Shady Canyon finishes fourth in Jones Cup debut

NEWPORT BEACH — One practice round is all Kirk Manley and his four Shady Canyon Golf Club teammates had to prepare for the Jones Cup at Newport Beach Country Club.

After Wednesday's tournament, it was apparent Shady Canyon needed more time on the course before the 13th annual event.

The Irvine-based club finished in fourth place at eight-under-par 134 in the two best-ball format. Big Canyon won in a playoff against Mesa Verde.

Manley, the head professional at Shady Canyon, believed his team would compete against the four other area country clubs, perennial champion Big Canyon, Mesa Verde, Santa Ana and Newport Beach.

Shady Canyon teed off second, right behind Santa Ana, which just like Shady Canyon had never won the Jones Cup. Shady Canyon had a good reason, this was its Jones Cup debut, whereas Santa Ana has been in the tournament since its inception.

The newbies got off to a good start. Baker, the men's champion at Shady Canyon, birdied two of the first three holes. David Clare, the club's senior champ, collected a birdie on No. 3, a par-five hole.

The birdies went away, until the ninth hole. Baker salvaged a bad one for himself and his team.

At the end of the front nine, three golfers missed the fairway with their driver. The second shot for both Baker and Manley came near the trunk of trees, a better position than Clare. He couldn't find his ball.

He looked for it everywhere on the grass, even in trees and around trees. The small gallery following Shady Canyon also searched for the white ball. They found nothing.

Clare was done on the front nine. Baker wasn't.

Baker's next shot found the green, setting him up for a nice close-ranged birdie shot, which he converted to put Shady Canyon at two under through nine holes. The team at that point was in third place, five strokes behind the leader, Mesa Verde.

"Mesa Verde is seven under?" Baker said after seeing two volunteers, Cassie Stevenson and Briseida Miranda from the Estancia High girls' golf team, update the scores for each team on a sign. "We've got to get it going."

The jump start Shady Canyon desperately needed to challenge Mesa Verde never came. The best two balls Shady Canyon's members recorded on the No. 10, 11 and 12 holes were pars.

While Shady Canyon stayed at two under, Mesa Verde's lead grew to six strokes. Big Canyon trailed Mesa Verde by just one stroke through 12 holes.

Clare and Manley tried to rally Shady Canyon. Clare birdied the 13th and 15th holes, and Manley sneaked one in between at No. 14. It wasn't enough to climb into contention.

With three holes left to play, Shady Canyon, at five under, found itself in fourth place. Even Santa Ana was two strokes ahead of Shady Canyon and looking to catch up to Mesa Verde, who was at 10 under.

On the second-to-last hole, Shady Canyon's members weren't playing to win the Jones Cup, just a new car from the Cup's sponsor, Fletcher Jones Motorcars. A hole-in-one on the 158-yard, par-3 No. 17 hole rewarded a golfer a gray Mercedes-Benz.

Baker came within a foot of the hole, closer than his team came in claiming the Jones Cup in its first try.

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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