Tournament of Champions Culminates 2022, Kicks Off 2023
It was another epic day and evening for the annual Southern Nevada Golf Association Tournament of Champions tournament and awards dinner. Besides honoring champions from 2022 from all over Southern Nevada, the event kicks off the 2023 season. Also, making a special appearance was 1994 SNGA Player of the Year and PGA Tour veteran Craig Barlow. –By Bill Bowman, www.lasvegasgolfinsider.com
The SNGA crowned eight champions in the 2023 Tournament of Champions event held Feb. 6, 2023, at Spanish Trail Country Club. Matt Mitchell (Championship), Steve Fink (Senior), Tom Hyland (Silver) and Ronda Henderson (Women’s) won gross titles. Allen Grant (Net), Joe Wilkerson (Senior), Tom Richardson (Silver) and My Paulsen (Women’s) were the net winners. Also honoree was WSNGA Volunteer of the Year Elizabeth Bridge and SNGA Volunteer of the Year Debra Koch. The Member Club of the Year was Grip and Sip It.
Matt Mitchell finished his round birdie-par-eagle to rally for a one-stroke victory in the Championship Division.
Mitchell, who has now won two SNGA events to go along with an SNGA Tour victory, said this win was very surprising.
“I got off to a tough start,” he said. “I was a little under-prepared for the conditions. It was tough weather-wise and there were challenging pin positions.”
He kept a positive frame of mind.
“About six holes in I made a couple of adjustments and started playing a lot better,” he said.
He added that he and Craig Erickson had quite a battle.
“We both had a lot of momentum going at the end,” he said. “Then the last hole I made about a 20-footer for eagle. I wasn’t sure where that had me in the standings but I thought plus-two would put me in good shape.”
He said the weather and pin placements had him adjusting his mindset all day.
“It made me play different shots and be a little more creative,” he said. “I made the adjustments and it worked out.”
Matt Mitchell, 74
Craig Erickson, 75
Jared Smith, 77
Allen Grant won for the first time in almost four years, winning the Net title by two strokes.
For Grant, it’s been a lot of work to get back into winning form.
“I had a pretty good year last year in the SNGA and KGA events,” he said. “I just didn’t win anything.”
He said it’s great to start the new year off with a win.
“It’s nice to see the hard work paying off,” he said. “It’s nice to come out on top.”
He said a bogey he made was the spark he needed.
“I drove the ball well all day,” he said. “But I had one off the fairway midway through the round. It wound up behind a tree and I just had to punch it out sideways. I put the third shot on the green but left it about 45 feet away on a spine. I lagged it up to about eight feet and rolled that one in to keep a double bogey off the card.”
Allen Grant, 77
Todd Kirby, 79
Aron Suci, 80
Steve Fink made it three straight victories in the Tournament of Champions, racing to a four-stroke victory in the Senior Division.
“I’m very pleased with the win,” he said. “I had a lot of short putts go in and on a day like this it was a good thing.”
Fink said he had a little different motivation driving him.
“Chad Fosburg passed away three weeks ago and I went to the memorial service on Saturday,” he said. “I thought about him a lot today and that kept me focused. Chad won the 2005 Nevada State Amateur and was a very talented kid.”
Fink said his final hole showed that focus paid off.
“The last hole I made a six-foot putt for bogey which was pretty good in these conditions,” he said. “I just tried to do the same thing all day…keeping my head down and focusing on each shot.”
Steve Fink, 74
Todd Roberts, 79
Gordon Schiring, 84
Joe Wilkerson used a three-birdie, three-par run over six holes en route to a one-shot win in the Senior Net Division.
Wilkerson said staying steady was a big reason he posted his first SNGA win.
“I’d say perseverance through the wind and cold really was the difference,” he said.
He added the group he played with kept him in the moment.
“They were really good guys,” he said. “We all didn’t play to the best of our ability but we were all about the same handicap and all had the drive to win. They really kept me focused.”
He said one hole, the eighth hole on the Lakes Course, really stands out.
“I hit a good drive and then hit an approach shot to about a foot for birdie,” he said. “That led to another birdie on No. 9. Back-to-back birdies are always good.”
He said in the end, he just tried to stay within his game.
“I gave myself good chances and just kept pushing,” he said. “In the end it paid off.”
Joe Wilkerson, 76
Jeffrey Gilliame, 77
Brian Freymueller, 80
Tom Hyland won for the second time in as many starts, picking up a victory in a three-person scorecard playoff.
Hyland won last December for his first SNGA win in more than eight years.
“I was very lucky today,” he said. “I didn’t hit any terrible shots. I didn’t do anything spectacular with the wind and the diabolical pins. The worst mistake I made resulted in a bogey so I just played steady.”
He said a couple of birdies also helped his cause.
“I birdied two short par 5s,” he said. “I’m usually not a very good chipper but today I hit some nice chips and that really helped.”
Tom Hyland, 76
Jeffrey English, 76
Gary Carpendale, 76
Tom Richardson’s back on the winning track.
After missing about three years with injuries, Richardson has now won three times in just under a year.
This one was all about putting.
“There were tough pins today and somehow I made a bunch of putts,” he said with a laugh. “I probably made five or six 10-to-12 foot putts.”
But none were better than the putt he made midway through the round.
“I made about a 40-footer for par after hitting a 60-yard drive,” he said with a laugh. “Then I thought, well, if I made this I might be able to make some more pars and be all right.”
He did just that.
“I made par on six of the next seven holes and just putted really well,” he said.
And that included the last hole.
“I took a quadruple bogey on the last hole and had to one-putt for the eight,” he said.
Tom Richardson, 74
Stephen Sitar, 75
John Pappas, 76
Ronda Henderson picked up her fourth Tournament of Champions title and second straight.
It was a win she never saw coming.
“I injured my wrist in this tournament last year,” she said of missing a good portion of the 2022 season. “I did win this event last year and played through the end of March but then I was done until about six weeks ago.”
She underwent surgery and is just coming back onto the golf scene.
“I came in here with no expectations,” she said. “After I knew I would need surgery my only goal was to be able to play in this event. I was going to play no matter if I had to just bunt the ball down the fairway.”
She laughed when asked about the key to her win.
“I just made fewer mistakes than everyone else,” she said. “I missed the ball in the right spots and kept myself in good position. I started aiming for the middle of the greens.”
Ronda Henderson, 80
Christina Brandt, 83
Maria Rances, 84
My Paulsen had two net birdies over a four-hole stretch in winning her first Tournament of Champions title.
“It was my first time playing in the Tournament of Champions and to win it is very nice,” she said.
She had a little help along the way.
“I had a quick lesson from my husband before the round and it worked out well,” she said.
But, then she added: “I should have had a putting lesson because my putting got away from me. I just didn’t get the ball to the hole.”
She said her ball striking carried the day.
“I was hitting the ball very, very well,” she said. “Had I not hit the ball well I probably would have had a score in the hundreds.”
She said she was just happy to be part of the event.
“It wasn’t so much winning as being part of this tournament,” she said. “So many women came out for it and it was a great honor to compete against friends. It was the cream of the crop so there was a little bit of pressure.”
My Paulsen, 78
E Wright, 79
Debbie Love, 80
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