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Photo by M. Scott Moon
Doug Jung fist-bumps Gordon Griffin as they walk to the 9th hole Friday night. The pair, playing for the Kenai Golf Course, defeated Soldotna’s Jeff Hetrick and George Stein 5 and 3.

Kenai Golf Course takes slim lead in Walker Cup

Posted: July 21, 2012 - 3:01am  |  Updated: July 21, 2012 - 5:10pm
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Soldotna’s Jeff Hetrick chips out of the sand on the 7th hole Friday.

Wave away a swarm of gathering mosquitoes. Peer into the building darkness, wondering where the flag is. Hit, and hope to hear clapping.

It was that kind of finale Friday night in the Walker Cup at Kenai Golf Course.

At 11:45 p.m., a little more than five hours after his match teed off, Kenai Golf Course’s Bob Sizemore rammed home a 4-footer for par on the 18th hole to give the home team a 6 1/2-5 1/2 lead after two days of the three-day event.

The Walker Cup is an annual competition in which Kenai Golf Course squares off against Birch Ridge Golf Course. Birch Ridge leads the all-time series 4-2-1 and is the defending champion.

The two courses tied 3-3 in alternate shot Thursday before Kenai gained a 3 1/2-2 1/2 advantage in best ball. The tourney concludes with 12 singles matches on Sunday, starting at 2 p.m.

The only close match was between Kenai’s Sizemore and Greg Harrington, and Birch Ridge’s Beau Forrest and Pedro McCall.

McCall put his squad up by two on the sixth hole with a miraculous up and down. McCall flew the green by 20 feet on his approach shot, landing in thick brush.

Not only did McCall have to deal with the brush, but he had to crest a steep hill and then get the ball to roll to a stop near the cup on a green that was sloping severely away from him.

McCall somehow put his shot within a foot for a kick-in par that won the hole for his team.

“That was the shot of the tournament so far,” Sizemore said.

The match continued to go back and forth, with Kenai drawing even on No. 9, falling down one on No. 10, drawing even on 13 and falling one down on No. 14.

Birch Ridge had a golden chance to go up two on the par-5 16th. With Harrington having missed his birdie putt and Forrest sitting just 5 feet from the hole awaiting his birdie chance, Sizemore rolled in a 35-footer for birdie. Forrest made his birdie putt to keep his squad up one.

With darkness descending upon the course, Sizemore said he would make that putt one time in 10.

“I had a read there,” he said. “It was just getting to a point where you couldn’t read it. The green breaks so much there. That putt broke 3 feet, or maybe 4 feet.”

By the 17th hole, it was so dark players couldn’t see where their drives or approach shots ended up. Sizemore hit his approach shot on No. 17 and asked if anybody knew where it went.

After a second, applause erupted around the green.

Sizemore smiled, shrugged his shoulders and got back in his golf cart.

“It was fun,” he said. “It was close the whole time. There were a lot of good shots made, even in the dark.”

Forrest also hit the green in regulation, but Forrest three-putted and Sizemore two-putted for par to even the match heading to the par-4 18th.

On the 18th, Harrington and McCall took themselves out of the hole by hitting into unclappiness when they attempted to carry the 100-yard gully guarding the front of the green.

The swipes of Sizemore and Forrest, however, drew applause. Both were on the green in regulation, and both two-putted to halve the match. Forrest’s long birdie attempt just skirted the hole on the right side.

That was the day’s only drama.

Gordon Griffin and Doug Jung got Kenai started on the right foot by defeating Jeff Hetrick and George Stein 5 and 3, meaning they had a five-hole lead with three holes to play.

“They weren’t on their game,” Griffin said. “Doug and I complemented each other really well pretty much all day.”

Next, Birch Ridge’s John Davenport and Eddie Sibolboro topped Doug Haralson and John Dahlgren 4 and 3. The Birch Ridge duo improved to 2-0 at this Walker Cup, but the pairing almost never happened.

Davenport, who is up from Washington state for the summer, was fishing on Wednesday.

He had never caught a red before but finally got one on his line.

“I got really excited and I yanked the pole as hard as I could to eject the fish out of the water,” he said. “The next thing I knew, the sinker hit me right below the eye.”

Davenport said he was within an inch of losing the eye. He ended up with a bruise and made his Walker Cup debut the next day.

“Say that I said that golf is way safer and easier than fishing,” he said.

Kenai then went up 2-1 when Derek Kaufman and Truckee LeMay topped Mike Hollingsworth and Jay Kriner 3 and 2. LeMay and Kaufman improved to 2-0.

“Me and Derek feed off each other,” LeMay said. “We play together pretty much every round we play.”

Kenai pushed the lead to 3-1 when Gilbert Arellano and Jack Darsey also improved to 2-0 by defeating Paul Zimmerman and Mike Chenault 5 and 4.

Unlike LeMay and Kaufman, Arellano and Darsey had never played together before being paired Thursday.

They’ve bonded quickly. The 120-yard chip-in that Arellano made for eagle on No. 16 to close out Thursday’s match will do that.

Arellano said that he thought his squad’s length would be the difference come the back nine. After being up two at the turn, the team won three of the first four on the back nine to end the match.

“We got started on the back nine and just stood on it,” Darsey said.

Aaron Andrus and Taylor Jackson drew Birch Ridge to 3-2 by topping Todd Eskelin and Chris Murray 6 and 5.

Andrus played the finest golf of the day, going even-par through 13 holes. He’s been working so much, it was only his third round of golf this year.

On the par-5 11th, Andrus hit an approach through a couple of spruce trees to within 2 feet for a birdie. He followed that with a snaking, 35-footer for birdie on No. 12, then closed the affair with a par on No. 13.

“I’ve known Taylor since I was a little kid,” Andrus said. “We grew up playing at Birch Ridge. It was great to get an opportunity to play together and represent the course.”

Unlike some events, which lose popularity as the novelty wears off, the enthusiasm for the Walker Cup remains high in its eighth year. Chenault had just finished a marathon drive from San Antonio that started Monday, but he still came out to play Friday.

“It’s just good to have everybody out here — Birch Ridge and Kenai — laughing, joking and enjoying it,” Kenai captain Tom Carver said. “That’s what we need more of.”

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