Despite having played sparingly this season, Martone said he believes he’s capable of repeating against a strong field
On what is a highly-competitive local golf scene, it’s a badge of honour.
“It gives you bragging rights for another year,” defending champion Don Martone said of the prospect of winning the sixth-annual Sault Ste. Marie City Golf Championship.
The three day, 54-hole event, which features play at three area courses, is set to begin on Friday at 11:40 a.m. at the Sault Golf Club.
Saturday’s action is slated for Silver Creek Golf Course while the final 18 holes are scheduled to go on Sunday at Crimson Ridge Golf Club.
“It’s a good test,” added Martone, who shot a one-under-par 71 at the Sault Club a year ago, followed by a six-over 78 at Silver Creek and a two-over-par 74 at Crimson for a 223 total.
That was seven-over-par and good for a two-stroke victory over Scott Reed (75-76-74).
Frank Kucher (78-72-78) was third at 228.
“You have three different style courses that test all aspects of your game,” said the 48-year-old Martone. “And it’s lots of fun playing with the guys. We all enjoy competing against each other.”
Despite having played sparingly this season, Martone said he believes he’s capable of repeating against a strong field which will feature roughly 75 players.
“You’ll get good breaks and bad breaks and you have to roll with them,” added Martone, who finished second recently in the Coors Light Jane Barsanti Memorial Tournament at Root River Golf Club.
He fired rounds of 69-73 for a two-over-par 142, two shots back of Kucher (71-69).
“You have to remember that it’s 54 holes,” Martone said of this weekend’s event. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You have to be very patient. You’re going to get some bad breaks, but you have to hope at the end of the day it all evens out for you.”
Along with Martone, the 2018 field includes Kucher, the 2013 city champion, Reed, who was tops in 2016, and two-time city champ Sean Stubbs, who prevailed in 2014 and 2015.
The group of contenders this weekend also includes, among others, Isaac Lennox, Mike Moraca, Greg Sandvik, Richard Evoy, Marc Disano, Kyle Jones, Ryan Vendramin, Brandon Schmidt, Peeter Walker and the tourney co-chairs, Jamie Henderson and Jeff Hamilton.
Henderson is the general manager at Silver Creek while Hamilton is the head professional at the Sault Golf Club.
“I’m blown away that we have 75 players,” Henderson said. “We’ve never had more than 40 previously.”
In fact, when the idea of staging a city golf tourney was resurrected in 2013, just 23 players competed.
“We’re super proud of the growth,” Henderson continued. “I think we’ve ran a great event and that’s helped get the word out.”
Henderson also spoke of how a large number of local golfers realized they didn’t have to challenge for the overall championship in order to enjoy playing.
This year’s tourney also includes a dinner and social with live music on Saturday at Silver Creek.
“Give Jeff and Jamie props for the way they’re growing this tournament,” said Martone, who’ll enter play after a strong showing at the recent Idylwylde Invitational Golf Tournament in Sudbury.
He fired a three-over-par 75 in the qualifying round and earned a spot in the championship flight. That group of 16 players, which included four Sault golfers, advanced into the match-play portion of the tournament.
Martone was joined by Moraca, who also shot 75, Kucher, who carded a 73, and Ryan Bastien, who fired a 69. It’s believed the 2018 event marked the first time four Sault players qualified for match play.
“I played pretty solid golf,” Martone said. “I struggled on my front nine on Friday, but played the last six holes in two-under.”
In his first match, Martone lost 2 and 1 to Kyle Rank of Elmira, Ont.
“I thought I played well in my match and have no regrets,” he said. “My goal was to make the championship flight and I did it.”