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Tuesday, May. 21, 2019
Idylwylde Invitational: By the Numbers
by Randy Pascal

My passion for hockey statistics is both lengthy and uncontested, easily dating back to my pre-teen youth, when copies of the Sudbury Star would provide the basis of my own personal record books.

An affinity for working on scorekeeping and stats for both fastball/baseball and football would follow suit not long thereafter, both sports fully entrenched as I meandered my way through high-school at Ecole Secondaire Macdonald-Cartier, and completed my studies in Sports Administration at Laurentian University.

But golf? Nope, that is definitely a “Johnny-come-lately” arrival to this party of mathematical and athletic wizardry, all rolled into one.

Updated full disclosure – the Idylwylde Invitational has become, over time, the singular Sudbury and area sporting event, over the course of the calendar year, that I look forward with most anticipation, largely on the basis of the numbers I've assembled since first covering the event back in 2004.

I suspect the heightened interest, for me, comes from the multi-layered pockets of intriguing numerical nuggets that I have unearthed in seeking to constantly provide historical perspective with my analysis of the longest running match play tournament in the country.

Certainly, the 2018 gathering, the 71st annual rendition that, I believe, has been hosted at three different variations of Idylwylde venue (the facility has, to my knowledge, been completely destroyed by fire twice, over the years), is no different.

The headline number this year is 17. Contrary to popular belief, I have not simply miscounted the number of holes on the course.

Rather, 17 is the age of current defending champion Tristan Renaud. The local golfing phenom shattered the mark as the youngest ever recipient of the hardware last summer, making quick work of Connor Watt in the final (6 and 5) less than seven months after celebrating his 16th birthday.

Given that the previous record belonged to Ian MacDonald, who secured the tournament title in 1995 at the age of 19, Renaud could actually three-peat before the next youngest champion had even won for the very first time. Unlikely, yes – but it could happen.

Part of the unlikeliness of repeating (a feat that has been accomplished eight times in all, but not at all since Kurt Kowaluk doubled in 2002 and 2003) lies in the challenge of simply making it into the championship flight. A field of 192 golfers are expected to tee-off on Friday, all trying to work their way into the top-16 that have the chance to emerge with Idylwylde bragging rights.

As of the 2017 results, only two golfers have managed to work their way into that selective grouping in each of the past three years: Todd Crowder and Mike Roberts. A trio that includes Ward Kyle, Nick Quesnel and Vince Palladino will be looking to making it three straight this Friday.

All of which makes the resume that Palladino has assembled all the more impressive. While his six Idylwylde crowns, the most in the storied tradition of the competition (Fred Silver won five times, Bill Morland and Bruce Brewer four times each) is more than just a little noteworthy, completely on its own, Palladino arguably shone even more brightly just by giving himself a chance, year in and year out.

The member of the Sudbury Sports Hall of Fame managed to qualify for the championship flight every year between 1991 and 2014, excluding three times in the 1990s when he was away pursuing other titles in the sport. No one else has come close to matching this feat. In fact, just hitting double digits, given the overall caliber of the field that is being attracted these days, would be one heck of an accomplishment.

To boot, Palladino also shot the lowest qualifying round in the 14 years I have managed to compile, carding a 66 in 2009. Other top of the line Friday scores have included Josh Whalen (67 in 2014), Palladino (67 in 2008), Jay Jewett (68 in 2007 an 2010) and Garrett Rank (68 in 2010).

For those entries that are new to the Idylwylde, a fair warning – you will likely need to finish somewhere in the range between 74 and 77 to at least advance to a playoff round that is needed, more often than not, to whittle the group down to an exact bracket of 16 for the match play duels that begin Saturday morning.

Perhaps even more interesting than the eventual final head to head contest is the craziness that occurs typically just before dusk on the first day of battle. Over the course of the past 16 years, only once has playoff drama been completely avoided (in 2010). In 2013, nine players fought it out to secure seven spots, while the toughest road was slugged out in 2011, when Dan Boyd needed just one hole to eliminate seven other championship flight hopefuls.

As for other names to watch, beyond those noted above, don't be surprised if any of the following men supplant Renaud in the winner's circle come Sunday afternoon:

Ryan Willoughby – champion in both 2015 and 2010 – final four last year

Justin Fluit – lost in the 2016 final to Kyle Rank

Marc Lefebvre – London native is a constant threat, provincially, and was leading the Ontario Men's Amateur heading into final round in 2017

In the more “long-shot” grouping (but not yet mentioned in this article), you can throw in the likes of Ryan Hagger, Matt Bortolotto and Frank Kucher, while young guns such as Emmett Taillefer, Josh Hayes and Evan MacLean are all capable of at least making things interesting.

And in my mind, the Idylwylde Invitational is nothing if not interesting, at least when one takes time to delve into the numbers.

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