NEWPORT BEACH — The dramatic finish of the 13th annual Jones Cup gave new meaning to the term up and down Wednesday at Newport Beach Country Club.
The five-player team from Mesa Verde Country Club led most of the day, had a four-stroke advantage after 11 holes, and was up by three shots when it posted one birdie on the 18th hole, after which Mesa Verde head professional Tom Sargent drove his golf cart to his car to put his clubs in the trunk.
"I was thinking about a Corona," Sargent said of the expected victory celebration that never came.
Instead, Big Canyon Country Club, the big bully on the local block when it comes to golf, produced an eagle and a birdie on its final regulation hole to erase the three-shot deficit and force a playoff. Big Canyon then edged Mesa Verde in a simultaneous two-team re-do on No. 18 to pocket its eighth Jones Cup crown.
Mesa Verde, which had won four Jones Cup titles coming in, could have closed the gap on its Newport Beach-based rivals. But the setback wasn't for lack of strong performances from all five Mesa Verde representatives.
Sargent, the only player to play in all 13 Jones Cup events, contributed four birdies to the combined 12-under-par team total in the two-best-ball format.
Assistant pro Mike Fergin also pitched in four birdies, while men's champion Ed Susolik produced three. Women's champion Sally Holstein had one birdie, on what her teammates considered the shot of the day, while senior champion Preston Murray was consistently in the birdie hunt.
"We did play really well," Sargent said of his team, which did not give away a shot to par all day. "But you know what, the best-laid plans ... You've got to give Big Canyon credit. To make birdie-eagle on the last hole [of regulation] to tie is pretty spectacular. Then to step up in the playoff and do it again ..."
Sargent said his team stepped up early and often.
Fergin produced birdies on No. 3 and No. 4, on which Susolik (No. 3) and Sargent (No. 4) joined him to put the team four-under through four holes. Susolik, who interrupted his round a few times to perform stretching exercises to counter an ailing back, sank a 15-foot putt from the fringe for a birdie on No. 6 to start a run of three-straight birdies for Mesa Verde.
Sargent drained a 22-footer from the fringe for birdie on No. 7, then knocked his tee shot on the 207-yard No. 8 hole within two feet to create consecutive birdies that put his team at seven-under.
The next five holes produced only one birdie, but it was a doozy, as Holstein's 43-footer from the fringe found the jar to thoroughly impress and inspire her teammates.
"It was the best shot of the day, absolutely," Susolik said of the putt.
Sargent also chimed in with praise, saying the long putt "infused a little enthusiasm after we hit a little slow spot."
Sargent sank an 18-footer for birdie on No. 14 and Fergin followed up with a birdie-four on No. 15 to give Mesa Verde a double-digit edge on par at 10-under.
Susolik, playing in his first Jones Cup, rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt to help Mesa Verde answer a roar from a nearby green just moments earlier that signaled another birdie for hard-charging Big Canyon.
Despite having to regroup and return to the course for the playoff, which began roughly 30 minutes after the completion of its regulation round, Mesa Verde looked to have an advantage when three Big Canyon men's players hooked their drives left, into a line of trees, to start the playoff.
But Big Canyon recovered to create three solid chances to better par, while Mesa Verde saw its chances diminish with each shot.
Fergin chunked his chip for eagle from near the front of the green to douse Mesa Verde's best chance to match Big Canyon senior champion Gary Singer's tap-in birdie. Then, Sargent's 16-foot putt for birdie covered half the diameter of the hole before lipping out, virtually sealing his team's fate, as Big Canyon had yet to attempt two short birdie putts to cement the win.
"[Big Canyon players] probably would have made those birdie putts, but that ball was in the hole," Sargent said of his ill-fated putt on the playoff hole. "It was down in the hole, and it made a U-turn on me."
In, then out, just as Mesa Verde was up, then down.