NEWPORT BEACH — On hole No. 16 at Newport Beach Country Club, it appeared the Santa Ana Country Club quintet would need to grind for a par save on the par-four hole at the 13th annual Jones Cup. That is until Chris Veitch chipped from 18-20 feet away.
Veitch, the Santa Ana senior men's champion, nailed a dynamic shot for birdie to typify Santa Ana's sizzling back nine. But it wasn't enough for Santa Ana, which left still seeking its first title. Santa Ana's back nine featured eight birdies in the two best-ball format, helping the club finish third out of the five teams at nine-under-par 133. Big Canyon won its ninth Jones Cup title after beating Mesa Verde in a one-hole playoff. Shady Canyon finished fourth in its debut and Newport Beach was last.
Santa Ana provided highlights on the back nine for its gallery of 20 people, the biggest highlight coming from Veitch.
"I thought I played the shot that I needed to and the wind just pushed it further right," Veitch said. "Caught a real good lie in the rough and son of a gun if the thing didn't go in."
The shot caused Santa Ana and its supporters to react with loud cheers and applause. Santa Ana felt as it if had momentum.
"That was awesome," Santa Ana assistant pro Nick Kumpis said of Veitch's birdie chip. "All of a sudden we were looking like we needed to make sure to save pars. But it landed soft and dropped perfect in the hole. It was a great shot. It was definitely an exciting point, but we needed one of those on the front nine."
Santa Ana, the first team to tee, had a rather quiet front nine with just one birdie.
It was on the par-four, No. 6. Geoff Cochrane, the Santa Ana head pro, sank the birdie.
"The first of many," he said as he took his ball out of the cup.
Santa Ana didn't collect another birdie until No. 11. Cochrane said the team should have taken advantage of the par-five No. 3 hole, but couldn't get any birdies there.
The Santa Ana team also featured Rick Herrera, as the men's club representative for being the low man in the club's qualifier on Sunday, and women's champ Liz Slater. The quintet couldn't find a spark on the front nine but hung in there with pars. Even after the turn, things didn't look great as Kumpis and Veitch bailed out the team with par saves on No. 10.
But on No. 11, Cochrane sank a birdie putt from about 10-12 feet out. Kumpis followed with a birdie on No. 12. Then on No. 14, Kumpis provided another birdie.
Kumpis and Veitch birdied on No. 15 after both nearly came away with an eagle. Herrera also birdied the hole, but it was not scored.
Santa Ana finished strong on No. 18 with birdies from Veitch and Cochrane.
"I would write it off to a bad start," Veitch said. "The first few holes we just could not get it going. We hit a lot of quality shots on the back. We made some good saves on the front, but we couldn't get any momentum going."
The sunny day and warm weather meshed well with the vibes coming from the Santa Ana group. Cochrane, Veitch and Slater played for Santa Ana four years ago at Newport Beach when the team also ended with a hot string on the back nine with nine birdies only to come up short in a three-team playoff.
The 2012 Santa Ana team also had a strong finish along with some fun.
"We are pretty close," Veitch said. "We all get along. We all have a really good time. But once again we haven't gotten our name on that trophy. Someday before we all take off into space we'll win one of these things. It's a really good group."
Cochrane, the team captain, said Santa Ana showed its potential on the back nine.
"I think we just had a tough time getting it going on the front," Cochrane said. "We definitely had some chances, but we just couldn't get it to go in. It felt like we had four- or five-footers for par. So we had to grind."