Once again, it was the steady, and not the spectacular, that triumphed at Kenai Golf Course.
Course owner Gordon Griffin had a 5-over par 77 on Sunday for a two-day total of 160 to win the Donald R. Morgan Memorial Kenai Golf Association Annual Championship on a day in which a cold, foggy morning gave way to a brilliant, sun-splashed afternoon.
Griffin started the day five shots behind Bill Burtram, four shots behind two-time defending champion Todd Eskelin and two shots behind Tom Reese. Griffin put up one birdie, 12 pars, four bogeys and one double bogey on Sunday. Kenai's penal layout then brought the Burtram, Eskelin and Reese back to Griffin.
"I didn't really do anything that amazing," Griffin said. "I also didn't have any big numbers. They each had some big numbers."
Avoiding big numbers is the name of the game at Kenai, where even professional golfers have never broken par in a two-day tournament.
"This is a great tournament golf course," Griffin said. "There is not a hole out here that can't bite you. Every shot must command your full attention."
Riding a hot putter, Griffin fired a 2-over-par 38 on the front nine to get back in the tournament. After nine holes, Griffin was tied with Burtram and Reese, with Eskelin one stroke ahead.
"I was putting so well," Griffin said of Sunday's round. "I probably had eight or nine greens where I took only one putt. If it was inside 20 feet, it was pretty much in the hole."
Eskelin took command early on the back nine. After playing the first six holes of the back side at 1-over par, he had a one-shot lead over Burtram and a three-shot lead over Reese and Griffin. Eskelin said he played the back nine a lot early in the season, when it was the only nine open, so he is comfortable on the closing stretch.
"Those last four holes are my favorite holes," Eskelin said. "Earlier in the season, when we'd play tournaments, I'd always tell Gordon he'd better have a big lead going into 16, because I like those holes so much."
On No. 16, Eskelin drove into the rough. In trying to get out of the rough, he didn't make good contact, ended up behind a stump, took a drop, and carded a triple bogey. That put Burtram in the lead, with Eskelin, Reese and Griffin each a shot back.
On No. 17, Griffin recorded his fourth straight par to pull into a tie for the lead with Burtram, who bogeyed the hole. Eskelin and Reese had double bogeys to fall two shots of the pace. On No. 18, Griffin got on the green in two and two-putted for par, while Burtram skulled his second shot and ended up in a water hazard en route to a double bogey.
No. 18 requires a 150- to 170-yard carry over trees, then a similar carry over the water hazard. Griffin said such shots normally aren't that hard, but those carries become much harder when the trees and gully get into a golfer's head.
"I'm pretty sure that's what it is mental," Burtram said. "They say it's the hardest hole in the state of Alaska. It's not really that hard, but getting over that gully makes you think sometimes."
Burtram also is a groundskeeper at the course, and arrived on Sunday at 5:30 a.m.
"Usually, I run out of gas after 14 or 15 holes," he said. "I guess today, it happened on the 18th hole."
Burtram took the low net in the first division with a 142, while Reese was second with 145 and Tom Carver and Jessie Wade tied for third with a 153. In the second division, Felix Martinez was first with a net of 149, while Mike Kebschull was second at 150 and Noel Widmayer was third at 152.
Donald R. Morgan Memorial Kenai Golf Association Annual Championship
Saturday, Sunday at Kenai Golf Course
Gordon Griffin 83 77 160
Bill Burtram 78 84 162
Todd Eskelin 79 83 162
Tom Reese 81 82 163
Tom Carver 86 79 165
Jesse Wade 83 86 169
Jim Bradford 84 89 173
Dana Bassel 87 91 178
Eddie Sibolboro 89 93 182
Pat Bowen 82 97 179
Felix Martinez 83 90 173
Charlie Kahakauwila 86 98 184
Kirk Hyman 88 97 185
Jerry Norris 89 88 177
Noel Widmayer 91 87 178
Rich Edwards 91 89 180
David Litchfield 92 89 181
Cliff Vaught 96 98 194
Bruce Galloway 96 100 196
Sid Cox 97 104 201
Mike Kebschull 98 86 184
Cliff Baker 99 94 193
Jeff Johns 100 98 198
Chuck Ruppenthal 106 103 209
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