Moose Run Golf Course pro Bryan Anderson still reigns at what he calls “the easiest, hardest golf course in America.”
Anderson held off Tony Azzara, a 2004 Soldotna High School graduate, and John McBride to defend his Kenai Peninsula Open crown Sunday at Birch Ridge Golf Course.
Anderson finished with a two-day total of 3-over-par 173 to win the $1,250 first prize. Both Azzara and McBride tied at 174 to each take home $600.
Birch Ridge pro Nolan Rose was fourth with 147 and won $400. Amateur Beau Forrest matched Rose’s 147 to run away with the amateur division.
In the first-ever Kenai Peninsula Open last year, Anderson birdied four straight holes on the back nine to finish at 2-under-par 138 and win by four strokes.
This year, he had to sink a 3-foot par putt on the 18th hole to wrap up the victory.
“This year was just about survival,” Anderson said. “In the final group, it was close the whole time.”
Even though Birch Ridge measures just 6,030 yards, tournament golfers take a risk when they pull out drivers and seek birdie binges.
“I call it the easiest, hardest golf course in America because on each hole, there is a disaster waiting,” Anderson said. “On every hole, you can end up with a double bogey.”
Anderson was the only golfer in the final group to not take a double bogey on the back nine and that proved to be the difference in the tournament.
McBride was tied with Anderson heading into the par-4, 350-yard 11th hole, but took a double bogey to fall two shots off the pace. He would never pull even with Anderson again.
Rose started the day five shots behind Anderson, but he had managed to pull within one shot heading into the par-3, 150-yard 15th hole.
Rose pushed his 6-iron right into the trees. The ball trampolined off a tree and out-of-bounds, forcing a double bogey that ended his chances.
Azzara reeled off birdies on the 10th, 11th and 13th holes to move into a tie with Anderson, but a thin tee shot into a poor lie on the par-4 14th resulted in a double bogey.
Anderson birdied the 15th hole to take a two-shot lead on McBride, his closest pursuer.
On the par-4 16th, Anderson played it safe with an iron off the tee, but he still hit into the junk.
“I tried a miracle shot out of that, but I hit a tree, so I chipped out into the other fairway,” he said.
Anderson was 110 yards away from the hole facing his fourth shot, and looking squarely at a double bogey that would let the field back in the tournament.
He played his approach to 5 feet, then drained the breaking putt for a clutch bogey. He said the putt broke about 3 feet and showed the great condition of Birch Ridge’s greens right now.
“The greens are in fantastic shape,” he said. “I’ve been coming here for 12 or 13 years, and this is the best I’ve seen them.
“That putt would have had no chance on a bad green.”
Anderson’s last test came on the par-4 18th, when he hit his tee shot into the junk and had to get up and down for the tourney-winning par.
“There was some great golf, but there were also stretches where everybody was giving away shots,” Rose said. “(Anderson) didn’t give away as many shots as everybody else.
“He didn’t lose it, and nobody else could win it.”
Despite coming up just short, Azzara said it was nice to get in some tourney play before heading back down to Arizona next week to compete on the Pepsi Tour.
He came up to Alaska in the first week of June and worked part-time while also helping out with junior golf. This was his first full summer back on the Peninsula in about five years.
“There are some great golfers here in Alaska,” Azzara said. “Hats off to BA. He brought it in.”
Half the sponsorship money raised at the tournament went to prostate cancer care through the Central Peninsula Health Foundation.
Mackenzy Habor was the top junior, with a two-day total of 152. Habor was second in gross score in the amateur division, while John Davenport was third at 153. Chase Bomar was the second junior at 180.
Vic Hussey had a net of 130 to win the amateur division, while Steve Tachick was second at 137 and Earl Matthis was third at 137.
The gross champion in the women’s division was Ardie Crawford at 175. The net champ was Denise Cox at 195.
Kenai Peninsula Open
Saturday, Sunday at Birch Ridge Golf Course