NEWPORT BEACH — One would be hard-pressed to find someone who had more fun at the 13th annual Jones Cup than Tony Letendre.
Letendre is in his first week as director of golf at Newport Beach Country Club. The professional's first shot on the first tee Wednesday at the club didn't exactly go very far.
The trick ball, provided to Letendre by NBCC assistant pro Robbie Maurer after Letendre pretended to forget his own ball, exploded on contact. Just after, Letendre addressed the laughing gallery.
"What I said was, 'I hope we have this much fun while I'm here, and thanks for welcoming me,'" Letendre said. "We just wanted to lighten it up, lighten the mood and make sure everybody was having a good time."
Newport Beach's five players did enjoy the time on their home course. It just wasn't nearly enough to win the tournament.
The hosts finished last among the five teams, finishing at two-under par in the two best-ball format. Newport Beach, which consisted of Letendre, pro Carlo Borunda, men's club champ Brian Lindley, senior club champ Jan-Erik Palm and ladies' club champ Debbie Fleming, was never really in contention late for the title won again by Big Canyon in a playoff.
But Letendre also will remember how he sank a nearly 20-foot birdie putt on hole No. 18, winning $2 back from his teammate Borunda. Prior to teeing off Wednesday, Letendre said he lost the money to Borunda on the putting green.
"The deal was that it was double or nothing, whoever makes more birdies [during the round]," Letendre said. "Before we teed off, we decided as a team that everybody has to make three birdies to have a chance to win this thing. He and I were the only two that had a chance to get to our [three] birdies. I told him as I'm standing over that putt, I go, 'I'm getting to our three and I'm winning my money back.'
"It's not about the $2; it's just the fact that I don't have to pay him," he added with a laugh.
Early on, it looked like Borunda would double up. He sank birdie putts on the first two holes, single-handedly putting Newport Beach at two-under. Borunda also had an eagle opportunity on the par-five No. 3.
But he three-putted. Newport Beach, whose lone Jones Cup victory came in 2004, stayed at two-under. Only Lindley could make par on the par-three No. 4, and the hosts dropped back.
"You try to make those putts early," said Borunda, who did not record another birdie in the round. "I knew how important they were, and I got good reads from my caddy. That three-putt on 3, I gotta say, that one hurt. You look back on the round and you think of momentum-killers. It's hard to say a par is going to kill the momentum, but you were putting for eagle ... that was a break in momentum for sure. It seemed like from that point on, our team was fighting to make pars. We didn't have that many good looks for birdie, and when we did, we hit edges."
Borunda said he liked the tournament's setup, playing from the white tees, because both Lindley and Palm have great short games. It just didn't work out Wednesday for Newport Beach.
Letendre birdied No. 6, but everybody else bogeyed that hole so Newport Beach couldn't go further into the red numbers. Letendre again birdied on No. 11, bringing Newport Beach back to two-under par.
By then, many of the other clubs were several shots ahead. The gallery had to look at the leaderboard carried by Estancia High girls' golfers Macy Dailey and Rhe Wilburn less and less.
"Quite honestly, we had a lot of good chances, and we just couldn't get any putts to fall," Letendre said.
Fleming made her lone birdie on No. 13. She scored a two on the par-three, screaming out in joy as her putt broke from right to left and into the hole. Neither Lindley nor Palm had a birdie, though Lindley had one of the best shots of the day.
Lindley's shot from the sand trap on the right at No. 14 came within inches of the hole. But he tapped in for just par. That was the story of the day for Newport Beach, which also lost two strokes when no golfer could make par on the tricky No. 17.
"The whole event was tremendous," Letendre said. "It was a lot of fun to be a part of, and I'm really looking forward to next year.
"We had a good time," he added. "I'm just going to tell everybody that we played good hosts — we came in last."