The Rossland-Trail Birchbank Open crowned a new champion on Sunday, as Brad Jones of Vernon won the 54-hole tournament by eight shots over defending three-time champion Dylan Maine of Spokane.
The 23-year-old Jones shot an efficient round of 2-under 70 on Sunday after carding the week’s low round, 65, Saturday, and a 70 on Friday to finish at 11-under on the par-72, 6,555-yard Birchbank Golf Course.
“The first day I was really steady,” said Jones. “I made my first bogie of the day on 17 and birdied 18 to shoot 70 so I made a lot of pars. Yesterday, I got off to a quick start, got lucky and deuced the first hole and then played the first six at 4-under, which was the toughest six on the golf course, and then just kind of cruised from there.”
Jones, who started playing golf as a youngster in Nelson hitting balls into Kootenay Lake, came third at last year’s championship, and was determined to improve on his result.
With his closest competitors, Maine and Rossland’s Ben Gresley-Jones, seven shots back at 2-under par going into the third and final round, all Jones had to do was stay consistent and out of trouble to clinch his first Birchbank title.
“Today ultimately, I had a seven shot lead so I knew If I go out and shoot an even or better, someone would have to shoot a 65 or better to catch me, which isn’t the easiest task.”
Jones did better than that, birdieing the first and fifth holes on his way to a bogey-free round of 2-under 70, including 13 straight pars, to finish with a three-day total of 205.
“I didn’t hit it close, but I didn’t really try to hit it close,” said Jones. “I tried to put everything within 20 feet and put a lot of good rolls on putts that were just burning edges, and nothing fell but that’s fine.”
Saturday was a different story for the Okanagan Golf Club instructor, as Jones eagled the first hole on the par-four first then birdied 5,6,7, and 9 to finish the front nine with a sizzling 6-under 30 on his way to a 7-under 65 to finish at 9-under over two days.
“You need to make birdies out here and I didn’t do that last year, but I did it this year so it feels good,” said Jones.
With identical scores of 2-under following Saturday’s round, Maine and Gresley-Jones battled for second spot going into Sunday’s final round. Maine would get to 4-under on the front nine, while Gresley-Jones faltered shooting a 37. But the Golden City golfer would not go quietly. He rebounded on the back nine, birdieing the 400-yard par-4, 12th and then stuck a 140-yard approach shot 12 inches from the pin on 15 to draw within two of Maine.
The 2014 champion would run into trouble on the par-5, 16th (hole 7). After crushing a drive, Maine would send his second shot long, and would have to chip out of the bush for an eventual bogie. He’d lose another stroke on the par-3, 17th to draw even with Gresley-Jones heading to the 18th.
Organizers saved the front nine for last on day three, leaving the daunting par-5 ninth hole for the final challenge. With an elevated green protected by looming cottonwoods leaving a small window to the green, it is almost impossible to reach in two if not for a perfect drive down the middle and slightly left.
Both Gresley-Jones and Jones hit right along the tree line making a shot at the green almost impossible. Maine, despite landing left of the fairway, had a fairly clear shot to the pin from the 200-yard marker.
Jones, with the title in his pocket, laid up to the 100-yard marker, while Gresley-Jones looked to fade his iron shot onto the green. However, his approach bounced hard on the fringe, caroming left and rolling down the hill, into the tall grass.
Maine meanwhile sent a towering iron at the hole, only to fade right and get knocked down by the massive branches. Gresley-Jones would find his ball, and dig his shot out of the thick rough, sending it across the green and into the second cut, while Maine would pitch to within eight feet for a look at birdie.
Gresley-Jones came up short on the birdie chip.
Maine, who struggled with the putter most of the week, would finally get one to fall as he drained an unlikely birdie putt to secure second spot with a 1-under 71, and a 213 total. Gresley-Jones missed his putt for par to finish third, shooting 1-over par 73 and 216 total for the tournament.
Junior golfer Ely Overennay claimed Overall Low Net honours shooting a net 213. Meanwhile in the Seniors division Willie Hicks shot a final round 69 to claim Overall Low Gross title with a 2-under 214, while Ty Langton won overall Low Net with a net 200.
Rossland-Trail Birchbank Open Golf Tournament
Overall low grosss: Brad Jones 205
Overall Low Net: Ely Overennay 213
First Flight: Handicap 3 or less
Low Gross: Dylan Maine 210
Low Net Bill Hicks 215
Low Gross Dave Stadler 235
Low Net: Aaron Stoushnow 216
Low Gross: Brent Simister 245
Low Net: Bill King 222
Overall Low Gross: Willie Hicks 214
Overall Low Net: Ty Langton 200
Low Gross: Brad Harding 217
Low Net: Brian Gresley-Jones 202
Low Gross: Mark Wilkerson 242
Low Net: Dave Johnston 209