Big Canyon Country Club wins Jones Cup

Opinions varied between the team members as to why Big Canyon Country Club won the 19th annual Jones Cup golf tournament Tuesday.

Kayleigh Horn Klinzing, the Big Canyon women’s club champion, pointed squarely at teammate Stewart Hagestad when she and her teammates were asked why the team was so successful.

Hagestad, the men’s club champion who was the lowest scoring amateur at the 2017 Masters, played in his first Jones Cup. With a seven-birdie round, his impact indeed was undeniable in the two-best-ball format at Santa Ana Country Club.

Big Canyon finished at nine-under-par, with two-time defending champion Mesa Verde in second place at six-under-par. Santa Ana and Shady Canyon tied for third at five-under, while Newport Beach was in last at two-under.

Hagestad still credited a different reason than his teammate after helping Big Canyon, which also included captain Robert Pang, professional Chris Valeriano and senior men’s champion Todd Palmaer, win its tournament-best 10th Jones Cup. It is Big Canyon’s first title since 2013.

“A lot of team chemistry,” Hagestad said. “We fed off each other nicely. We had a great team that opened up everyone’s birdie opportunities, and everyone hit shots under pressure. I think we got into a good rhythm after the first three or four holes … We had to not focus as much on maybe grinding over certain shots, as much as just playing golf and going out there and having fun.”

Big Canyon effectively sealed its victory on the par-five No. 15, as Hagestad and Valeriano each made birdie to move the team to 10-under-par. Big Canyon gave one of those strokes back on the next hole, but easily hung on for the win.

Valeriano contributed four birdies for the winners. On two other holes — Nos. 4 and 8 — he and Hagestad both made birdie.

“The first couple of holes were a little bit shaky, but after that, we all jumped in there and made the putts when we needed to,” Pang said. “It was fun.”

Horn Klinzing is a Jones Cup veteran, but she golfed the tournament Tuesday for the first time as a mother. Her 13-month-old daughter, Elliot, followed the Big Canyon group around the course.

“That was really cool,” Horn Klinzing said. “I’ve been coming back from maternity leave and getting back into it. I don’t think I helped as much as I could have, but there’s always next year.”

Mesa Verde was denied in its attempt for its third straight title. The club, led by new captain Heidi Wright-Tennyson, brought just two golfers back from last year’s title team — professional Mike Fergin and women’s champion Kim Izzi.

Men’s champion JD Stern led Mesa Verde with six birdies, while Fergin had three. Wright-Tennyson contributed one birdie, sinking a long putt on the first hole, but Fergin said four bogeys that counted did not help the cause of Mesa Verde, which also featured senior champion Steve Rhorer.

“JD played great,” Fergin said. “He kept us in it. We struggled on the par-threes … and we had four bogeys today. The last two years that we won, we didn’t make any bogeys. If we get rid of our bogeys, we’re right there with Big Canyon.”

Santa Ana, led by captain Geoff Cochrane, had just one bogey scored. But the host team did not score enough birdies — six total — to contend. Senior champion John Gilchrist had four birdies for Santa Ana, which remains the only club to never win the Jones Cup.

“It just felt like we didn’t have very many birdie opportunities on every green, so whoever had one was kind of worried about making par,” Cochrane said. “Then when we did have some chances, we just didn’t make them. This game comes down to birdies, period. That’s what it’s all about.”

Women’s champion Robyn Puckett had a pair of birdies for Shady Canyon, which was the first team to tee off but never led. Shady Canyon did not record its first birdie until captain Brian Gunson made one at hole No. 6.

Professional Andrew Alderdice had two birdies for last-place Newport Beach Country Club. Alderdice said the looks of satisfaction on the faces of Big Canyon’s players after the awards ceremony provided him motivation for next year’s Jones Cup at Shady Canyon.

At the Jones Cup, though, it’s good to be Big Canyon. At least the weather was nice Tuesday for the other teams.

“It doesn’t get much better than this,” Hagestad said. “There literally wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was perfect.”

Twitter: @mjszabo