Jones Cup: A rough ending

COSTA MESA — As five golfers from Newport Beach Country Club approached the greens on the 18th hole, a dozen fans from atop the clubhouse at Mesa Verde Country Club cheered.

The applause must have been for Newport Beach being the first group in because it was not going to finish first at the 11th annual Jones Cup.

Once Paul Hahn and the rest of his teammates, Robbie Maurer, Debbie Fleming, Greg Rokos and Ron Hooven, putted for the final time Tuesday, Hahn stuck around after Newport Beach placed third at two-under in the two-best-ball format.

For the sixth straight year, the Newport Beach head professional watched another country club win the event. Mesa Verde rallied to defend its title with an eight-under effort, finishing two strokes ahead of Big Canyon Country Club.

After the 13th hole, Newport Beach was one shot ahead of the hosts and two behind the leader, Big Canyon. As Hahn put it, Newport Beach was at five-under and "ready to rock and roll."

What Hahn saw was Newport Beach roll out of contention and almost hit rock bottom. Santa Ana took dead last for the second straight year.

"The two bogeys cooled our jets," Hahn said of a disappointing effort at No. 14, a par-four hole.

"It's hard when you make bogey from the middle of the fairway with a nine iron."

With four holes left, Newport Beach was at three-under. It needed birdies the rest of the way to climb back.

No one from Newport Beach recorded another birdie.

Rokos ended up leading the team with three birdies. Not bad for Rokos, who played for Newport Beach after club champion Haeseung Lee could not make the event. Fleming said Lee was vacationing in Europe.

Fleming, the women's champion, collected two birdies, while Hooven, the senior champion, and Hahn each made one. Maurer, the assistant pro, failed to birdie.

"Terrible" is how Maurer described his Jones Cup debut. The event was also a first for Hooven and Rokos. The two were a little more optimistic than the 29-year-old Maurer.

Five bogeys, three on the back nine, hurt Newport Beach's chance at claiming the Jones Cup for the second time since 2004. Hahn, who has played in every Jones Cup, said it was a disappointing finish after Newport Beach put itself in contention with a strong performance at No. 11, a par-five hole.

Fleming, who struggled with her putting game on the front nine, rebounded nicely. She decided to have fun.

From 15 yards out, the fun began for Fleming. She putted and yelled, "Yes, you got it!" before nailing her first birdie.

"It's about time," Hahn said to Fleming with a smile.

Hahn's smile grew after Rokos followed up Fleming's birdie with one of his own. His seven-foot putt for birdie left Newport Beach at four-under through 11 holes.

Fleming's game took off after eating a turkey sandwich. The three-time Jones Cup player birdied No. 13 moments after Hahn missed a birdie opportunity from the edge of the greens.

Hahn's 6-year-old daughter might have distracted him. Hayley jumped up and down and waved a white towel before Hahn told her, "You need to move over there."

Hayley scampered toward her mom, allowing dad to par. Hahn laughed it off afterward because he saw the sign the scorekeeper held up. Newport Beach was closing in on first place.

"Big Canyon was running away with it at the beginning," Hahn said of the club that was at six-under through the first six holes. "We thought, 'Oh my God! What's going to happen?' All of a sudden, [Big Canyon] kind of came back and we made a couple of birdies. At one point, I think we were only one shot back.

"We just made a couple of mistakes [down the stretch]."

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