Idylwylde Invitational is ready to go
by Randy Pascal
Vince Palladino has entered many an Idylwylde Invitational Golf Tournament as one of the favourites. But for the first time in more than a
decade, he will also be carrying the mantle of "defending champion".
Palladino, who captured a record-setting 6th championship at Canada's longest-running match play event last July, was on hand Wednesday afternoon at a
media reception at the golf and country club, with the 2012 version of the competition only days away.
"I love the tournament and I want to be here as often as I can be - and I want to be competitive," Palladino said. Despite not playing nearly as often
as in his late teens and early twenties, the long-time local businessman was absolutely ecstatic with his performance in 2011, displaying that ability to
really bring it all together over three consecutive days.
"Last year ranks among the best I've every played," he said. "Maybe in 1992, I had as much game as I did last year. If you think of last year, I never
went past the 16th hole (in any match) and I don't think I could ever say that before."
While his game has certainly evolved over time, Palladino is also pleased with the development of his home course, one in which he takes great pride
sharing with other top golfers from across the province.
"In general, the course is a lot greener than it ever was," Palladino said. "Right now, you're not seeing the ball run out as much. It certainly plays
longer, although on paper it doesn't look like a long golf course."
If Palladino is to repeat, there's at least a decent chance that on top of the annual contenders to the throne, he might well run head to head into
Dave Bunker, one of Ontario's most decorated amateur golfers.
The Brampton native, who captured the Ontario Mid-Amateur Championship in three consecutive years running from 2008 through to 2010, has never previously
entered the Idylwylde Invitational, though he did get an initial look at the course in 2010, competing in the Ontario Amateur Golf Championship at
the same venue.
He will be heading to Sudbury carrying a little momentum, having finished second to Drew Symons at the Investors Group Mid-Amateur at
Cobble Beach Golf Links in June and placing 7th last week at the Ontario Amateur Championship against many athletes several years his junior.
In fact, every one of the six competitors who finished ahead of the 47 year-old golfer were sandwiched between the ages of 20 and 22. Understandably,
tournament chair Robert Coe is pleased to be able to add a player of Bunker's caliber to the field, though he maintains players come north for a few
very good reasons.
"The quality of play and word of mouth", contends Coe. "Top players don't get a lot of opportunity to get this kind of a format. And while the golf
is outstanding, there is also a fun factor to this event."
There is also a uniqueness to match play golf that can sometimes help level the playing field, relative to pure stroke play events, according to Coe. "Because
of the format, if you have one bad hole, you're not out of the tournament," he said.
"If you're not 100% on your game, you can still win a very tough match." Blind River native Jay Jewett had a streak of five straight
appearances in the championship flight snapped one year ago, and he fully agrees with the assessment of the tournament chair celebrating his 14th year at the
"You really have two tournaments in one," Jewett explained. "On Friday, you really look to be consistent, don't make any big numbers and come in with a
decent score, so that you position yourself for the weekend."
"On the weekend, you can be more aggressive, where a double or triple (bogey) isn't really going to hurt you - it's only one hole." That advice has
seemingly worked its way through to a complete newcomer to the tournament, New Zeland junior golf sensation Antony McCullough.
A student at the University of Otago back home, McCullough met former Idylwylde golf pro Ryan Bastien in New Zealand, after the Canadian golfer
accepted a position at Antony's home course.
Sharing information, McCullough soon found himself in Northern Ontario, working for the summer at the Idylwylde Golf & Country Club. Boasting a fairly
impressive golf resumé, McCullough was granted entry into this year's Invitational, comfortable in the knowledge he has gained playing 50 to 60 rounds on
his new course.
"The big piece of advice is to get through Friday," he said. "That, and keeping the ball below the hole. Coming from a links course back home, I'm just a
wee bit happy that the greens are firm."
"This is a great risk-reward course," McCullough continued. "You have to put the ball in the fairway. You play this golf course more from the tee to the
green. Back home, you work you're way back a lot more."
Come Friday, the lessons learned for McCullough and others as more than 190 golfers look to crack the top 16, giving themselves a shot at the gruelling
match play marathon that ends Sunday late afternoon after four rounds of golf in roughly 36 hours.