After seven years of coming up short, Port McNeill’s Derek MacDonald finally claimed the low gross score at the Men’s Open.
“It feels pretty good,” said MacDonald with a smile after all the scorecards were tallied. “I love this tournament. It’s been a goal of mine to win it. I’ve gotten better every year and kept improving.”
The men’s open tournament had over 40 golfers sign up to play this year, with some of the best golfers on the North Island competing for the right to have their name’s engraved on the two men’s open plaques (Low Net and Low Gross).
The open wasn’t just for experienced competitors though, 15 year old Jacob Pohl and his older brother Jamie Pohl both signed up to play, and it was their first golf tournament ever.
“I was a little nervous,” said Jacob, adding that he signed up because he thought it’d be fun and he wanted to “get a bit of experience, try it out and figure out the whole tournament deal.”
Jamie agreed, stating he was nervous too, but that overall he thought the tournament was “going to be fun, and the weather is supposed to be nice, so I thought it would be a good time.”
While the weather would indeed start to cooperate later during the weekend, on saturday morning the sun was struggling to come out from beneath the clouds as the tournament kicked off just before noon.
Port Hardy Mayor Hank Bood was the first to tee off for his group, officially starting the open. Mayor Bood smashed the ball straight up the fairway and then granted this reporter a brief interview on the significance of the tournament for the North Island.
“The club, like all of the recreational facilities on the North Island, really needs people to come out for the events they hold. It’s really important for the community,” said Bood, adding that the golf course “struggles along on a really small budget, and the people at the course do a whole bunch of volunteer work to make it run, so it’s really great to see a turnout like this to help liven up the place.”
The sun continued to creep out from behind the clouds, shining down on the course later in the afternoon as all the golfers finally retired to the clubhouse after 18 competitive holes.
MacDonald ended up parring the front and back nine for a low gross score of 70. On his heels was the returning champion Shaun Zealand who had shot a 72.
“I did pretty well today, I came out in a good position” said MacDonald, adding that he birdied the ninth hole twice during the 18 holes of stroke play and he was “pretty happy about that.”
The sun was out in full force on Sunday morning as the golfers came back to play 18 more holes. MacDonald kept his composure, played it cool and continued to build on his previous days lead, ultimately finishing the second round of the tournament off with a 68, two under par.
Zealand again shot a 72.
“I didn’t want to sleep on the lead so I just relaxed,” said MacDonald, adding that his favourite moment of the tournament was “a putt today on hole one that was unbelievable. It was about 35 feet long, went uphill and then broke 90 degrees.”
MacDonald stated that Zealand was his biggest competition this weekend. “He’s won it three or four times now,” before adding that he’s definitely “going to celebrate when I get home.”
Zealand was feeling under the weather all weekend, but was in good spirits after the very close loss, mentioning that he “could’ve played better, could’ve played worse.”
“We come up every year from Victoria to support the club, it’s a big deal” Zealand said, adding that even though he was sick there were no excuses needed.
“Derek hands down won it fair and square. I beat him last year, and he kicked the crap out of me this year.”