After a sizzling Better Ball 66 and a Chapman 67 on Monday at their home club of Sand Ridge, members Nick Fiori and Connor Pratt held a four shot lead over two teams heading into Tuesday morning’s final round Four-Ball session.
But on a big-boy course like Sand Ridge, against tournament-tough players like Jimmy Wild, Ryan Stefanski, Chris Okeson and Rob Schustrich, well “four shots in a Four-Ball ain’t nothin'”.
It was Okeson and Schustrich who first put pressure on Fiori and Pratt. Playing alongside the leaders, both teams turned at 2-under par on the front side and the four-shot cushion remained after nine. But by the time that lead group reached the par-5 14th tee, Okeson and Schustrich had cut that lead down to two shots.
After tee shots and layups, Okeson, Schustrich and Fiori all had wedge in their hand looking for birdie at 14. Pratt had blown his tee shot way right — but way long as well — and he decided to take on the swamp protecting the green with his second. The play worked, as Pratt’s mid-iron found the putting surface.
The other three players in the lead group hit pedestrian wedges (being nice here), leaving long birdie putts. But then Okeson did the unexpected:
…he buried his 35-footer for birdie to close the gap to a single shot!
After Fiori missed his birdie effort, Pratt did what tournament winners do: he returned the Okeson favor by sinking his eagle opportunity from 18 feet, putting an exclamation point on it with a fist pump. The lead was back up to three shots.
At least, within the group.
In the group just ahead, Wild and Stefanski were making an even bigger charge. Just before Pratt’s eagle, Stefanski made a tap-in birdie the 14th after hitting the green in two. The pair then took turns making birdie at the short par-4 15th and the difficult dogleg par-4 16th to cut the gap down to two, a scorching 6-under par through 16 holes on the day.
Both teams in the final grouping made pars at 15 and 16, albeit with good looks at birdie.
Then all three teams made par at the long par-3 17th (although Stefanski left his free-run birdie effort just short in the jaws).
So the tournament would come down to the Sand Ridge Club’s par-5 finishing hole, which was playing short: down hill and dead down wind.
Could one of the chasers make an eagle to catch?
Would Fiori and Pratt make birdie to close the door?
Well, no, surprisingly. None of that. Instead, it was 20 minutes of odd drama.
Stefanski sent his tee shot on 18 way right, bouncing off a tree back toward him in the rough. A 3-metal hack from a heavy lie to the greenside rough, an indifferent pitch to the green, and two putts gave him a par.
Wild found the left fairway bunker off the tee, hit an approach iron to the front up-slope of the green, left his eagle attempt well short, then converted the five footer for birdie. Not the eagle they truly needed, but a 7-under par 65 Four-Ball day nonetheless.
Then it was the leader’s turn from the 18th tee. So Pratt and Fiori did what young, strapping golfers do now a days: they hit bombs down the 18th fairway. Far, far down the fairway.
On the 570-yard finishing hole, Fiori had a 9-iron remaining to the par-5 from the first cut. Pratt had a gap wedge in from the fairway. They held a one-shot lead over Wild and Stefanski and a three shot lead over Okeson and Shustrich, so the tournament looked to be over. Easy two-putt birdie at the worst, right?
Fiori found the green with his 9-iron, about 20 feet above the hole.
Then Pratt missed the green short-left with his gap wedge. A chip with too much zip on it gave Pratt a birdie putt of 8 feet, which he missed. Chapped, he then swiped in the par putt from a strong 4-feet without any read at all.
Fiori ran his eagle putt well past, then missed the birdie putt coming back. So the Pratt/Fiori team had to settle for par from a buck-fifty on the finishing par-5. While a disappointing way to close, the par was all they needed to secure a one shot victory.
Okeson got his greenside bunker shot up-and-down on the 18th hole for birdie to secure third place, two shots behind the champs and a shot behind Wild and Stefanski.
Fourth place was grabbed by another Sand Ridge member, Damian Rhodes, and his partner, First Tee of Akron Director Jeff O’Brien. Rhodes and O’Brien matched the low score of Tuesday’s Four-Ball round with a 65 of their own, highlighted by an eagle-2 hole-out by O’Brien on the par-4 11th (skin!).
2019 The Egg Invitational
Sand Ridge Golf Club, Chardon, Ohio
Mon-Tue, Sep 30 – Oct 1, 2019
FORMAT: RD1 Four-Ball; RD2 Chapman; RD3 Four-Ball
Nick Fiore , The Mayfield Sand Ridge Club
Connor Pratt , The Mayfield Sand Ridge Club 66 – 67 – 68 = 201
Jimmy Wild , Fox Den Golf Course
Ryan Stefanski , Sleepy Hollow Golf Course 68 – 69 – 65 = 202
Chris Okeson , StoneWater Golf Club
Robert Schustrich , Windmill Lakes Golf Club 67 – 70 – 66 = 203
Damian Rhodes , The Mayfield Sand Ridge Club
Jeff O’Brien , First Tee of Akron 66 – 73 – 65 = 204
Brett Kaufman , Firestone Country Club
Mackey Miles , Wizard Golf Club 70 – 68 – 69 = 207
Henry Do , Oakland University Golf Club
David Hall , Kingsley Club 68 – 71 – 69 = 208
Derek Kesig , Kinsale Golf & Fitness Club
Jon Feldkamp , TPC Riversbend 70 – 70 – 72 = 212
Jim Krivanek , Canterbury Golf Club
Brian Smith , Oberlin Golf Club 73 – 70 – 69 = 212
Adam Thomarios , Firestone Country Club
Daniel Wittlinger , Hidden Valley Country Club 68 – 70 – 75 = 213
Ryan Dorff , Avon Oaks Country Club
Wes Stafford , Little Mountain Country Club 71 – 71 – 71 = 213
Chad Bolt , Kinsale Golf & Fitness Club
Jon Furrow , Rattlesnake Ridge Golf Club 75 – 67 – 72 = 214
Mike Kemper , Hillview Country Club
Mike Chambers , Golf Club of Georgia 71 – 72 – 71 = 214
Ryan Parrish , Pinnacle Golf Club
Kyle Endicott , PXG 70 – 76 – 68 = 214
Kevin Farrell , Country Club of Harrisburg
Greg Ulp , Country Club of Harrisburg 71 – 70 – 74 = 215
Brady Green , Kinsale Golf & Fitness Club
Matt Cooperrider , Rattlesnake Ridge Golf Club 71 – 73 – 71 = 215
Matthew Akers , Shawnee Country Club
Mark Akers , Mohawk Golf Club 70 – 74 – 74 = 218
Stephen Putinski , Canterbury Golf Club
Phil Bojc , Kinsale Golf & Fitness Club 75 – 76 – 67 = 218
David Lester , Kinsale Golf & Fitness Club
Jack Rothacker , Tartan Fields Golf Club 69 – 78 – 73 = 220
Tim Richey , Tartan Fields Golf Club
Craig Stephens , Tartan Fields Golf Club 73 – 79 – 71 = 223
Cliff Bostrom , Kinsale Golf & Fitness Club
Jason Rutkoski , TPC Scottsdale 73 – 73 – 80 = 226
Kevin Rowe , Avon Oaks Country Club
Kevin Thorne , Rattlesnake Ridge Golf Club 75 – 77 – 74 = 226
Tim Sokol , Rattlesnake Ridge Golf Club
Brett Fulford , Rattlesnake Ridge Golf Club 75 – 80 – 77 = 232
Trevor Jones , Yankee Run Golf Course
Steve Jones , Yankee Run Golf Course 78 – 77 – 80 = 235
Michael Klavora , Chardon Lakes Golf Course
Tim Khayat , Chardon Lakes Golf Course 79 – 83 – 78 = 240