Just when it looked like the run of great scores over summer had ended thanks to cool temperatures and wet fairways, two players shot the lights out in Saturday’s stableford competition at the Mount Gambier Golf Club.
A Grader Bryce Whicker fired an incredible career-low round of one-over par 73 off the stick to score 43 points, a total matched by relative newcomer David Millard in C Grade.
On top of those two terrific returns, Neil Quirk, Jason Mann and Tony McGregor all managed 40 points or better, scores that would have been good enough to top the leaderboard in recent weeks.
Playing off an eight handicap, Whicker, whose best score before Saturday was a 75, was not thrilled about starting his round on the 10th tee, preferring to play the easier front nine first.
But after an opening two-point bogey, he quickly hit top gear with three points on the par-five 11th after making a five-foot putt for birdie.
Another three-pointer followed thanks to a two-putt par from close range on the 12th, before a rare birdie three for four points on the 13th where he hit a hybrid to less than eight feet for his second shot.
After two-pointers on the 14th and 15th, the latter where he had another birdie opportunity from about six feet, his first hiccup of the day came on the par-three 16th where he added just one point after finding the left greenside bunker off the tee.
Despite that he was able to finish the back nine with an excellent 22 points after another birdie from tap-in range on the 18th.
At that point he was just one over par for his round and he got to even with yet another birdie on the par-five 1st hole after hitting a gap wedge for his third to inside five feet.
He dropped a shot with a two-point bogey on the second, but after three more pars he got that dropped shot back with his fifth birdie of the day on the par-three sixth after hitting a six-iron to about five feet.
A par on the seventh left him in the incredible position of needing just two more pars to shoot an even-par round.
“That crossed my mine for sure,” he said.
“Unfortunately I hit a seven-iron through the back, played on past the hole and just missed my par putt.”
Incredibly he still had a chance to shoot 72 off the stick when he hit his second shot on the 9th to inside six feet, but his downhill putt for birdie just missed, leaving him with another 21 points for his total of 43.
“It was just one of the days. I did not try to over hit my shots and hopefully I can carry that into the pennants which start on Sunday,” Whicker said.
As fantastic as his round was, he could have been beaten by big-hitting lefty Jason Mann who scored 41 points to finish second in A Grade.
Playing off a nine handicap, Mann made birdies on holes one, two, seven and nine to be two-under par through the front nine, giving him a superb 23 points at the half-way mark.
He made more birdies on the 15th and 16th, but double-bogeys on the 11th, 14th and 18th cost him top spot on the day.
In B Grade it was Quirk who took the honours with 41 points, one better than McGregor.
And in C Grade it was “playing smarter” that gave Millard 43 points to get his handicap below 30 for the first time since taking up the game last year, leaving him a whopping seven points ahead of runner-up Peter Jones.
While 40-plus points were needed in each grade on Saturday, in Thursday’s stableford competition 38 points was enough for Matthew Dixon to take top prize on a count back from Rob Harkness.
Heavy rain made life difficult for the morning players, including Dixon, who played off a 14 handicap and managed just 16 points after a battling 45 off the stick on the front nine.
But he turned that around on the inward nine, picking up 22 more points thanks to a 39, the first time he had broken 40 for nine holes.
Harkness split his round 17/21 to just miss, while Peppi Pace was left wondering what might have been.
He had 34 points in the bag with three holes to play, but could only manage three more for those final three holes to finish one off the lead in a tie for third with Robert Perryman and Patrick O’Donnell.