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Tuesday, May. 21, 2019
Youthful champ looks to be getting even better
by Randy Pascal

Tristan Renaud solidified his reputation as an elite tournament contender, joining three other former champions in the top flight, and no less than ten golfers would battle their way through two playoff holes to round out the field as day one of the 71st Annual Idylywylde Invitational wrapped up Friday evening in Sudbury.

Renaud, who is looking to claim his second consecutive title almost six months prior to celebrating his 18th birthday, showed the way yesterday, blazing the course with a qualifying best round of 67, one better than two-time champ Ryan Willoughby (68), and two ahead of former Idylwylde golf pro Ryan Bastien (69).

Eight others appeared to be safely slotted into the championship flight by supper time, with Kyle Rank and Dale Valade at 72, Josh Hayes and Frank Kucher at 73, and a final quartet at 74 that included Vince Palladino, Mike Roberts, Matt Dumontelle and Marc Lefebvre (though the latter was subsequently disqualified, Saturday morning, due to a scoring error).

This initial mix would send the contingent ten strong off to the 10th hole, looking to fill in the remaining five slots in the bracket of those who could still win it all come Sunday.

Things got a little less crowded when Jay Jewett carded a birdie on the first playoff hole to advance, while Ryan Hagger, Pat Laferrière, Alain Robichaud and Bob Chaperone were eliminated, unable to card par or better.

The second playoff hole, which eventually became inconsequential, would see John Kusnierczyk and Mike Moraca advance with par, Don Martone and Nick Quesnel in with bogies, and Darren Edward left as the odd man out with a double bogey (his elimination was effectively rescinded the next morning when Edward slid back in to replace Lefebvre).

All in all, it made for a very exciting opening day of play.

While no less than seven players in the 2018 championship flight were also part of the group in 2017, it would be hard to argue that a fresh new addition actually enjoyed as much course familiarity as anyone who teed off on Friday.

"I was a pro here for five or six years, so I've played the course five or six hundred times," said Bastien, who now calls Sault Ste Marie home and is two years into his career as a letter carrier with Canada Post.

"There's probably not many people in the field that know this course as well as I do." Not that he needed any further advantage, but Bastien was aided a little more by the fact that his caddy on the day was friend and former co-worker Paul Schweyer, who enjoyed an even lengthier stay as club pro at the Idylwylde.

With a five-month old son now in the picture, Bastien finds himself balancing his golf interests with family commitments, which apparently might not be a bad thing. "I haven't been playing a ton, but when I've played, the game has actually been very good," he said.

"Coming in, I had ten straight rounds under par. Maybe playing less golf has helped me." This would be an entirely foreign concept to 16 year-old Josh Hayes, ready to begin his grade 11 studies at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School come September.

The Idylwylde junior was back in town just in time for the Thursday practice round, after finishing third in the province at the Ontario Junior (U19) Boys Match Play Championships earlier in the week at Tangle Creek Golf & Country Club.

Hayes knocked off Alex Turchan (19 holes), Daniel George (6 & 5), Anton Hung (6 & 4) and Jeffrey Fang (2 up), before falling to eventual tournament champion Cody Clark (1 up) of Oliver's Nest Golf Club.

"I was putting really well all week, making a lot of ups and downs," said Hayes. "The trick at that course was really putting yourself in a position to make birdies. It's a very strategic course. I was hitting the right spots off the tee."

Of course, five match-play battles in a short period of time is not necessarily the ideal warm-up for a stroke play showdown in a field as strong as the one that the Idylwylde Invitational boasts these days.

"In match play, you're not putting the short ones and you come off five or six rounds of not putting four footers, and you get out here and your knees are starting to shake over those same four footers," said Hayes. "Also, you're no longer reacting to what someone else is doing, like in match play. You're playing the course instead of playing someone else."

A native of London (Ontario), Lefebvre was making his second straight appearance at the northern Ontario golf classic, defeated by Ward Kyle last year in the first round of championship flight play. Unaware of the scoring snafu, Lefebvre provided some insight as one of the top out of town contenders (he missed out on the cut for the Mackenzie Tour on Monday by just a single stroke) with limited experience on the storied Sudbury course.

"Being confident is a big thing," he said. "When you're playing a course that you don't really know, you have to be committed on your lines. Especially here, with the tight and undulating fairways, you have to be accurate and confident with your lines."

The leader of the 2017 Ontario Men's Amateur Championship after three rounds of play, Lefebvre has different priorities in sight as the 24 year old club champion at the West Haven Golf & Country Club prepared for a busy summer of golf.

"I didn't play as many of the amateur events this year," he said. "I'm kind of looking at turning pro in the near future."

Tidbits off the tees: This marked the second straight year that Tristan Renaud has posted a low qualifying score - in 2017, his round of 70 was equalled by both Nick Quesnel and Connor Watt.....yesterday marked only the second time in the past 15 years that three golfers have broken 70 in the qualifying round, with Josh Whalen (67), Jay Jewett (68) and Jason Aucoin (69) handling the honours in 2010.

Looking for a non former champ who could make some noise? You might not want to bet against Mike Roberts, who has done all but win the title in recent years: finalist in 2015, semi-finalist in 2016 and quarter-finalist in for other first round scores of note, the next best score of 76 was shared by Matt Bortolotto, Jay Quesnel and Ward Kyle, none of whom are strangers to championship flight play.

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