Andrew Zaba, 23, narrowly misses his putt on the 11th hole Saturday, but that wouldn't matter, as he went on to claim both the Open and match play crowns. Photo by Gary Pearson
--PRINCE ALBERT-- Andrew Zaba did the double after taking an early first-hole lead in the championship flight of match play in Waskesiu, only requiring 13 holes to dispose of runner up, Dallas Mengel.
After winning the Conexus Waskesiu Open earlier in the week, Zaba hit the ball consistently Saturday in frigid, blustery conditions to stave off any forthcoming challenge from Mengel.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm used to playing in the wind in Deer Valley, there‚Äôs a lot of wind there out there,‚ÄĚ Zaba said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs there, you just play in it and hope for the best.‚ÄĚ
The writing was on the wall early as Mengel sliced into the rough, while Zaba‚Äôs behemoth drive left him with a dinky chip on the par-4 first, forcing Mengel to concede the hole.
Mengel made the most of the par-3 second, precisely dropping the ball on the green from an elevated tee shot. His accuracy paid dividends as he claimed the hole, levelling the match after two.
But as the second hole disappeared behind the trees, so did the parity. Whether it was elk customarily crossing hole three‚Äôs fairway or Mengel‚Äôs wayward drive, the tide had turned.
‚ÄúYou hit a couple of bad shots early in the round and it just starts creeping in there,‚ÄĚ said Mengel. ‚ÄúBut I just didn‚Äôt have it today, plain and simple.‚ÄĚ
Zaba won the hole to go one-up, a lead he would not relinquish.
The eventual winner handled the par-3 fourth, which Waskesiu Golf Course head professional Tyler Baker said is one of the most difficult - especially with a whirling wind ‚Äď expertly.
Zaba, a 23-year-old from Deer Valley, made quick work of the hole, plopping his tee shot close to the pin.
Even though he narrowly missed his birdie putt, Zaba, whose accurate approach shots made life thorny for Mengel, doubled his lead.
Greens were predictably in a rain-softened state, considerably slowing the pace of putts.
‚ÄúThe greens were cut last (Friday) evening but are still really slow,‚ÄĚ said Peter Anholt, general manager of Waskesiu Golf Course. ‚ÄúYou have to hit the ball hard.‚ÄĚ
Mengel looked to have the edge on the eighth hole, but for Zaba‚Äôs pinpoint chip stopping within feet of the cup.
Mengel played the hole to perfection until he agonizingly missed a tap-in, which increased Zaba‚Äôs lead to five strokes, all but putting the match to bed.
Baker still believed, even in Mengel‚Äôs perilous position, that a resurgence was possible.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs just go to stay patient and not try to force anything,‚ÄĚ said Baker.
But too wide a gap opened, and Mengel could not claw his way back as he trailed by six strokes after 13 holes, sealing Zaba‚Äôs victory.
Throughout the final, Mengel, whose mid-week form was out of the top drawer, showed his inexperience through a disconnected, fractured stroke.
‚ÄúYou see with some of the old guys out here, they know the greens, they know where to miss it, they know where to hit it, so hopefully next year I can come back and improve on this year,‚ÄĚ said Mengel.
Mengel too often found himself in the damp, tangled, mosquito-infested rough during a frustrating final day. All was not lost for Mengel, who for a 19-year-old played some of his best golf over the course of the week.
‚ÄúThe first two days I didn‚Äôt play my absolute best golf, but the last few days and the match play I played pretty solid,‚ÄĚ said Mengel, a native of Saskatoon.
Aside from a few minor blips, from which Zaba quickly rebounded, the result was never in question.
‚ÄúAndy played really well today, just fairways and greens,‚ÄĚ said Mengel, who will next play in the Saskatoon Amateur Championship within the next week.
Zaba‚Äôs impressive play was reminiscent of his double-winning performance of a couple years ago, where he shrugged off challengers at every turn.
Long rain delays Wednesday played havoc on the field, but otherwise proceedings, for the most part, continued uninterrupted.
In the consolation final, Ron Stewart of Prince Albert dramatically overturned an early deficit to triumph over Mike Herperger of Humboldt.