The wily vets showed the way, a few new faces cracked into championship flight, but when day one of the Idylwylde Invitational came to an end, there was once again a Palladino buzz in the air - albeit it of a slightly different variety this year.
On a day in which consistent tournament contenders Jay Jewett and Kyle Rank both posted low qualifying scores of 69, and that the likes of Matt Abbott and Joe Kremer both made good on their first shot at the event, it was the run of Vincent Palladino Jr at the top 16 that absolutely showcased the playoff drama.
As the final foursome made their way to the clubhouse, 13 golfers had their reservations in championship flight already in place: Jewett and Rank (both at 69), Jason Picco (70), Josh Hayes and Kremer (71), the quintet of Abbott, Joel Clarke, Marc Disano, Matt Battistoni and Tristan Renaud at 72, and a troika of Rob Cowan, Don Martone and Michael Moraca at 73.
In traditional fashion, this made for a good sized playoff posse, eight folks at 74 vying for three remaining spots.
Former champ (2018) Mike Roberts was among a group of four (Nico Presot, Nillo Schonfeld, Adam Simpson) eliminated on # 10 (first playoff hole), with Ryan Bastien and Frank Kuchar both shooting four on # 11 to advance.
That would leave former Laurier Hawks' product Ben Whiteside opposite Palladino Jr, the senior at St Benedict Catholic Secondary School - who also happens to be the son of the man who has captured the event more often than anyone else in the 73 year history of the Invite.
The third playoff hole, the part 3 seventeenth, was particularly compelling as Palladino battled his way to a draw, and somehow managed to overcome a tough lie on his second shot on 18, drifting to the left, to make things interesting with an impressive blast to the back of the green.
In the end, Whiteside prevailed, setting the wheels in motion for match play to start Saturday morning, with championship flight featuring some very familiar names, along with some who might soon make a name for themselves.
"When I moved up here (last September), I wasn't planning on playing the tournament," confessed Kremer, a 26 year-old long-time Torontonian who competed in the NCAA with the Eastern Michigan Eagles prior to his graduation some four years ago.
But playing the course this summer, I heard about the tournament and thought it would be fun. I haven't really played any competitive golf in the past four years at all."
There may have been some signs of rust, but not enough the stop Kremer from registering the fourth best score of the day. "I think on my good days, I'm playing as well as I did - but I miss the consistency," he said.
"I was a little more consistent back when I was playing every day compared to once or twice a week, like it is now."
With both he and his fiance (a northern girl) moving here for work, Kremer will now reacquaint himself with the uniqueness that is match play golf.
"Match play is just a much different head space that you have to be in," he said. "I think you can be a little more aggressive, not worry about some things as much, just because the mistakes don't count for as much as they would in stroke play."
"If you make a big mistake, it counts for one hole instead of multiple shots."
One stroke back at 72, Hamilton native Matt Abbott looked to shake off the early jitters as he tackled the Idylwylde Invitational for the very first time, teeing off at # 10. "I just tried to grip it tightly and get something in the fairway, get something around the green," he said.
"There was a little bit of nerves, a little bit of pressure, but I was able to roll in a downhill eight-footer which helped me shake off the nerves a little bit."
A long-time friend of North Bay golfing mainstay Brandon Moffatt, Abbott noted that he had heard a lot about the local jewel that is the Idylwylde. "This course suits my game really well," said the 41 year old brother of former Hobey Baker finalist and one-time Toronto Maple Leafs' prospect Spencer Abbott.
"If you can hit the greens, it helps. The chipping is tough, so you need to rely on some putting."
With one round safely in the books, Abbott wasn't looking to change much as he prepares to face Marc Disano from Sault Ste Marie. "I'll just try and continue with what was going on today," he said. "I was skittish in spots, truthfully."
"But I hit the driver well and the putter was working."
The balance of the round of sixteen matchups are as follows:Jay Jewett vs Ben Whiteside
Kyle Rank vs Frank Kuchar
Jason Picco vs Ryan Bastien
Joe Kremer vs Don Martone
Josh Hayes vs Michael Moraca
Tristan Renaud vs Joel Clarke
Rob Cowan vs Matt Battistoni