Qualifiers and Northerns, all rolled into one - making for one glorious weekend of golf as Timberwolf Golf Club played host to four different tournaments on Saturday and Sunday.
One could argue that it was more than four tournaments, as all of the events also doubled as the opportunity to crown an NGA (Northern Golf Association) champion simultaneously – even if this wasn’t always top of mind for the participants.
“I was playing really well and actually forgot that we were playing for the Northern Ontario championship,” said Jay Jewett with a laugh. Five under through ten holes of play, the Blind River native and long-time Timberwolf club member finished second in the Mid-Amateur event, one stroke back of Alex Wilson of Barrie (71 vs 70).
“My sole goal was to qualify for the Mid-Am," added Jewett. "Once I got to five under, my thinking was just not to do anything absolutely ridiculous. I took my foot off the gas and kind of coasted in and made some bad swings – but the idea was not to jeopardize anything with a big number.”
Now 48 years old, the father of a nine-year old aspiring golfer last played in the Ontario Amateur event in 2010, opting instead to veer off towards a line of play that fit far better with his current lifestyle. “I honestly got tired of being on the golf course and talking to the parents of the kids (that I am golfing with),” said Jewett, noting that the cut-off for Mid-Amateurs is now 25 years of age (minimum).
“The kids are focused, doing what they need to do to play well, but I’m at a point in my life where I want to play good golf, but I also want to have a good time out there. At 25, a lot of us were in the work force and playing golf at a high level while balancing work, family, all that stuff.”
“It (Mid-Am’s) eliminates the college kids that can still just eat, breathe and sleep golf.”
All of which is not to say that Jewett has lost his love of competition. The fact that he and son Jaycek can now enjoy the occasional round together has invigorated his interest in the sport. “It’s given me a desire to get my game back to where it was and compete,” said Jewett. “I want him to see that his dad can still compete and win at a fairly high level.”
A two-time runner-up in the Ontario Mid-Masters Amateur division (over 40), Jewett doesn’t overcomplicate his game in the least. “My game is quite boring, generally,” he suggested. “I don’t hit it very far but I hit it fairly straight and put it on the green. If I’m putting well and chipping well, I can shoot some really good scores.”
“If not, they’re average.”
Like Jewett, NGA Men’s Amateur champion and low qualifier Jacob Lacko was more concerned with simply gaining entry to the provincial playdown in mid-July at the Scarboro Golf & Country Club than finishing first. In fact, the latter occurred in spite of the fact that the third year student at Laurentian University and member of the Voyageurs’ golf team ran somewhat hot and cold on Saturday.
“I didn’t hit the ball very well – just kind of slashed it around. It wasn’t the prettiest – but my swing has been feeling really well lately, and I liked my putting,” said the 20 year old who carded a 73 to finish two strokes ahead of a trio of golfers from out of town.
“My hips were getting in too quickly; I was getting into it inside. I know my swing well.”
Still, Lacko wasn’t overly stressed as he worked his way around the 7100+ yard course. “I knew that I didn’t need to do anything crazy to qualify,” he said. “I was just trying to put up a decent number. I wasn’t playing that well, so just don’t make any big numbers.”
In the end, the fact that the Timberwolf course is much to his liking certainly didn’t hurt his ultimate push to the winner’s circle. “It seems like I play decently well here,” stated Lacko. “I was hitting my long irons well and driving the ball really well, and if you drive the ball well here, it makes it a lot easier.”
His spot at the Ontario Amateurs safely secured, Lacko must now overcome the challenge that has come with trying to make a cut in tournaments where its required – a hurdle he has yet to conquer in eight or so attempts to date.
“For the most part, my game hasn’t really travelled that well,” he noted quite candidly. “I just feel like my game hasn’t really shown up yet in those events. It’s really weird.”
On the positive side, the host course is a Stanley Thompson designed layout, a style with which he has enjoyed some success over the years.
With courses in the north lagging behind their southern counterparts by at least a few weeks, NGA U19 champion Ben Fowke is simply happy to get out playing at pretty much any venue, regardless of the designer. He tackled a Golf Ontario Spring Classic qualifier early in May in Cambridge, with almost no course time before-hand.
Later that month, the results were better as he took top spot at a CJGA Tour stop in Lindsay, carding a two round score of 142 and capturing the junior boys division by a single stroke over Francisco Sanchez of Ottawa. “I was one stroke back coming into Sunday, two strokes back after nine,” said the 17 year-old who graduates from St Charles College later this month.
“I really learned to battle through some adversity. I birdied three of my last my five holes to take the lead. That will help me when I come across that situation again.”
The victory would give Fowke an exemption directly into the Ontario U19 Championship later this summer, allowing him to focus entirely on his goal of claiming the same northern title that his brother (Alex) won in 2017, with club mate Matty Matheson following up one year later.
“Because I had already qualified for the U19’s, I was able to attack the course a bit more,” said Fowke. “It’s also my home course, so I know where to go for it and when to hold back a bit more.”
With this being his final year as a junior, the multi-sport athlete who will be attending Laurentian University, studying Sports Administration and hoping to join Lacko on the Voyageurs’ golf roster is focused largely on provincial U19 playdowns, including the Match Play provincials and the 100th anniversary of the Ontario U19 Championships set for Timberwolf in early July.
In other local golfing news, the East Coast Pro Tour has been kind to a pair of Sudbury natives in recent weeks. Playing in the Desjardins St-Georges Classic last weekend in Quebec, Stephen Gonko put together rounds of 67 and 69 to finish in a tie for third place, good for a purse of $2,250.
One week earlier in Bromont, Tristan Renaud cracked the top ten, his two day total of 137 just three strokes off a third place finish. And finally, back at Timberwolf, the Road to TPC Toronto would see Lea Lemieux (170 – two rounds) and Griffin Jones (164) take top spot in their divisions, earning a berth at the season-ending Finale at TPC Toronto on July 17th and 18th.