Kevin Hogg birdied the first hole on Friday and never looked back as the Pitt Meadows golfer led wire-to-wire to win the 75th annual Rossland-Trail Birchbank Open at the Birchbank Golf Course on Sunday.
Hogg led off with two rounds of 68, then shot a 1-under par 71 on Sunday to finish the three-day event at 9-under, 207, to capture his third R-T Open title.
“I feel great,” said Hogg following his four-shot victory over Greater Trail golfer Garrett Kucher. “It always feels good to win. A lot of fun out there, a lot of work at times, but it was good, a pretty solid round. I didn’t do anything too wrong to give anybody a chance. Started good, then hit a bit of a rough patch on 8,9, and 10, but righted the ship and was pretty solid.”
Hogg held a two-shot lead over Kucher heading into Sunday’s final round. Kucher, the 2016 champion, parred the par-72 course on Friday, then shot the low round of the week with a 6-under, 66 on Saturday.
Two other former champions, Gord Corder from the Manito Golf Club in Spokane and Powell River golfer Dan Dupuis filled out the final foursome, with Dupuis firing a 71 and 70 to go to 3-under heading into the final day, while Corder was even par after rounds of 73 and 71.
The final day was an exciting blend of power and finesse as Hogg fought off a late charge from Kucher. The Lower Mainland product played conservative as the match wore on in an effort to maintain the three stroke cushion.
“It turned into more of a match-play between me and Garrett, and I knew he had to go really low to catch me,” said Hogg. “So I was just trying to not do anything dumb, if he’s making a par, make sure I make a par, and don’t give him any big openings.”
Hogg bogeyed 10 but still increased the lead to four shots after Kucher bogeyed 10 and 11. Kucher returned to form with birdies on 13 and 14, but Hogg matched him shot-for-shot, birdying 13.
Kucher had a glorious opportunity to cut the lead to two after sinking a 20-foot putt for birdie on the par-3, 170-yard 14th hole.
Hogg hit his tee shot into the green-side bunker, and, with little green to work with he managed to pitch it to within six feet. He then stepped up and sank the testy putt to save par and only sacrifice one shot to the charging Kucher.
“That was a big putt. I knew that when he made that birdie, I didn’t want to have a two-shot swing. One was okay, I still had a three-shot lead at the time – so that was a big putt, probably the most important putt of the tournament, getting up and down there.”
Hogg played smart golf the rest of the way, laying up and birdying the par-5, 480-yard 18th for a strong and memorable finish. His last win at the Birchbank Open came in 2017. Hogg was runner-up last year, losing in an extra-hole tie breaker to the 2018 champion, Corder, and looks forward to trying for number-four next year.
“This (tournament) one’s my favourite. It’s an easy one to get to, and my wife’s from here, so … I’m allowed, and it’s just so fun. I’ll be coming back as long as I can that’s for sure.”
Birchbank Men’s Club president Rob Drezdoff was impressed with the competitive field of close to 100 golfers, with almost half coming from south of the border.
“The golf course was in great shape, we had a great field come out, and a lot of familiar faces,” said Drezdoff.
All who attended enjoyed a traditional Italian Dinner on Friday night, with door prizes and a 50/50 draw. Fittingly, Tom Maine, who has competed in the RTO for the past 27 years, won the draw, then promptly donated the $500 back to the golf course, in what Drezdoff called a “Great gesture!”
The week celebrated 75 years of the Rossland-Trail Open, a significant milestone for the Birchbank course and the Men’s Club.
“The course is in wonderful shape, we had beautiful weather for the 75th year, what else can you say, just a great weekend,” added Drezdoff. “This is probably the best shape I’ve seen it. We have our new superintendent Mark Lloyd along with our head professional and director of golf, Jeff Papilion, just doing an excellent job and we’re so happy to have them on our team.”
In the Senior Division Brad Harding won the championship with a 2-under, 214, with Ray St. Jean placing second at even par, 216. In the Men’s Open Division: Mark Jenner was the Low Net Champion with a net 206, while Rob McKay won Low Net for the Senior Division, 206.