Newport Beach finishes fourth

SANTA ANA — Coming off the 12th green on Wednesday, Newport Beach Country Club men's champion Ted Embry spoke for himself as well as his teammates.

"You guys seen enough pars?" Embry asked the small gallery watching Newport Beach play in the 14th annual Jones Cup golf tournament.

Pars were indeed plentiful. And, in the two-best ball format, Newport Beach did not have a single bogey count against its score.

It just wasn't enough to lift Newport Beach to its second victory at the tournament.

Team captain and professional Tony Letendre, pro Carlo Borunda, ladies' champion Debbie Fleming, Embry and senior men's champion Al Preusch finished at eight-under par at Santa Ana Country Club, good for fourth place.

Big Canyon, led by captain Robert Pang, finished at 11-under to win its third straight Jones Cup and ninth overall.

"I think next year, you're not in the tournament," Letendre joked to Pang just after Newport Beach finished its round. "I think next year, you're banned."

Asked later about Big Canyon's dominance in the tournament, Letendre also had a quick response.

"They cheat," he said, though he could only hold a straight face for a second before laughing.

Letendre added that Newport Beach certainly had a chance to get to 11- or 12-under par, and he wasn't joking about that part. It was an improvement from last year, when Newport Beach finished last place at two-under par at its home course.

Embry, making his first Jones Cup appearance, led Newport Beach with three birdies.

"He had three, so we all owe him five bucks," Letendre said.

Letendre and Borunda each had two birdies, with Letendre getting his last one on par-five No. 18. Preusch also had a birdie, on the par-five No. 15. Fleming did not birdie but made several clutch pars to keep Newport's score as far in the red as possible.

"I didn't have any birdies, but I had a lot of pars," Fleming said. "I tried really hard to make my 40-footers … our team this year was really fun. We had a lot of chances, and everybody played great. Every year, it's so much fun to play in this. Everybody knows what they have to do. I thought I could birdie the par-threes and maybe par-fives, but I didn't. I like to putt, right?"

Fleming, the former longtime Los Alamitos High girls' tennis coach and athletic director, quickly realized that she was on the only one on the team without a birdie.

"See, I need to pay everyone a dollar," she said.

Newport Beach was in contention until late in the round, though the club missed chances at the two par-fives in the middle, Nos. 9 and 10. Letendre missed about a three-foot putt for par on No. 9, then Fleming missed about a 10-foot putt.

Embry birdied No. 10, but Letendre and Borunda also had short putts they were unable to convert.

"Ten was really disappointing," Letendre said. "We had really good putts and they hit a rock or something, because they bounced offline. They just flew. That just happens; that's golf."

After Letendre and Preusch each birdied No. 15, Newport Beach went to seven-under, jumping from a tie for last place to a tie for second. At the time, Newport was just two strokes behind Big Canyon, but it was unable to make a charge at the end.

"Everybody needed to make more birdies, obviously," Borunda said. "When we came out here and did the practice round last week, no one made anything. But we came out today and made eight birdies. That's fantastic.

"It's like playing a scramble, where every time you're up there you think you've got to make a birdie. We're all good enough to have those chances, but we didn't get any momentum going, or we didn't sustain that momentum. But I was very happy with how everybody hit it."

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