Categories: Local SportsSports

Dramatic end to Birchbank Open, Spokane golfer wins in playoff

The Birchbank Open needed a 55th hole to decide the 2018 champion on a smoky Sunday afternoon at the Birchbank Golf Course.

Spokane’s Gord Corder tapped in for birdie on the first sudden-death playoff hole to win the Birchbank (Rossland-Trail) Open and defeat defending champion Kevin Hogg.

“I’m not a guy who plays golf for a living, I have to spend time in the golf shop, so for me the weekend was really, really solid,” said Corder, the club professional at the Manito Golf and Country Club in Spokane.

Consistency was key for Corder who shot 2-under 70 in all three rounds for a three-day total of 210, while Hogg fired a 2-under 70 on Sunday after rounds of 72 and 68 on Friday and Saturday.

“That (consistency) is not generally my game, but this week it sure was,” said Corder.

Corder launched his drive over 340-yards down the left side of the first sudden-death playoff hole, a 483-yard par-5 dog-leg left with an elevated green surrounded by bunkers. Hogg answered with a solid drive down the right side of the fairway that rolled into the rough. His 175-yard approach shot came up just short of the green, while Corder stuck his 140-yard pitching wedge to within eight feet of the pin.

Hogg chipped up to six feet from the hole, then watched as Corder’s eight-foot eagle putt hung on the edge.

“I had the same putt earlier (in the day), and I actually made it for eagle, but for some reason it broke a little more left than I thought it would be,” said Corder. “It almost broke up hill, it looked like.”

Corder tapped in for birdie, leaving Hogg another must-make pressure putt. Unfortunately for the 2017 Birchbank champion, his putt broke left at the hole, giving Corder his first Birchbank Open title.

“I love coming up here,” said Corder. “We’ve always had between 20 and 40 guys (from the Manito Club) come up here annually for this event, and we had 20 guys this year. I’ll be back every year, I can make it. I’ve always had a lot of fun and I’ll be out here in a wheel chair when I get older.”

After shooting 72 on Friday, former Trail resident Dan Dupuis fired the low round of the tournament, a 6-under 66 on Saturday, to lead the field heading into the final round. Corder and Hogg teed off Sunday tied at 4-under, while three-time champion and first-round leader Dylan Maine sat at 2-under.

The Open was Dupuis’ tournament to lose. The 2013 champion stayed even through the front nine despite two birdies, while Corder came out firing darts. The Manito Golf Pro eagled the first hole, then birdied 3 and 4, to find himself with a one-shot lead over Dupuis.

“I was 4-under through the first four holes and I actually kind of came back,” said Corder. “But I fought it all day, and just hung in there.”

A bogey by Corder on the fifth hole evened the score and another bogey on 10 restored Dupuis’ one-shot lead. It looked like Corder might fall even further back on the 426-yard dog-leg 11th hole. He hit his drive right, under the trees, and was forced to hit a low pitch about 20 feet from the green. He chipped on and then sunk a 10-foot putt to keep him in the hunt.

“The biggest shot for me today was certainly the par putt I made on 11, because I was really fighting my golf game and then I was able to make a really good 10-footer for par there, and that was really huge.”

Despite good play from Dupuis, his putts weren’t dropping, and on 13 the wheels fell off. The Powell River resident sent his drive through the fairway and under the trees, leaving him a punch-out from the dirt. He then shanked his 100-yard wedge hard right and under another giant conifer, but made a great bump-and-run on to the green, where he two putted for a double-bogey.

Corder bogeyed 15 to drop to 5-under with a one shot lead on Dupuis and Hogg, while Maine birdied to go to 3-under. But Corder kept cool and composed, unleashing a 340-yard drive on the par-5, 533-yard, 16th hole, and dropping his 190-yard approach shot a dozen feet from the pin. Maine, meanwhile, landed a massive 275-yard fairway wood to within 10 feet. Both men birdied to set up a dramatic finish, with Dupuis, Hogg, and Maine all within two shots of the leader Corder with three holes to play.

“It was awesome, I knew we were all really tight, and no leader boards out here, but I knew we were all right there.”

Hogg rolled in a 2 on the par-3 17th to draw within one of Corder, then hit a 300-yard drive down the left side on the 480-yard, par-5, 18 to set himself up for a good look at the pin. Hogg’s second shot landed just off the putting surface, but he was able to two-putt for birdie to tie Corder at 6-under and force the extra hole.

“He (Hogg) was struggling on the front nine, but on the back, he made golf look pretty easy,” said Corder who parred the final two holes.

Rossland’s Ben Gresley-Jones was even through two days, but fired a 5-under 67 with an eagle on the finishing hole on Sunday to end the tournament one shot back of the co-leaders. Following a 75 on Friday, Trail’s Garrett Kucher shot a 4-under 68 on Saturday to go to 1-under, but stayed even through the final round. Dupuis finished at 5-under and Maine at 4-under par.

Jim Bailey

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