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Jones Cup celebrates 20 years of signature moments

Shady Canyon’s Brian Gunson exults after a birdie on 14th hole during the 17th annual Jones Cup at N
Shady Canyon’s Brian Gunson exults after a birdie on 14th hole during the 17th annual Jones Cup in 2016.
(File Photo)

The 20th annual Jones Cup golf tournament lived up to the hype on Wednesday afternoon at Shady Canyon Golf Club in Irvine.

Live score trackers showed that the participating clubs – Big Canyon, Mesa Verde, Newport Beach, Santa Ana and Shady Canyon – all got off to a hot start on the front nine.

Through the years, the Jones Cup has offered plenty of storylines and signature moments. Shady Canyon added another successful chapter to its story on Wednesday, improving to 2-0 on its home course in Jones Cup play.

Jones Cup celebrates 20 years of signature moments »

Shady Canyon shot 10 under par on the back nine to win the tournament at 17 under par. Defending champion Big Canyon finished in second at 16 under par.

“It feels good,” Shady Canyon captain Brian Gunson said. “It was a real good team effort, but there’s nothing better than defending [your own golf course].

“It was a real awesome team effort. The whole buildup, like I said, it was our major [championship tournament]. To finish it off in style was pretty special.”

History shows how the tournament has evolved.

The first four Jones Cups were played with just the head professional and the men’s champion representing each club.

Since that time, the tournament has expanded to include an additional club professional, the ladies’ club champion and the senior club champion.

The two-best-balls-out-of-five format has turned the event into a shootout, asking a lot of the teams in terms of piling up the birdies. It has also led to some exciting finishes.

Count the five Jones Cups to be decided by a playoff among the signature moments that the tournament has produced. Big Canyon, the winningest team in tournament history with 10 titles, won playoffs in 2001, 2008 and 2012.

More recently, host Shady Canyon topped Big Canyon in a playoff for its first win as part of the Jones Cup field in 2014.

Then Mesa Verde won the fifth of its six Jones Cup championships in 2016 by winning a playoff over Shady Canyon.

Some of the longstanding faces of the tournament took the time to reflect on their favorite moments at the Jones Cup.

Mike Fergin, a club professional and three-time tournament winner with Mesa Verde, looked back on his debut at the tournament in 2010.

“I think it might have been my first Jones Cup,” Fergin said of his marquee Jones Cup moment. “We were on the 18th hole, and I think we were tied or one up against Big Canyon.

“I remember on the 18th hole, I had to get up and down from about 20 yards, and I had to make like a 15-footer to keep a one-shot lead over Big Canyon, and that won it for us.”

The Jones Cup has always provided a platform for club members to have fun with each other. The Big Canyon team shared in a lighthearted moment on the 10th hole on Wednesday.

Stewart Hagestad, the Big Canyon men’s club champion, was the low-amateur at the 2017 Masters and a major contributor to his club’s Jones Cup victory in 2018.

He blasted a tee shot on No. 10 at Shady Canyon, and senior alternate Jamie Held eventually put his tee shot in the fairway, as well.

Hagestad cracked a joke, saying, “It’s the same approach, just 40 more years of experience.”

Held stared down Hagestad as if to say, “Who said that?” He followed by tossing his tee at the feet of Hagestad, and the Big Canyon camp burst into laughter.

Such has been the enjoyment of the Jones Cup, and it is what has kept longtime tournament volunteer Gordon Bowley coming out year after year.

“When there was a question of who would continue to sponsor this, [Big Canyon director of golf] Robert Pang says, ‘We’ve got to keep this going. This is just too good not to be doing it.’

“I think that was an inspiration because we didn’t know whether they felt obligated to come out and play, or whether they were really enjoying it.

“I think the truth is everybody enjoys it.”

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andrew.turner@latimes.com

Twitter: @ProfessorTurner