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A tournament for the ages and the aged

Gibsons golfer Mike Mannion helps to create thrilling finish

In a finish worthy of a PGA Tour TV broadcast, the Sunshine Coast Golf and Country Club hosted the 2020 BC Senior Amateur Championship last week.

The tournament saw 120 golfers from across the province teeing off Tuesday under smoky skies for the 54-hole event. Eight former and current Coasters were part of the field and one of them, SCGCC member Mike Mannion, was part of the mix from the start, tying the first round lead with a -1 under 71 and following that up on day two with a -2 under to be one shot off the lead held by Norm Bradley of Kelowna, who led going into the final round -4 for the tournament

In the final round Bradley made it known early he was not going to waver, when he threw in a highly improbable shot from the rough on the high side of the par 3 third hole with a downhill green for a birdie. He followed that up with an 18 footer for another at the par 4 fifth to give him a three shot lead. And while he dropped one on the next, Mannion helped his cause by bogeying two of the last three holes on the front nine to give Bradley a four shot lead at the turn.

Three-time defending champion Doug Roxburgh bettered his first two rounds by a stroke with a one over 73 and a solo sixth place finish. His name would be evoked by the winner after his round, as a five-time winner of the event and a man respected by a great number of players.

While the course played pretty soft, the greens lived up to their challenging reputation, with the par 5 eleventh being described by one as “diabolical.” Players sang their praises for SCGCC, calling it a fun and challenging track. The best quote came from Len Filuk of Summerland on the range ahead of his final round: “They said you just have to be on the right side of the hole, but I couldn’t figure out where that was.”

In most tournaments, a five-stroke lead on the back nine would likely have you changing the channel; this day, that would have been a mistake.

Lance Lundy made a statement going out -4 under but failed to capitalize on that early success on the inward nine, dropping two shots on his way to a T4 finish. Len Carlow of Victoria ground it out in the final round to finish alone in third place at even par for the tournament.

That left it up to Mannion and Bradley to provide the fireworks coming home, and what a show they put on. Bradley birdied the par four 16th hole to take what looked like an insurmountable lead with two to play.

With the 17th hole playing 138 yards and a pin tucked back left, Bradley got more aggressive than he needed to and pulled it left into a greenside bunker, while Mannion nailed it to 15 feet from the hole. Bradley failed to get out on his first attempt and when he did he still left himself with a lengthy putt, which he missed to double bogey the hole. Mannion then drained the putt and all off a sudden there was a three-shot swing and the leader was down to a two-shot advantage headed to the last hole.

The par four 18th hole is a dogleg right with an uphill second shot that usually requires an extra club to get it onto the green. Today it might have needed two extra clubs as the pin was situated back right just six paces from the right edge. Again Mannion hit a great approach, landing just 12 feet from the flagstick on the upper ridge while Bradley was left and in the lower section of the green. His first putt came up short and when he missed his next, the stage was set for Mannion to tie the leader, which he did, forcing a playoff.

They headed back to the first tee and both stood over birdie putts on the green of pretty well equal length. When Mannion missed, Bradley had his chance. He would later say, “I said to myself, let’s just finish this right now,” which he did, claiming the championship. In a post-round emotional interview he called the course mentally challenging, and said it was “an honour to have my name on the same trophy as Roxy,” referring to Roxburgh.

– J.P. LeFrank, Contributing Writer