The ending couldn’t have been more dramatic, the timing more perfect as the Rossland-Trail Men’s Open came down to the last putt on the final hole on Sunday at the Birchbank Golf Course.
With more than a half-dozen past champions in the field of over 100 golfers, one was bound to step up and seize the championship, and on Sunday it was two past champions and a first-time R-T Open golfer that made a run for the title.
But in the end, it came down to putting, and Pitt Meadows golfer Kevin Hogg, who had struggled with the flat stick all day, sank a clutch putt when it mattered most. Hogg birdied the 18th (ninth) hole of the Birchbank Golf Course to break a tie with 2013 champion Dan Dupuis and Vancouver Golf Tour professional Darren Day to win the 73rd Rossland-Trail Open with a score of 10-under par.
“That was a ton of fun,” said Hogg after the match. “That was some good golf played by everybody.”
Hogg led the field going into the final round after carding 69 and 68 for 7-under par the first two days of the 54-hole event, while Dupuis trailed by one shot and Day followed closely at 5-under. Spokane’s Colin McMahon rounded out the final foursome at 2-under.
Teeing off on the back nine on Sunday, Hogg dropped into a tie with Dupuis after bogeying the second hole 11th. Dupuis took the lead outright after birdieing the ninth hole (18) on the turn, while Day stayed in the mix with birdies on 8 (17) and 9 (18).
Hogg rallied early on the front nine. The 2010 R-T champion birdied the 415 yard 10th (1) hole after landing his approach shot to within six feet of the pin; he then made a miraculous birdie on the 11th (2nd hole) that would ultimately win him the championship.
“I think that was definitely the turning point,” said Hogg. “When it looked like I was maybe in a lot of trouble, I pulled off probably my best shot in a long time.”
Hogg’s tee shot on the 426-yard dog leg right, sliced into the trees and settled near the the 16th (7) tee box. While Hogg waited for golfers to tee off, he judged the distance and the height of the towering fir trees, and took out a pitching wedge.
“I saw the chip underneath was going to be a heck of a lot harder than hitting it over,” said Hogg. “I thought the worst I would be in the bunker and if I turn it a little bit I can get it on the green.”
The 140-yard shot somehow cleared the wall of trees and settled about three feet from the pin, where Hogg tapped in for birdie and a share of the lead at 9-under with Dupuis, who also birdied the 11th.
Unfortunately for Dupuis, after brilliant play all week, his tee shot on 12 went into the water, forcing him to take a drop from about 200 yards out. But unfazed the former Trail resident landed his iron shot on the green and putted in to salvage a remarkable bogie and stay within striking distance. A bogey on the 15th put him two back, but the intrepid 49-year-old former professional wasn’t ready to throw in the towel, as he birdied 16 and 17 to pull even with Hogg.
“I was a little disappointed with my start on the back nine there when I hit that one into the water,” said Dupuis. “And then I made another bogey coming in and got a little frustrated there but I knew there were some birdie opportunities coming in, and if I could birdie out I thought I’d have a good chance of winning.”
Day meanwhile, quietly remained within striking distance, birdieing the 10th and then knocking his tee shot to within four feet of the pin for birdie on the 180-yard par-3 17th (8) to stay one shot shy of the leaders.
“I knew I was one back so I was just thinking get it in close, and get my chance at eagle, because the guys were playing so good and I knew birdie wouldn’t be good enough,” said Day, who is a good friend of last year’s champion Garrett Kucher.
Meanwhile, the two former R-T champions – Dupuis of Powell River and Hogg, who is married to Trail native Stephanie LeRose – walked up to the 18th tee tied at 9-under.
Hogg hit his tee shot left behind a tree and was forced to punch out, while both Dupuis and Day crushed their drives down the middle setting up a clear shot at the pin.
Day pounded a 180-yard iron onto the dance floor on his second shot for a look at eagle on the par-five 480-yard hole. Dupuis was in a good position, but his iron shot clipped the tree overhanging the green and sent it down the bank and into the deep grass.
“I think I got a bit of an unfortunate bounce on the last hole, where it hit the tree,” said Dupuis. “If it would have missed the branches, it’s two putts and a playoff, but Kevin’s played well all week.”
Hogg then hit a wedge to within eight feet, and Dupuis made another great save out of the grass for a look at birdie.
Day, putting for eagle, could take the lead and, at the very least, force a playoff hole. Unfortunately, his 15-foot putt skimmed the left edge, and the Victoria golfer tapped in for birdie to tie the leaders.
Moments later, Hogg dashed Day’s hopes when he sunk his putt, and with a fist pump, put the pressure squarely on Dupuis’ shoulders. Dupuis lined up the 12-foot putt, calmly drew the putter back and followed through. The roll was on target all the way, but fell to the left an inch from the cup, to give Hogg the title.
“Dan’s putt looked like it was going in until the very last second, which would put us in a playoff, but fortunate for me it didn’t,” said Hogg. “I just knew I had to make it, and I finally hit a good solid putt today.”
Dupuis and Day tied for second with a 54-hole total of 207, while the steady and unflappable Hogg enjoyed his second R-T title with a 10-under score of 206.
“I was really happy with the way I played, I hit a lot of greens, I putted okay, but for me, this was three really solid days of golf … It’s nice to get the name back on the trophy.”
Notes: McMahon finished at 1-under 215 for the tournament. Former champion Dylan Maine shot the day’s best round of 5-under 67 to finish at 2-under, 214, for the tournament, while defending champion Kucher shot 73 to finish at 1-over, 217.
The Senior title went to Castlegar’s Reg Clarkson with an even par 216, while Fruitvale’s Scott Browell came second with a 6-over 222. See flight winners in Scoreboard.