Story By Pat Payton | St.Marys Independent Newspaper
Going forward, Rick Fifield might not ever warm up for a golf tournament again.
Fifield, easily regarded as one of the best golfers at St. Marys Golf and Country Club for many years, thought last Saturday’s 2022 Coca-Cola Classic Men’s Invitational got underway with a shotgun start at 11 a.m.
The 90-man field actually started ball-striking at 10 a.m., and Fifield arrived at the course just mere minutes before the annual St. Marys event commenced. With no time for practice shots or putts, he raced to the par 3 No. 2 hole.
It didn't seem to faze Fifield as he started his round on fire. He birdied No. 2, birdied No. 3, parred No. 4 and birdied No. 5. He was three-under-par after eight holes and went on to shoot a two-under 70 and finish with a one-shot victory over former Invitation winner Chad Swartzentruber (2018).
“The field was just about to tee off when I got here,” Fifield said with a wry smile. “I could have sworn it was an 11 o’clock shotgun, but I made it just in time.”
Fifield pointed to his putting as being very strong on Saturday.
“I made a lot of good putts today,” he said. “Actually, I hit the ball well. At the start of the round, I hit it close and made some birdies. From there on, I hit greens and had a lot of two putts. I stayed three-under-par for quite a while, until I made double bogey on No. 13. But I birdied No. 18 to get one shot back.
“I remember losing to Chad in a playoff (in 2018), and I’m sure he doesn’t like losing to an old fart like me today,” Fifield added with a laugh.
No. 8 hole proves costly
Schwartzentruber, meanwhile, was a strong contender to win this year’s tournament. After a birdie 4 on the par 5 No. 6 hole, the big lefthander was four-under for his round. However, a triple bogey seven on the par 4 No. 8 hole proved costly. His approach shot to the green bounced off the cart path and went out of bounds.
Earlier in his round, Swartzentruber had an eagle on the par 5 No. 15 hole. He drained a 40-foot bomb for his 3.
With his 71, Schwartzentruber was the ‘A’ Flight winner (for handicaps plus 2 to 4). Three players finished with three-over-par 73s.
‘B’ Flight winner (for 5 to 9 handicaps) was St. Marys member Scott Kemp, who fired a 76.
‘C’ Flight winner (for 10 to 14 handicaps) was Nikola Pasic, who shot an 81. St. Marys member Derek Vander Linden was a close second with an 82. ‘D’ Flight winner (for handicaps 15 and more) was Frank Jewell with a 90.
Other top scores from St. Marys G&CC members were as follows: Taylor Booth (75), Darryl Sterkenburg (76), Kyle Heinbuch (76), Bob Hearn (77), Rich Parsons (78) and Troy Carter (81).
Stratford’s Brock Gleadall had a solid 75 in ‘A’ Flight.
St. Marys greens praised
Saturday’s tournament was played in warm, but windy conditions. Players praised the condition of the St. Marys course.
Swartzentruber, 35, has played in several tournaments this summer, and noted that the St. Marys greens were the “most receptive” he’s played on.
“The greens here today were deceivingly receptive,” said Swartzentruber, a Sebringvville resident who’s a member at the Stratford Municipal course. “I played in a big Invitational up in North Bay two weeks ago, and everything was rock hard. I also played the Muni Invitational in Stratford a week ago, and that course was rock hard. The greens weren’t receptive.
“But you could come out here today and chuck darts as they say. You could attack the pins instead of playing safe every time you approached a green. It was quite refreshing after the summer we’ve had with no rain.”
Kyle Heinbuch described course conditions as “great” for the Invitation.
“The greens were rolling really nice,” Heinbuch said. “The fairways were hard and rolling out like crazy, and there were a couple of unique pin placements. The wind was also a factor today . . . everywhere a little bit. But the greens were great today; they were rolling true. I think they gave them a good roll this morning.”
–Director of Golf Brandon De Groote presented the Men’s Invitation plaque to Rick Fifield at the award presentations following dinner.
–There were three skins won on Saturday: Bob Hearn for a birdie 3 on No. 10, Fifield for a birdie on No. 18, and Chad Swartzentruber for his eagle on No. 15.
–Schwartzentruber won the 2018 Invitational in a three-man playoff on No. 7. He birdied the par 3 hole, while Rick Fifield and Stratford’s Chad Smalley both had pars. Schwartzentruber’s brother Reid won the tournament in 2019.
–2021 winner Jake Erwin, of Port Dover, didn’t return to play in this year’s Invitation. He shot an even-par 72 in last year’s event. There was no Invitation in 2020 due to Covid.
–Fifield won the St. Marys Invitation back-to-back in 1993 and 1994. He was also the Senior Men’s Invitation winner last year.