On the surface it may appear that Santa Ana Country Club would be the underdog team in Wednesday’s Jones Cup.
Heading into the 14th annual event, Santa Ana has yet to win the Jones Cup.
However, there can be a strong case made that Santa Ana is the favorite to win the five-person team, two-best-ball format that starts at 12:30 p.m.
The 18-hole event, which also features Newport Beach, Big Canyon, Mesa Verde and Shady Canyon, is at Santa Ana Country Club. No one should know the course better than the quintet of head pro Geoff Cochrane, assistant pro Nick Kumpis, men’s club champion David Kendall, senior men’s club champ Boyd Martin and ladies club champ Liz Slater.
However, it should be noted Big Canyon has won the last two Jones Cup events, and eight overall.
Cochrane, Kumpis and Slater were on last year’s team that produced a strong back nine and finished third at Newport Beach. Martin has played in the Jones Cup before, including in 2009 when the event was played at Santa Ana and the host finished last.
Santa Ana will certainly look to improve on that finish on its home course.
“Having David and Boyd,” Cochrane said when naming the strengths of Santa Ana’s team. “There are a lot of rounds between the two of them and that gives me excitement.”
Cochrane acknowledged the home course should give Santa Ana an advantage, but as 2009 showed it can also be a challenge.
“I think it’s a little of both [an advantage and a challenge],” Cochrane said. “You feel more pressure trying to perform well in front of the members. And, you feel like you should play better on your home course. But what I believe in the events like this it comes down to making putts, getting birdies. And, there is no better place to make a putt where you know the breaks and you know the reads.”
Kendall will be making his Jones Cup debut. The 29-year-old won the men’s club title last June. Santa Ana’s men’s tournament has been moved to July.
Kendall is the son of Pat Kendall, a former club president at Santa Ana.
The Kendalls are a part of Santa Ana’s strong tradition.
Santa Ana, known for its small greens and treeline fairways, was established in 1901 and has been on the property on Newport Boulevard, near the Orange County Fair, since 1925.
A popular golfer holds the course record. That would be Fred Couples, whose nine-under-par 63 is the low tied with John Burckle.
Other famous players have played on the private course, including Loren Roberts, Peter Jacobsen and Al Geiberger, said Kumpis, who has worked at the club for 26 years.
Mike Reehl, the former longtime director of golf at Santa Ana knows plenty about the club’s history as well as Jones Cup events. He is now the club’s professional emeritus. He will be the rules official at the Jones Cup.
“It’s a great membership. We have a lot of tradition,” said Cochrane, who has been working at the club for 10 years, the last three as head pro. “There are members who have been here for 30 years. We have second generation members and third generation members even.”
Santa Ana recently held its 55th annual Derby, a three-day member-guest tournament, which is a highlight of the year. In August, the club will host its 65th annual Santa Ana Invitational, an event that features two-man teams from mostly any private club in Southern California.
And, of course there’s the Jones Cup as another big event for the club.
“It’s always fun to host the Jones Cup,” Cochrane said. “Any time you get to play in a team event and get a gallery around for you to play it’s great. Getting to host means we’ll have members around and that just makes it much more fun.
“The course is in fantastic condition and that will make everyone pleased with that part as well.”