Slutzky a key in victory

Some big names have played at Big Canyon Country Club.

Tiger Woods is an honorary member at the jewel-of-a-club across the street from Fashion Island in Newport Beach. A story has been told many times that Tiger once played a round with Michael Jordan on Big Canyon's golf course.

Well, local golf's biggest names came to Big Canyon Tuesday for the 12th edition of the Jones Cup. The biggest names ended up being Big Canyon's own Robert Pang, Michael Castillo, Mike Carpenter and Gary Singer.

Olivia Slutzky proved to be the biggest name among the women in the Jones Cup, the golf competition that pits the local country club's two pros, men's champ, women's champ and top male senior.

It was a fun and special day for Slutzky, the Big Canyon women's champion. She already knew it was going to be a fun time. It was the first time she had all three of her children present during a whole round of competition golf.

Her oldest daughter, Kyra, 8, and two sons Tyler, 6 and Geoffrey, 3, were among a supportive gallery for Big Canyon, which captured its seventh Jones Cup in the 12th year of the golf event. When Slutzky made sensational birdie putts on the turn on No. 1 and then another on No. 2, the three kids delivered some of the loudest cheers for their mom. Her husband, Alan, was also there to support her.

"It's been a fun adventure," said Slutzky, 43, who won the Big Canyon women's championship in 2001 and 2002. "To have them out here today was so much fun. After the first seven holes, I saw their faces and it was exciting."

Slutzky was happy to break through this year and onto the Big Canyon team. She said she had been the women's runner-up the past six years. Slutzky has seen success on the golf course. She competed in the U.S. women's mid-am qualifier three times and made the cut once.

Tuesday she was seen helping Big Canyon win by nine strokes against second-place Mesa Verde, ending its bid for three straight Jones Cup titles.

Slutzky became a big name, once again. And, she'll admit she saw a bigger name Tuesday.

Even though she's a Big Canyon member, she's yet to see Tiger on the course. But she saw Ai Miyazato, who was on the driving range and practice green Tuesday. Miyazato is No. 6 on the LPGA money list.

"That's always fun to see her play," said Slutzky, who was just as thrilled to play with her Big Canyon teammates. "I love the camaraderie of the club. I feel like it's a lasting friendship when you play in this with them."

Some other notes from Tuesday's Jones Cup:

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Miyazato wasn't the only prominent golfer at Big Canyon. Mesa Verde had assistant pro Lehua Wise on its team. She was born and raised in Hawaii, where she was named the state's Junior Female Player of the Year in 2003. She made the All-Western Athletic Conference first team in 2006 and 2007 while at New Mexico State.

Last year, Wise, 25, earned $16,000 in 17 events on the Duramed Futures tour, the LPGA developmental tour.

This past January, she started to work at Mesa Verde. Tom Sargent, the head pro at Mesa Verde, was happy to hire her.

Michael Castillo, a pro at Big Canyon, called Sargent telling her of Wise, also known as Lai, since he knew her from teaching juniors in Hawaii. Sargent was searching for a new assistant. Everything fell into place.

"It was one of those 30-second interviews," Sargent said. "She walked in the door and we knew this is the one.

"She's an awesome addition to the staff. She's very skilled in golf and golf operations. She's a good instructor. She has a tremendous personality … she has just about everything you can ask for in the system. Not only can she play and teach, but she can do all the other things. Plus she is personable. Pretty good combination."

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Want to know another popular person at Big Canyon Tuesday? He was an old man with a USC ball cap on, sitting at a table. With regard to the Jones Cup, he could be described as irrelevant, but that's what he's known for regardless.

Yes, it was Paul Salata, who sat down with me while I had lunch. We talked about USC, Mr. Irrelevant and golf.

"Go Big Canyon," said Salata, who's been a member at the club for the past four years.

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Salata was among a handful of familiar faces I saw at the Jones Cup. Fletcher Olson, a former Newport Harbor tennis coach, was there to support her club mates of Newport Beach.

One of the members on the Newport Beach team was Jeff Bloom, a former Newport Beach Little League coach from back in the day.

Gordon Bowley was also there, helping with the Jones Cup. Among many of the spots he worked, he was on No. 7 to see if anyone made a hole-in-one because if that happened the person would win a new Mercedes Benz from Fletcher Jones Motorcars. No one aced it, but Big Canyon's Mike Carpenter came close, about four feet from the cup on the 180-yard hole.

When I saw Bowley, I told him I know him as Jake Knapp's grandpa. Bowley is the president of Costa Mesa United, the group that supports athletics and raises money for sports in Costa Mesa.

Bob Lovejoy, the former Big Canyon pro, also made an appearance at the Jones Cup. He said he continues to teach and he's been helping with Cleveland Golf, the company run by Greg Hopkins, a Newport Beach resident.

Lovejoy gave Big Canyon a quick pep talk before play on Tuesday.

"I told them, 'go get 'em,'" he said.

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Sargent wanted a third straight title for Mesa Verde, but he knew it would be tough at Big Canyon.

"It's their home course," Sargent said, somewhat jokingly. "They're supposed to win."

Sargent expected the winning team to shoot around eight-under. But he thought it would be a tight race to win the Jones Cup.

"They did what they were supposed to do. We didn't," Sargent said. "I don't think it's so much of a runaway score. But the rest of us fell down the volcano, and sacrificed ourselves to the gods."

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Pang stopped short of telling me more famous names that have played at Big Canyon to protect their privacy. But he did tell me about the big-time events that take place there.

"We hold U.S. Am qualifiers here and the women's mid-am qualifying," he said. "Next year we'll have the SCGA championships here. In a couple of years we're hoping to hold the U.S. Senior Amateur Championships."

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