Although Gareth Payne will be back looking to win his fourth-straight Kitchen Creek Classic title, club pro Gord Workum felt this year’s field is a talented one that could see a new champion.
With several low handicap players making the trip here from areas such as Kenora and Thunder Bay, and a good group of talented local players such as Rob Badiuk and youngsters Greg Ward and John Lundon, this year’s winner could very well come down to the very last putt in the 36-hole event.
Joining the mix will be Walter Keating of Thunder Bay, another U.S. college player who will be making a return to the Classic after missing last year’s event due to playing at the Canadian amateur championships. Keating finished second to Payne (six strokes back each time) in 1995 and ‘96, and could pose a serious threat at taking home this year’s title.
Payne won last year’s tournament, coming back from a three-stroke deficit on the final day to fire a two-under-par 70, for a slim one-stroke victory over Badiuk. After carding a disappointing 77 during the opening round, Payne fought back and scorched Kitchen Creek with a two-under 70 on the final 18 holes.
With such a strong field this year, Workum boldly predicted this year’s winner would have to shoot two-under over the 36-holes to win.
Playing at 6,424 yards, Kitchen Creek isn’t considered to be a long course and the key for many players is to score well early on the par-five holes on Nos. 2 and 3 (476 and 447 yards, respectively) and then on the par-three 13th. Players can make up ground if they get hot on the five straight par-fours from Nos. 14-18.
The course is said to be in better shape than last year with the greens in “superb” shape and the fairways benefiting from the new irrigation system in place this year.
As of late Monday afternoon, 137 golfers had registered for the Classic, which begins Saturday with a pair of shotgun starts at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. It has yet to be decided if Sunday will be a shotgun start as well or just regular tee times. Workum said that will depend on the number of players registered.
Last year, 152 golfers entered the tournament and Workum said they should get the same number with last-minute registrations before the Wednesday night deadline.
Entry fee is $90 and includes two rounds of golf, a steak dinner, and a chance to win $10,000 in stereo equipment in the hole-in-one contest Sunday on No. 11.