In the weeks leading up to the event, the team of Rich Lundahl and Bill Engberg were not the logical pair to come out on top of the 17th Birch Ridge Golf Association and Wells Fargo Skins Game on Monday at Birch Ridge Golf Course.
Three weeks ago, Engberg, the superintendent and assistant pro at Birch Ridge, pulled a rib muscle during his morning round of golf. The pain was so bad, he could not even finish that round of golf.
But at least Engberg was playing some regular golf in the year leading up to the tournament.
Lundahl had a golf school in Arizona for 22 years, but he now lives on the Kenai Peninsula year-round, doing some work for ASRC, some forest firefighting, and some substitute teaching.
Monday, he would be playing his second round of golf in nine months.
But the pair combined to birdie the 330-yard, par-4 ninth hole to win $3,300 and take the title. It was the fourth title for Lundahl, and the first for Engberg.
Rob Nelson of Eagleglen Golf Course and Travis Jorgenson of Settlers Bay Golf Course were second with $750, while James Contreras of Fairbanks Golf and Country Club and Casey Cusack of Anchorage were third with $250.
In the skins game format, each hole is worth a certain dollar amount. Monday, seven teams of two played alternate shot for each hole.
If any two teams tie for a hole, the money is pushed over to the next hole.
Contreras and Cusack won the first hole for $250, while Nelson and Jorgenson won the second hole for $250.
After that, six holes were pushed until the ninth hole was worth $3,300.
“Richie has done this a lot,” Engberg said. “We both understand that in this type of format, all you have to do is hang around. You don’t have to play every hole well to win.”
For instance, Nelson and Jorgenson were the only ones with solid birdie chances on Nos. 7 and 8, but they didn’t convert so it didn’t matter what Engberg and Lundahl did on those holes as long as somebody made par to push the hole.
Lundahl teed off for the team on the ninth and said he hit his iron a little fat, leaving Engberg 93 yards to the hole from the left rough.
Engberg said he had “cold topped” an iron on No. 6, but he said he gained confidence from a solid iron shot on the eighth.
“That’s skins game play,” he said. “You can look like a rank amateur on one shot, and still hit a good shot that matters on the next shot.”
Engberg said he has had that approach shot on the ninth hundreds of times. It’s the perfect distance for his favorite club — the sand wedge. He skirted the ball past a tree and to within 5 feet of the hole.
That left Lundahl with a tricky putt that would travel uphill and break right. And, of course, $3,300 on the line does not tend to steady the nerves.
“I haven’t played at all, so I really didn’t have any expectations,” Lundahl said. “I was surprisingly calm. I didn’t want to take too long over the putt.
“I’m not known for staying calm when I’m putting, but I was able to make it. Billy hit a great approach shot.”
After that, Earl and Ann Frawner put up $500 for the teams to continue in a sudden-death format.
Nelson and Jorgenson outlasted Birch Ridge products Tony Azzara and Nolan Rose for the cash. The score was finally settled on the 13th hole.
Engberg also teamed with Lori Bassett, Mike Hollingsworth and Eddie Sibolboro to win the pro-am earlier in the day.
In the pro am, Billy Bomar and Azzara each shot 68, and Bomar won low-pro honors in a playoff. Nelson was third with 69, George Collum III and Contreras tied for fourth with 74, Lundahl was sixth with 75, Rose, Travis Kordus and Jorgenson tied for seventh with 76, Cody Long and Cusack were 10th with 78, Marcus Dolejsi had 81 and Engberg had 82.
Both Engberg and Lundahl thanked Wells Fargo for putting up the money for the event. They both said all the pros enjoy getting together, because they are only able to do it a few times a year.
“I had fun, and that’s the most important thing, right?” Lundahl said. “Life’s too short not to have fun.”