By Pat Payton | The Independent
There was some ‘high drama’ Saturday at the St. Marys Golf and Country Club.
A sudden-death playoff was needed to decide the overall winner of the 2018 Coca-Cola Classic Men’s Invitational golf tournament after three golfers fired even-par 72s. The challenging par 3 No. 16 hole was picked to establish the 2018 champion.
Rick Fifield, of St. Marys, Chad Smalley, of Stratford, and Chad Swartzentruber, of New Hamburg, all hit their tee-shots from about 130 yards up to the elevated green. With a large gallery watching around the green, Swartzentruber hit the best shot -leaving his ball just three feet below the cup. He had no trouble making his birdie putt, after Fifield and Smalley missed their lengthy putts from the back of the green.
Almost 90 golfers (in five flights) competed in the annual golf tournament in sometimes windy, but pleasant weather conditions.
During the regulation 18 holes, Swartzentruber was 39 on the front nine and 33 on the back. The big left-hander had a double-bogey 6 on the par 4 No. 3 hole, but had birdies on No. 12 and No. 17. Fifield and Smalley both went 36-36.
Swartzentruber, 33, is a member at both Craigowan golf club near Woodstock and at the Municipal course in Stratford.
“I drove the ball well, and played well tee to green,” Swartzentruber said following the playoff. “I didn’t miss too many greens and didn’t put myself in too many bad positions.”
Finishing one shot back with one-over 73s were Joey Hishon, of Stratford, and Joe Speed. Matt Smyth had a 75, while Stratford golfers Brock Gleadall and Steve Hislop both had 76s as did Marc Anderson.
Hishon and Hislop finished 1-2 in ‘B’ Flight. Four other golfers in that flight had 78s. Bob Hearn, of St. Marys, had an 81 (40-41).
With his 73, Speed easily won ‘C’ Flight honours by five shots. Two golfers in that flight had 78s.
Rob Steinbach, of Mitchell, topped the ‘D’ Flight list with a 79. In ‘E’ Flight, Bob Atkinson topped the group with an 85.
Wind a factor Saturday
St. Marys member Merlin Malinowski said Saturday’s windy conditions were a factor.
“Early in the round, it wasn’t as bad, but later in the round it got stiff - especially if you were hitting into the wind,” he said. “It sure lengthened up the holes. The course played long today, so when you were hitting into the wind, it was just that much longer.
“The greens were a little quicker (than normal), but not a whole lot quicker. They really rolled true, and the greens are in great shape, thanks to Sandy (Fifield), the course superintendent.”
Steve Hislop agreed that the wind made it “tough” to score.
“The golf course is in great shape, but it played tough today,” he said. “The wind was a big factor for sure; it was swirling around the whole day.
“The greens were very receptive, and not as fast as usual here because of all the (recent) rain. They were perfect - smooth and very nice.”
Hislop has won the Stratford City championship a couple of times.
--Rick Fifield finished second overall due to retrogression. He won two of the day’s five ‘skins’ with eagle 3s on the par 5 No. 6 and No. 8 holes. The other skins were for birdies.
Golf is a great game, and it’s even better when there’s a friendly team competition involved. One of the annual traditions at St. Marys Golf & Country Club is the President’s Cup, where members line up on different sides for a couple days of matches.