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SOUTH CAROLINA’S CHRIS EPPERSON STEALS THE SHOW IN SUDDEN DEATH PLAYOFF
Thirty year old Chris Epperson of Sea Island, South Carolina became the first non-Canadian to claim the title of Vancouver Open Champion. With by far the largest and most international field in its 7-year history (108 pros including 35 International players), scoring was at a premium over Vancouver’s 3 premier public golf courses. Although the winning score in this year’s Open was only one shot better than Eugene Wong’s 2012 winning score of -13, a total of six players equaled or bettered that standard and a total of 31 players finished the event at -5 or better compared to only six players in 2012. Perhaps there was a little more incentive to play that much better as players who finished in the top 1/3 of the field shared in a sizeable purse of $70,000 compared to $40,000 last year.
At the end of this year’s 54-hole Championship, three men stood at the top at -14. And there was plenty of drama on the back nine before it was decided who would reach that score and eventually make it into the sudden death playoff.
First it was Vancouver’s Ryan Williams, 6th year PGA TOUR CANADA member. After making the cut on the line at 3-under par, Williams knew he needed a beauty of a round to have any chance to catch the leader Brady Schnell who was at -11 thru 36 holes. And when I say a beauty, I mean 61 or 62. So when he turned at 31 (-5) through 9 holes, it looked just like he was going to do it. He continued his aggressive play on the inward nine, knocking in birdies at 11, 12, 14 and 15 to get to -9 for the day and -12 for the tournament, putting him (at the time) one shot off the lead. With pars on 16 and 17, and a beautiful drive down the 18th fairway, Williams found himself with a “tweener” yardage of 235 yards to the 18th green, guarded by a front ravine. When he tried to ‘saw off’ his 3-wood, he came over the shot just enough where it kicked into the ravine. When he missed a 10 footer for par his charge came up a bit short, but he would post the low score of the day at 64 and move up the board 20 spots into 8th place at 11-under for the tournament and cash a cheque for $2,200.
Next to make a charge on Schnell was Surrey’s Clark MacPherson, who last week Monday qualified for the PGA TOUR Canada’s Times Colonist Island Savings Open, and turned it into a top 20 finish with a closing 67. With a bag full of confidence in hand, MacPherson opened up his Vancouver Open with a stunning 63 at McCleery Golf Course and shared the lead with Chilliwack’s Brad Clapp. When he posted a relatively routine 71 at Langara, MacPherson headed into the final round 3 shots off the lead. But with some amazing golf he would make the leap to the top of the leaderboard thru 9 with birdies on 1,2,5,6 and 9 to reach 14-under par. Birdies on 12 and 16 were unfortunately offset by bogeys on 11 and 13. What it came down to for MacPherson was a 15 footer for birdie on the 18th hole. In and he makes the playoff. A miss and he’s out of the playoff and at best 2nd place. When his uphill putt came up just short, MacPherson’s charge came up just one shot shy, and his round of 67 posted him at -13 for the tournament, good for a tie for 4th place. More importantly, MacPherson continued to gain more confidence in his play and was rewarded with a nice payday of $3,200. All helping his cause for the remainder of the PGA TOUR Canada’s schedule, which for him gets going again this Monday where he will qualify for the PGA TOUR Canada’s ATB Financial Classic in Calgary.
North Vancouver’s Bryn Parry was another player to make a charge to the top of the board. The 40 year old North Vancouver resident, likely PGA Canada’s most decorated Professional, came into the weekend at -8 and 3 shots off the lead. When he opened up with birdies on 2,4 & 5, Parry leapt up into a share of 2nd place and only 1 back of the leaders Wheeldon and Schnell. He would continue making his move on the leaders with another birdie on 11. And on #12, after he struck a long iron from 220 yards out in the fairway bunker to 2 feet, tapping in for eagle, he would sit atop the leaderboard at 14-under par.
However, as it has done to a few players in the past, the 13th hole proved pivotal in this year’s Vancouver Open. Unfortunately for Parry, his double-bogey 5 on this challenging par 3 water-hole slowed his momentum down. And when he traded a bogey and birdie on 17 & 18, Parry would end up 2 shots shy of the playoff. His rounds of 68, 66, 68 were good enough for 7th place solo and a cheque for $2,400.
Chilliwack Golf Club’s Brad Clapp almost made it into his 2nd playoff in 3 years (2011 playoff loss to Adam Hadwin) at this year’s Open. After opening his 2013 Vancouver Open with a 63 at McCleery, Clapp’s 2nd round would mirror MacPherson’s, only one shot better. He would head into the final round just 2 shots back of the leader Schnell.
After an opening nine of 33, Clapp was now just one shot off the current leader MacPherson and ready to make his move. But his back nine would almost mirror the 1st round co-leader’s card, as he would trade bogeys on 10 and 13 with birdies on 12 and 14. He would however reach the back of the 18th green in two at -12 with a chance to make eagle to reach 14-under par, but would narrowly miss his chip shot. He would make his 10 footer for birdie to finish T4th. Once again, great playing and preparation for his next outing, the PGA Championship of CANADA June 24-28 at Magna Golf Club in Aurora, Ontario. Last year Clapp lost in the Semi-finals to Quebec’s Eric Laporte, the eventual Champion. I like his chances to go far in this event again!
Abbotsford’s Nick Taylor had a bit of a sluggish start on his final round with a bogey on the short 1st hole and double bogey on the downhill par 3 third. But he recovered nicely both times with a birdie on 2, a beautiful eagle on 4. And he added yet another birdie on the 6th to keep him within two of the lead on the front nine at -11. He would quickly get everyone’s attention with his 2nd eagle of the day on #12 and would be first to post the score of -14 in the clubhouse when he lipped out his green-side chip shot for eagle. Had this gone in it would have put him at -15 and the outright champion! He would now have to hold tight till the final group of Wheeldon and Epperson approached 18, both at -13.
After a solid front nine of 34, Wheeldon would surge into the lead at -14 with birdies on 10 and 12 and would hold the outright lead until he missed a short par putt on 17 where he would slip back into a tie for the lead at -13. Epperson would make his run to -14 in a much more deliberate fashion, shooting -1 on the front and then adding birdies on 12 and 15 to share the lead at -13. Then with 2 beautiful shots into the par five 18th green, Epperson had a 40 footer for eagle, but he would run his putt by and tap in for birdie to share the lead at -14 with Taylor….for the time being, since Wheeldon had hit one of the best shots of the day into Fraserview’s 18th hole, par 5 and had a 10 foot downhill putt to win the tournament.
For a long time Wheeldon’s putt looked dead center, but it veered off at the last second. He tapped in and we had a 3-way playoff between he, Epperson and Taylor back down the 18th hole to declare the Champion.
On the first playoff hole, Epperson was the only player to reach the green in 2 and had another 40 footer for eagle. Wheeldon managed to get his 3rd shot into 12 feet for his birdie while Taylor struggled with his 3rd shot as it was up against the shrubs left of the green. He would miss his birdie chip and wait to see what Epperson and Wheeldon did with their next shots.
Epperson stepped up and made a beautiful stroke on his 40 footer, leaving himself less than 2 feet for birdie under the hole. Wheeldon’s birdie putt was now a must in order to push one more playoff hole. But he just couldn’t find the hole and he tapped in for par. Epperson calmly stepped up and knocked in his putt for what he would later declare was the biggest Professional Win of his career! His week off between the PGA TOUR CANADA’S Victoria and Calgary events turned into a fruitful $12,000 Winner’s Cheque and in his words “Help pay for hotel and airfare costs while travelling the PGA TOUR Canada schedule. Although Epperson played the spoiler for a BC Pro winning the Open, the great news for local golf was that amongst the 108 International Pros in the field, BC held 6 of the top 8 spots!
For the 3rd straight year, Surrey’s Adam Svensson took home Overall Amateur honors, firing an amazing 9-under par score for 54-holes winning the title by 3 shots over Coquitlam’s Kevin Ko. Hats off to both players on their play as well as to their coaches Rob Houlding (Svensson) and Matt Palsenbarg (Ko). Svensson has had a great run the past couple of months, recently winning the prestigious Ontario Amateur and leading his Barry University team to the Div.2 NCAA National Championship. He also won the individual Phil Mickelson award for Most Outstanding Freshmen in the nation. He certainly has a bright future ahead of him in golf and probably the only question remains WHEN will he make his Professional debut? In the flighted portion of the Amateur competition, Sanjay Ram was claimed Low Net winner with a score of 209 (-5). Both he and Svensson took home a 32G APPLE ipad 4.
The Vancouver Open serves a number of purposes, and one of those is to fundraise each year at the Charity Pro-am on the Tuesday of the tournament. The official number is not in yet, but VGT expects to raise a substantial amount of money for The FIRST TEE PROGRAM of Greater Vancouver. In the past 4 years, VGT has raised over $18,000 for charity through the Charity Pro-am and gate admissions.
The Vancouver Open marked VGT’s sixth and final MAJOR SERIES event of the spring. At the conclusion of the event, Abbotsford’s Nick Taylor was crowned the MAJORS SERIES Order of Merit Champion, winning a $3,500 BONUS CHEQUE!! All totaled, Taylor hauled in over $22,000 over the 6 events including his Series winning bonus!! NICE WORK NICK!
VGT Organizing Committee:
Running a DEVELOPMENTAL GOLF TOUR and an event the size of the Vancouver Open takes passionate individuals who are willing to dedicate their time in pursuit of the VGT mission statement which is to ‘Prepare Tomorrow’s Champions! Special thanks to the continued sacrifice and efforts from the 2013 Vancouver Open Organizing Committee:
Holly Pearson – Financial Management & On-course set-up
Mike West – Website Development; On-course set-up and multi-media
Helen Simpson – Player Communications & Registration
Michael Cowhig; Jack Murray – Photography & Videography
Brian Small, Bill Schabes, Pat Johnson, – VGT Live Scoring Team
Ruth Reeves, Roseanne McIndoe – Volunteer Co-ordinators, Live Scoring
George Sterling – Course Set-up, Rules Official, Site #2 Team Leader
Scott Vannatter, Wayne & Rosalie May, Greg Moody, Chinami Hancock – Rules officials
Jim McKinnon – Signage and Printing (Budget Printing)
Our volunteers are an integral part of the Tour, especially the demands of a multiple venue event like the Vancouver Open. As such, we would like to thank all our volunteers who have graciously donated their time this year and specifically to all the volunteers from the McCleery Ladies Club during this year’s Vancouver Open. We couldn’t do it without your support!!
CORPORATE SUPPORT & SPONSORS
Our gratitude goes out to our 7-YEAR TOUR’S TITLE SPONSOR MARKETPLACE IGA for helping us launch the Vancouver Golf Tour so we can provide great tournament opportunities for our local players aspiring to reach the PGA Tour. We would like to take this time to thank all Vancouver Open tournament sponsors, starting with our TITLE SPONSOR of this year’s Vancouver Open – SAPUTO and our Presenting Sponsors JOHNSTON MEIER INSURANCE and CNA Canada. We also need to recognize our Charity Pro-am Title Sponsor TIFOSI EYEWEAR, our Presenting Sponsor FENIX GOLF APPAREL and all our Major and Supporting Sponsors who make this as great as it is for all golfers! Your support is greatly appreciated!!
Special Thanks to Vancouver Parks Golf Courses
Thanks once again to the City of Vancouver and their beautiful Parks Golf Courses for providing our players with 3 great venues to play! Our thanks go out to everyone involved with Vancouver Parks Golf Operations for making this year’s Vancouver Open one to remember. All three golf courses were in absolutely mint condition, and we have had nothing but positive reviews from this year’s players, most notably the PGA TOUR Canada players who came to play our event……as their standards are higher than most! Great work Mike Ferdinani (Fraserview), Stan Dixon (McCleery) and Jeff MacLean (Langara) for the special attention to detail you always provide for our event and throughout the year to keep Vancouver’s premier public golf courses in exceptional condition!
Lastly, thanks to all Pro-shop and Clubhouse Team members at Fraserview, Langara and McCleery for providing our Van Open Team access to your facilities and for supporting the rigorous schedule of our event!
Seeing the Professional field size and caliber of player this year gives us a great sense of satisfaction when we run this event and we look forward to setting the wheels in motion to make the 2014 Vancouver Open an even bigger and better event for everyone involved!!