Jones Cup: Big C's four-peat denied

IRVINE — Not one, not two, not three. Four Jones Cup titles in a row sounded about right to Big Canyon Country Club, until it began to eat dinner on Wednesday.

Big Canyon came into the clubhouse with a 15-under-par 56, a five-stroke lead in the two-best-ball format. While the five golfers from Big Canyon sat down after going through the buffet line at Shady Canyon Golf Club, the hosts disrupted Big Canyon's meal.

Robert Pang, the head professional at Big Canyon, told his team, "Stop eating." Shady Canyon began to rally late, forcing a one-hole playoff, before putting an end to Big Canyon's attempt at a four-peat at the Jones Cup.

Shady Canyon pulled it off, with Kirk Manley and Robyn Puckett each birdieing No. 18, the playoff hole, to clinch the win at the 15th annual tournament. The victory is Shady Canyon's first at the Jones Cup, which features the five local country clubs.

Shady Canyon prevented Big Canyon from claiming its 10th Jones Cup.

"No, it's golf," Pang said when asked if he believed his team's five-stroke lead would hold up. "You never know what's going to happen out there. There's never a comfortable lead. They played great. They come down the stretch and birdie No. 16, make two birdies on No. 17 and two birdies on No. 18, and force a playoff. They had two birdies there [on the playoff hole and we only had one birdie]. Pretty impressive. Credit to them.

"It's a fun event. Of course we want to win, and, you know, of course we want to try and get a four-peat, but, you know, our team played well."

Big Canyon seemed on the way to Jones Cup supremacy again with its effort from holes nine to 18. During the 10-hole stretch, the team produced 13 birdies, 11 that counted.

Pang sparked Big Canyon midway through. He birdied four straight holes, No. 9 through 12, giving Big Canyon a three-stroke lead against Shady Canyon and Mesa Verde.

Pang, who finished with six birdies, carried Big Canyon after

Taylor Wood, the men's champion, kept the team in contention early on. Wood collected birdies on No. 1, No. 3 and No. 5, putting Big Canyon at four under. Kayleigh Horn, a 2005 Newport Harbor graduate and Big Canyon's ladies champion, recorded a birdie on No. 3. She and Wood helped Big Canyon stay in first with Santa Ana through five holes. Someone in Big Canyon's gallery said Santa Ana would fade.

The spectator proved to be right, even though Santa Ana recorded two birdies on No. 6, a par-4 hole, distancing itself from Big Canyon. On the sixth hole, Big Canyon failed to move closer, and it stayed at four under until the ninth hole.

The hole before the start of the back nine, Pang tried to motivate Big Canyon. He gave his teammates fist bumps. After seeing Big Canyon go without a birdie for the third straight hole, Pang earned the right to punch the air. He sunk an 11-foot putt, giving Big Canyon its first birdie since Wood's at No. 5.

Big Canyon, at five under, went into the back nine with a little momentum. Pang continued it with a 15-foot putt for birdie on the par-4 10. And he pumped his entire right arm, leaving Big Canyon at six under, two back of the leader, Shady Canyon.

Santa Ana began its downward spiral, losing its lead with three bogeys on the first two holes on the back nine. At four under, Santa Ana appeared done, keeping its winless streak at the Jones Cup intact.

Big Canyon took control, Pang, golf professional Michael Castillo and Wood birding No. 11 and Pang and Wood No. 12. Only two of the birdies counted for each hole, but with three players performing at a high level, Big Canyon found itself on top.

Big Canyon improved to 13 under through 16 holes after one of Castillo's three birdies on the day and one of Horn's three birdies, and men's senior champion Jamie Held's first birdie. Big Canyon built a five-stroke lead against Shady Canyon, which competed in its third Jones Cup, the first on its turf.

Shady Canyon cut the deficit to four with two holes left to play. Four wasn't a big enough lead for Big Canyon to hold on and triumph for a fourth straight time at the Jones Cup. When it ended, Big Canyon lost its appetite and the crown.

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