Right out of the gate, Santa Ana Country Club appeared as if it would be the team to beat in the 15th annual Jones Cup Wednesday at Shady Canyon Country Club.
But down the stretch Santa Ana faded and was left still searching for its first Jones Cup victory.
Perhaps men's champion David Kendall put it best.
"Like California Chrome we had a hot start," Kendall said of Santa Ana's seven-under score on the front nine. "But we fell short coming in."
Santa Ana went four-over par on the back and ended at three-under-par 68. Kendall wanted to compare his team to the prized horse that fell short of a Triple Crown after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but failing in the Belmont Stakes.
Santa Ana is still seeking its Single Crown. The club's five players had to watch host Shady Canyon win its first in its third year in the event that pits the area's country clubs also including Big Canyon, Mesa Verde and Newport Beach. Santa Ana finished in last.
With a birdie on each of the first three holes, Santa Ana, which finished a stroke behind champion Big Canyon last year, had the feeling it would be in contention.
Two more birdies came on No. 5 and another two birdies on No. 7 during its bogey-free front nine.
But two bogeys came on the turn in the two-best ball format. Santa Ana didn't have any birdies on the back nine.
"We kind of had to work a bit to make a couple of pars on No. 9," said team captain Geoff Cochrane. "And, then I don't know what happened. Crazy golf happened. We had to count two bogeys on 10. We just never got back. Golf is crazy that way. What's weird is that in a team game theoretically that could happen to a couple of players, but it was like the whole team was really good for the front nine and the team struggled on the back nine."
Kendall said it was "neat" to play in his second straight Jones Cup. He had played last year when he also won the men's championship at Santa Ana. He'll try to go for the three-peat at Santa Ana when the three-day event begins July 18.
Playing at Shady Canyon in an event named after Fletcher Jones Motorcars proved to be meaningful for Kendall, who played golf at Saddleback College and for a season at USC. He once worked as a bag boy at Shady Canyon and he also worked for the information technology department at Fletcher Jones.
"I thought we would have a chance this year, but that's golf," said Kendall, who is now a district manager for Colony American Homes. "You get a bad bounce here and there and that's golf."
Santa Ana had a gallery of 18 following the team during the back nine. The group included Santa Ana's board members who had a meeting at Shady Canyon Wednesday night, Cochrane said.
"They scheduled the meeting that way so they can all come over and watch us finish," Cochrane said. "We certainly would've liked to have given them a better finish, but it was nice to have them all out there. We started our really hot. But our traditional M.O. has been to start slow and then come on. We'll figure out the right mix some day."