With a narrow fairway and tall stands of trees on either side, the view from the tee box on par-four 16th hole at Kitchen Creek can be a daunting sight even on the best of days.
But the landing area looks even smaller after carding a double-bogey on the previous hole, as Rob Badiuk found out Sunday afternoon.
Knowing he was in good position to lay claim to the annual Kitchen Creek Classic crown, but unsure of how some of his main competitors were faring in their final rounds, Badiuk knew the importance of turning in a strong finish.
“The big test was standing up on 16 and hitting a good tee-ball,” he said.
It was a test Badiuk passed with flying colours. “I crushed one, right down the left side of the fairway,” he enthused. “I really nailed ’er.”
With his game back on track, Badiuk made par on that hole, then followed up with a pair of pars on the two finishing holes. And when he arrived at the clubhouse, he learned that was more than enough to cement the tourney title.
It was the third time Badiuk, a Fort Frances product who now calls International Falls home, has claimed the Classic crown.
“That’s what made a good tournament . . . getting through those last holes,” said Badiuk, who bettered Mike Dick and Gerry Hercun by five strokes after carding a final round 71 for a two-day total of 145.
“I finished really strong.”
In fact, Badiuk entered the final few holes with a fairly comfortable lead, thanks in large part to a slew of birdies he made on the first 12. He broke par on the opening hole, and then again on #3, #6, #11, and #12.
“My game was good,” he remarked. “I hit the tee-ball well and hit my second shots good, and my putting was good.”
But Badiuk was not the only golfer racking up birdies on the final day of competition. Dick notched five birdies of his own while both Andrew Katrin and “Snake” Krawchuk drained three each.
Steve Wood, Kitchen Creek’s head pro, said he wasn’t surprised to see so many birdies on the weekend, especially Sunday.
“I was actually kind of surprised we didn’t see more on the first day,” he noted.
After opening with a 74 on Saturday, Badiuk found himself one stroke behind first-round leaders Greg Ward and Dave Bondett, and even with Sheldon Kelly, creating a log-jam not only atop the leaderboard, but in Sunday’s final foursome, as well.
Unfortunately, Ward, Bondett, and Kelly all struggled during the second round, when hard fairways necessitated accurate tee shots and the pins were placed in some hard-to-reach places.
“I didn’t expect those guys to fall apart,” Badiuk said. “But that’s the way it turned out, they didn’t play their best.”
Still, with golfers like Dick, Hercun, and Krawchuk playing a hole or two ahead, Badiuk wasn’t sure how his championship hopes were shaping up.
“I knew that I had a little bit of a cushion with the guys I was playing with, but I didn’t know about anyone else,” he remarked. “I just kept grinding it out.”
As it turned out, Badiuk was the only golfer in the 66-player field who translated his birdie opportunities on Sunday into a below-par score. Everyone else arrived at the clubhouse in black figures—and well off the pace.
Dick and Hercun, who each posted two-day totals of 150, tied for second overall. Ward, Greg Tighe, Krawchuk, and Jeromy Wensley each were one more shot back, carding totals of 151.
With Badiuk crowned the overall champion, Dick claimed first place in the championship flight. The other flight winners were Konrad Sobkowicz (first), Wensley (second), Lorne Ricard (third), Fred Sinninghe (fourth), and Hugh McKinnon (fifth).
The 66-player field was the smallest turnout for the Kitchen Creek Classic in a number of years. Last year, more than 120 golfers took part.
“I was disappointed in the number we had,” Wood admitted yesterday. “It would be nice to be up over 120 people.”