Sports

Bragging rights go to Wing Point duo

"The cliche that there's no place like home is never more true than on a golf course, where players adapt their games to the layout they regularly play.The home-course advantage proved decisive Thursday, as Wing Point's team made up a three-shot deficit on its own course, and went on to post a one-shot overtime win over Meadowmeer in the ninth annual Helpline House Golf tournament. This was the most memorable as far as drama, said Meadowmeer head professional Tom Mueller, the only player to compete in all of the tournaments. I can't remember any being so competitive.The 10-plus hours of competition finally ended on Wing Point's second hole. There, country club head pro Dave Tunkkari holed a downhill 20-foot chip for a birdie, letting Wing Point hang onto the Fred Schaffer memorial trophy for another year.It was a fairly straightforward chip, Tunkkari said. I was happy to see the shot, because I'd been chipping good all day but putting terrible.The annual event matches the pros from the two island courses in a 36-hole competition on each course. Only the best ball of the pair counts, but the winner is determined by total score rather than by number of holes won.The Meadowmeer tandem was Mueller and assistant professional Brad Thompson. Because Wing Point currently has no assistant pro, club champion Neal White paired with Tunkkari.Playing the morning 18 at Meadowmeer, the host pros jumped off to an early three-shot lead. Two of those shots came on Meadowmeer's treacherous fifth hole - a humped green one Meadowmeer member compares to the hood of your car for shape and hardness. Tunkkari and White both three-putted for bogeys, while Mueller drained a six-foot birdie putt.The lead grew to three on the sixth hole, when Mueller hit an eight iron to seven feet and made the putt for his third straight birdie.The hosts appeared ready to pull away on the second nine at Meadowmeer. With their three-shot lead intact at No. 14 - the fifth, again, from different tees - Mueller and Thompson both cut the dogleg with their drives, leaving themselves 80 to 90 yards from the green. White was in the fairway with his drive, but 50 yards farther back, and Tunkkari was out of the hole, having driven his ball through the fairway and out of bounds.At that point, White came up with the first of many shots that can only be described as heroic. He put a 135-yard nine-iron six feet from the flag, and made his birdie putt, gaining a shot for Wing Point in a situation where a loss of strokes looked far more probable.Meadowmeer got that shot back on the par three 17th. Thompson stuck a towering six iron 15 feet from the pin and made the putt, while White missed a 10-footer.The hosts had a chance to extend their lead on the 18th, a 440-yard par five, when Thompson hit a monster drive that left him only 100 yards away. But he couldn't put his approach close enough to one-putt, and the Wing Pointers matched his birdie.At that juncture, the Meadowmeer team was seven under par, with the Wing Point pair three back.We're within striking distance, Tunkkari said as the teams shifted to Wing Point for the afternoon round.The worm turned quickly. Tunkkari, the only player to hit the fairway off the first tee, scored a two-putt birdie, while Thompson and Mueller both settled for pars.The third hole, a longish part three, looked like an opportunity for Meadowmeer. Thompson hit the green, while White was short and Tunkkari was in the deep bunker on the left side.But it was time for another heroic shot. Tunkkari's explosion settled onto the green, then ran 10 feet into the middle of the hole for birdie, while Thompson two-putted.That was the igniter, White said. Three holes later, Meadowmeer's lead was gone. On the short par-four sixth, both Meadowmeer golfers tried to cut the dogleg-right too close, ending up in the rough.White played safe and short into the middle of the fairway, leaving himself with a longer approach, but one he could hit hard enough to apply backspin on the hard, rounded green. He hit just the shot he wanted, leaving a six-foot putt that he made for birdie.On the next hole, it looked like Wing Point was going to take the lead. Mueller had driven out of bounds, and was out of the hole. Thompson was on the green in two shots, but his aggressive first putt rolled off the green, giving him an uphill 15-footer for par. He hit the ball hard, but right into the middle of the hole. And when White missed a 10-foot birdie try, Meadowmeer walked away with no damage done.I'd like to thank you for very gracious cups that are receptive to 40 mile an hour putts, Thompson said to the gallery, most of whom were Wing Point members.The gallery grew throughout the match, ultimately numbering almost 50 people, which observers said was the largest turnout yet for the event.Perhaps the match's oddest moment came on Wing Point's 10th hole, a par five with impenetrable woods on the left and water on the right. White hooked his drive into the woods. As spectator Jim Thoma went to the spot where White's ball disappeared to hunt it down, Tunkkari's drive hit him on the ankle. Had that not happened, it would have been out of bounds as well.That's why you need a gallery, Tunkkari said. Although the ball was in bounds, all Tunkkari could do was chip back onto the fairway. But from there, he put a seven iron within 10 feet, then made the putt.Mueller, meanwhile, was blocked from the green by trees. He pounded an iron that ruffled the branches of a young evergreen, but settled onto the edge of the green, from where he matched Tunkkari's birdie.Wing Point finally broke the tie on the 16th when White's birdie putt trickled into the hole on the last turn. And it looked like that would be decisive when the teams matched par on 17 and both Wing Point players were well inside Mueller's ball on 18.Time for another heroic shot. Mueller nailed his 20-footer for a clutch birdie, and neither White nor Tunkkari could get theirs to go.I had a good feel about the read of that putt, and stroked it well, Mueller said. All I was thinking on the tee was that if we could get a birdie, we would force them to make a putt to win, and they didn't.On the first extra hole, Tunkkari had a tap-in for birdie. But Thompson extended the match with another clutch five-footer to keep things alive, setting up Tunkkari's match-ending chip on the second extra hole.The thing that impressed me is how competitive these guys were, said Doug Cook, Bainbridge High School golf coach and former Wing Point club champion, who has seen all of the matches and played in two. These are not tournament golfers, they're club pros. It's amazing to see them come out and play this well.White, the amateur, more than held his own. He was the foursome's most consistent player from tee to green, and would have dominated the match had his putting matched his long-game play.I had lots of birdie opportunities, said White, BHS's athletic director. And I missed a lot of them. But I guess that's why I'm an amateur.Tournament organizer Grant Winther estimated that about $5,000 had been pledged by Thursday to benefit Helpline House. Further pledges are still accepted, he said, and forms are available at both pro shops and at Helpline House. A silent auction for golf equipment and sports paraphernalia raised $1,833, auction organizer Margaret Sterling said, which was a substantial increase from prior years."

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