m really happy with that. It’s the best score I’ve ever shot in a competitive round.”
In the open women’s division Birgitte Hunter defended her title from last year, hitting a “bad” 98 on Saturday and an 89 on Sunday.
“I had a really solid front-nine with a 41, on the back-nine I struggled with my putter and wasn’t hitting it as solid off the tee as on the front,” said Hunter of Sunday’s round. “On the front-nine I was hitting my woods well but again the putter was the missing part, but it worked out OK.”
Hunter started Saturday with a three-stroke lead, and finished with five-stroke lead, over 2008 champion Ingrid Fawcus.
“Ingrid and I battle it out all the time – and Carol. We all play together,” said Hunter. “We all have fun out there. It is a competition, but it’s a game.
“I wish we could get more women in here playing; it would be nice to have a bigger field,” she added. “I guess guys are more inclined to play tournaments than women.
“There’s a lot of recreational golfer in (the women’s league) and so maybe they feel intimidated and don’t want to play.
“But it’s still a battle out there no matter how big the field is.”
The junior division saw a couple of first-time champions.
After finishing in second and third over the last two championships, Ricky Schmok, 16, won his first junior title, hitting a 90 on Saturday and an 88 Sunday.
Making the win all the more sweet for Schmok, who represented the Yukon at last year’s Canada Summer Games, Saturday’s round was his first in two months, having suffered a shoulder injury in a cycling accident.
“It was (a good score) when I played at the Canada Summer Games, but I messed up my shoulder and wasn’t playing,” said Schmok. “I haven’t played in two months so to go out and win – it’s a pretty good feeling. I’ve been chipping and putting, but that’s all.”
Schmok’s victory was a come-from-behind effort, teeing off Sunday morning eight strokes behind second place finisher Trever Harris.
“I was slowly picking at him through the front-nine and caught up him on hole-nine,” said Schmok. “I just continued to play my game through the back-nine.”
To finish the front-nine Schmok hit a 300-yard drive before poking a 75-yarder onto the green, he then two-putted for par while Harris bogeyed.
“Going to hole-nine we were tied and nerves started getting to me,” said Harris. “I had to regroup and I made a bogey – it was a bad hole. It was a tough game of golf.
“I don’t usually play competitive golf like this.”
With his unbalanced rounds of 81 Saturday and 101 Sunday, Harris, who was playing in his first Yukon Open, still won the 15-and-under junior title, surpassing second place (third in overall junior) finisher Rory Gibson by four strokes.
“The nerves, the game, taking a lead into the second round – I’ve never done that before,” said Harris. “My chipping and putting was bad today too.”
For the senior men title, John MacLeod defeated last year’s champ Matt Lafferty by 15 strokes with a 78 on Saturday and 75 Sunday.
In the small, two-person senior women’s division, Elaine Summer hit a 106 and a 103 for a 209, beating out Gwen Hogan.
Last year’s open men’s champion, Mullin, is currently in Kootenay, BC for the qualifying round of the BC Amateurs Championship.
Last year’s junior champ Ian Wintemute was absent from the competition, preventing Schmok from some payback.
“I was tied for first last year and then shot a 100 and put myself out of it, so I was hoping to redeem myself,” said Schmok. “It’s too bad (Wintemute) isn’t here. We were on the Canada Games team together.”
As nice as the weather was on Sunday, hitting the mid-20s, the course conditions were foremost on the minds of many players. As much as a cold beer can calm the nerves, good course conditions can be a prerequisite for good scores, said Tessier.
“These greens are as good as they’ve ever been. It’s the middle of July – they’re only going to get better the rest of the year,” said Tessier. “Absolutely perfect course conditions.
“You can only shoot good scores if the course itself is in shape to shoot good scores.”
“It’s the best looking course I’ve seen since I’ve been up here,” said Schmok. “It rivals courses in BC.”
1st Birgitte Hunter 187
2nd Ingrid Fawcus 193
3rd Carol Dipasquale 210
1st Elaine Sumner 209
2nd Gwen Hogan 254
1st Ricky Schmok 178
2nd Trever Harris 182
3rd Rory Gibson 186
4th Tyler Briemon 194
5th Chris Anderson 195
6th Nicholas Dobush 202
7th Woo-Jin Jung 218
8th Riley Smoler 228
9th Logan Harris 232
10th Bryce Anderson 268
1st Blaine Tessier 144
2nd Landon Kulych 151
3rd Sheldon King 161
4th Drew Wintemute 165
5th Rick Gingell 172
6th Vic Istchenko 173
7th Vaughn Francis 175
7th Dave Sembsmoen 175
9th Ken Taylor 177
9th Dave Ecker 177
1st John MacLeod 153
2nd Matt Lafferty 168
3rd Jim Harris 173
4th Wayne McLennan 178
5th Hugh Carruthers 181
6th Brian Edelman 185
7th Gordon Zealand 187
8th Patrick Michael 195
8th John Sembsmoen 195
10th Michael Hyslop 199
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org