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Big Canyon comes up big, again

Big Canyon comes up big, again
(Scott Smeltzer | Daily Pilot)

NEWPORT BEACH — Independence Day is next week, but Big Canyon Country Club brought the fireworks early to Newport Beach Country Club Wednesday in a Jones Cup for the ages.

The defending champs went birdie-eagle on the par-five 18th hole to force a playoff with Mesa Verde Country Club as both teams finished 18 holes at 12-under-par 130.

Big Canyon men’s champion Mike Carpenter echoed roars of four years ago with a heroic 25-foot eagle putt to help secure a playoff, also on the 18th hole, after assistant pro Mike Castillo got up-and-down for a birdie.

Mesa Verde and Big Canyon then played the 18th as one group. When it was settled, Big Canyon senior champ Gary Singer’s birdie was the difference. Big Canyon added a par to edge Mesa Verde, which finished the hole even, and win this tournament for the eighth time in its 13-year history.


“Unbelievable, what a fun day,” Big Canyon head pro Robert Pang said.

Pang led Big Canyon with four birdies, none of greater significance than a chip-in on the par-four 16th hole that moved the team to nine-under.

Singer and women’s champion Lisa Brennan, playing in her first Jones Cup, both parred the par-three 17th, keeping Big Canyon’s hopes alive.

“We are just a great team. We know what we can do. That putt Mike hit on the final hole was so amazing,” Pang said.


Carpenter said the pressure helped him on the last hole. Still, caddie Kenny Wertzberger called the putt “incredible.”

Big Canyon only bogeyed once, the par-four ninth, but it hardly fazed them. They came out on the back nine strong, with three birdies combined on holes 10 and 11. Pang contributed two of those birdies on the par fours while Brennan hit her approach to nine feet and sank her second birdie of the round.

Brennan admitted afterward that she was nervous, but both her demeanor and swing tempo said otherwise. Her smooth slow swing is reminiscent of Ernie Els or Fred Couples.

“I’m really proud of her,” Pang said of Brennan. “She was a true champion today. She made some pars and had opportunities at birdies.

“We made some putts and missed some putts. We gave it away on nine. Anytime you make a bogey in this format, you don’t want to go backwards. To do what we did on the back and make birdie at 16 and make birdie and eagle to tie this thing is crazy.”

Big Canyon went eight-under on the back nine at the Jones Cup, which uses the two best scores per hole per each team of five players. The tournament turned into a two-team race with Big Canyon and Mesa Verde, which have now combined for 12 Jones Cup championships. Santa Ana finished nine-under while Shady Canyon Golf Club went eight-under and Newport finished two-under.

Carpenter tallied his second birdie with a 4 on the 15th hole. Brennan nearly gave Big Canyon another birdie with a shot from the greenside bunker that hit the flagstick before settling mere feet from the cup.

Then on the 16th, Pang hit his second shot right of the green. He was left with 15 feet of green to work with. His shot hit the green and rolled right into the hole. Pang high-fived teammates and Big Canyon moved to nine-under.


The front-left pin location on 18 was begging for target practice and Big Canyon went at it. Carpenter had 185 yards for his second shot and his ball stopped right of the hole on the first cut of fringe.

Castillo, standing short of the green, chipped his fourth shot onto the putting surface and sank the birdie putt. Carpenter paced off his line, studying it before sinking the putt that sent Big Canyon into a playoff.

“It broke 18 inches right to left,” Carpenter said. “I tried to putt like a normal putt. Just put a good roll on it.”

Four years ago on the same green in a three-team playoff, Big Canyon’s Will Tipton sank a 20-foot eagle putt. Teammate Bob Lovejoy added a birdie to help Big Canyon to its sixth Jones Cup championship.

It was Singer’s time to shine in this year’s playoff. Singer, who contributed key pars throughout the round, hit a 230-yard second shot onto the 18th green. He had a 25-foot putt for eagle that missed left by inches. Singer confidently rolled in his first birdie putt, more than enough on this day.

“The whole team played sensationally,” Singer said, before talking about the playoff hole.

“I knew that all the trouble [on the 18th] was left so I wanted to make sure to keep it in the fairway. Carpenter was on the green and Pang was just short so I felt I had a free swing and hit a good shot.”