Chris Sonnichsen and Paula Crowley cruised to sizable victories Saturday and Sunday in the Combined Kenai and Birch Ridge Golf Associations Tournament.
Normally, the field is big enough that play has to be held on both golf courses both days. This year, rain depleted the field enough that all golfers played at Kenai Golf Course on Saturday and Birch Ridge Golf Course on Sunday. There were 34 entrants in the tournament this year, compared to 53 last year.
The players had to deal with light showers Saturday before playing through a steady rain on Sunday.
Sonnichsen and Crowley, who both made it to the semifinals in the match-play format of the Alaska State Amateur Championship earlier this summer, did not let the rain affect their play.
Sonnichsen, playing for Kenai Golf Course, posted a 4-over-par 76 at Kenai then came right back with an 8-over-par 78 at Birch Ridge. Sonnichsen's two-day total of 154 bested runner-up Todd Eskelin of Kenai Golf Course by 10 strokes.
The only golfers besides Sonnichsen to shoot in the 70s were Rene Alvarez with a 78 at Kenai, Eskelin with a 79 at Birch Ridge and Dana Bassel with a 77 at Birch Ridge.
Crowley, playing for Birch Ridge, had a 91 at Kenai and an 81 at Birch Ridge to defeat runner-up Lisa Parker of Birch Ridge by 25 strokes.
Sonnichsen said that if the right steps are taken, the rain is not as much of an issue.
"You've just got to keep your clubs dry and your grips dry," Sonnichsen said. "If you were diligent about doing that, it wasn't too bad."
Sonnichsen said the only time the rain really affected play was on No. 17 at Birch Ridge, a par 3 on which the green sits at the bottom of the hill.
"It was kind of like a lake down there," Sonnichsen said.
Eskelin, coming off a win in the Donald R. Morgan Memorial Kenai Golf Association Fall Classic, said that Sonnichsen's rounds were impressive, but that he would have liked to see somebody challenge him a little more.
"The top tier of golfers we have in the area are all capable of shooting a 76, but nobody shot that well," Eskelin said. "When Chris put up that score yesterday, it was going to be pretty hard to catch him today."
Eskelin had an 85 at Kenai, but said the last three weeks he has been shooting below 80.
"I struck the ball well, I just wasn't scoring," he said.
Eskelin came back with a 79 at Birch Ridge, but said the showers started getting to him on the back nine.
"I noticed my back was tightening up," he said. "Then when I'd reach down to pick up my ball marker, I was starting to lose dexterity in my fingers."
Both Eskelin and Sonnichsen said the enthusiasm for their solid play over the last month is dampened by the fast-approaching end of the season.
"Especially here in the last month, I've been playing really well," said Sonnichsen, who won the combined tournament for the first time. "It's too bad the summer is winding down."
Crowley is a member of the Kenai and Birch Ridge associations, but elected to play for Birch Ridge in this tournament. The decision turned out to be a big one, because Birch Ridge edged Kenai 31-29 in the team score kept at the tournament.
It was the women, led by Crowley, that made the difference. All four of the women were from Birch Ridge, meaning the course had a lock on those points.
"We had a great time out there," Crowley said. "I'd like to see more ladies out there. I really would."
Crowley said she normally plays well in the rain because it forces her to heighten her concentration. Except for the last couple of holes at Kenai, where she closed with a triple and then a quadruple bogey, Crowley said she kept up her concentration.
Both Sonnichsen and Crowley also had the lowest net scores, but could not win that award since they had the lowest gross scores.
In the Championship Flight, Bob Sizemore had the low net with a two-day total of 149, while Bassel was second with 150 and John Dahlgren was third with 151. In the Women's Flight, Parker had the low net with a 147.
In the Men's First Flight, Mike Chenault had the low gross with a 172 and the low net with a 147. Mike Kebschull was second with a 148 and Eddie Sibolboro was third with a 149.
The longest drive on both days went to Eldon Harvey. At Kenai, closest to the pin on No. 5 was Jesse Wade, on No. 9 was Sizemore, on No. 10 was Alvarez and on No. 14 was Sonnichsen. At Birch Ridge, closest to the pin on Nos. 6 and 15 was Crowley and on Nos. 8 and 17 was Cal Larson.
Combined Kenai and Birch Ridge Golf Associations Tournament
Player Kenai BR Gross Net
Chris Sonnichsen 76 78 154 143
Todd Eskelin 85 79 164 154
Bob Sizemore 84 82 166 149
Ken Liedes 85 82 167 155
Dana Bassel 92 77 169 150
John Dahlgren 81 89 170 151
Doug Jung 83 84 171 163
Gordon Griffin 86 87 173 161
Rene Alvarez 78 95 173 159
Cal Larson 84 90 174 153
Eldon Harvey 87 88 175 165
Jesse Wade 87 88 175 156
Ken Lipski 88 91 179 156
Lorne Smagge 88 94 182 171
Men's First Flight
Player Kenai BR Gross Net
Mike Chenault 88 84 172 147
Eddie Sibolboro 86 87 173 149
Mike Kebschull 86 92 178 148
Darell Jelsma 96 85 181 152
Jeff Cocker 96 93 189 165
Dave Litchfield 98 95 193 167
John Johnson 98 98 196 153
Cliff Baker 104 97 201 167
Barry Jackman 100 103 203 176
Mick Reeve 105 100 205 162
John Glidden 99 110 209 154
Sid Cox 111 100 211 165
Scott Litchfield 109 108 217 179
Dave Stein 121 107 228 177
Gordon Briscoe 118 110 228 165
Gary Effenbeck 129 121 250 185
Player Kenai BR Gross Net
Paula Crowley 91 81 172 146
Lisa Parker 99 98 197 147
Chiya Bazan 108 99 207 165
JoAnn Briscoe 126 106 232 171
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