Shady Canyon still learning

SANTA ANA — Shady Canyon Golf Club's second act at the Jones Cup ended far worse than its debut.

The five-member team had an excuse for finishing dead last, if it wanted to use one on Wednesday. The players haven't played as much because their home course has been closed the last 4 1/2 months as the Irvine club resurfaced the course's greens.

Brian Gunson, the director of golf, didn't offer any excuses for Shady Canyon's fifth-place showing in the five-team tournament between local country clubs at Santa Ana Country Club.

"The players we've got, we fielded a really strong team," Gunson said, "but we just didn't get the job done."

In the 18-hole, two-best-ball format, Shady Canyon shot six-under-par 66, five strokes back of the winner, Big Canyon. In Shady Canyon's short time in the tournament, it has figured out the team to beat in the Jones Cup.

Big Canyon claimed the trophy for the third straight year and ninth time overall. Big Canyon edged host Santa Ana, which finished one stroke back at -10.

Big Canyon was the team that teed off first in the 14th annual event, followed by Shady Canyon. Shady Canyon played catch up from the start.

Through the first six holes, only Shady Canyon's head professional, Kirk Manley, birdied a shot. Kevin Baker, the men's champion joined him by recording birdies on the seventh and ninth holes, leaving Shady Canyon at three-under-par 36 on the front nine.

Baker continued his birdie form, collecting them on the 11th and 12th holes. Robyn Puckett, a runner-up at the USGA Senior Women's Amateur championship six years ago, also birdied No. 11, a par-three hole.

Baker's 10-foot birdie putt on No. 12 put Shady Canyon one stroke back of the leader, Big Canyon. That's as close as Shady Canyon got to Big Canyon.

Things began to unravel for Shady Canyon on No. 14, a par-three hole. Puckett made her closed-ranged putt for par and David Clare had a chance as well, but the senior men's champion missed his four-foot putt for birdie.

On No. 15, Clare's chip shot for birdie went into the street. He had a rough day, his only contribution on the team's scorecard was a par at the start of the back nine.

With three holes to go, Shady Canyon was in dire need of a miracle.

"Hey Kevin," Manley said to Baker after he teed off on No. 16. "Two birdies on every hole and we'll be right there."

Manley and Baker looked at each other and laughed. Only Puckett, who filled in for women's champion Isako Takada, managed to birdie No. 16. She produced her second birdie, Shady Canyon's seventh overall.

Puckett, Baker, Clare and Gunson stuck around to watch the close finish. At the end, Shady Canyon's players received participation prizes, which they grinned about.

Next year, Shady Canyon looks to contend for the real prize, the Jones Cup. Shady Canyon will host next year's one-day event for the first time.

"We didn't really get much momentum going, didn't really make any long putts," said Gunson, whose team couldn't top last year's fourth-place finish. "But we had an awesome time, hospitality was great and we really look forward to next year, when we're at Shady Canyon."

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