The team from Richmond Country Club had played well and thought they might be in contention when teeing off on the tricky par-4 18th hole, a dogleg right playing into a stiff crosswind.
The scene was the British Columbia Golf Zone 4 Champion of Champions Tournament, held September 29, at Beach Grove Golf and Country Club in Tsawwassen. Unfortunately for the group on the 18th tee, club seniors champ Dave Gazley flared his drive into the trees and almost out of bounds, eventually leading to a 7. In a best three of four gross competition like this one, that meant the scores of teammates Mike Aizawa, Haley Cameron and Sangvin Kang were all going to be counters, and each would have to come through if Richmond was to retain the championship it won in 2018.
Cameron and Kang each found the green in two, but after a perfect tee shot Aizawa, Richmond’s men’s champion, ballooned an iron short and right, leaving himself about 30 yards from the pin. “I was thinking this might be a shot that matters,” Aizawa said afterward. He kept his pitch low, running it up the steeply raked green to six feet, then sank the putt.
Aizawa learned a few minutes later that he had been right about the pitch. Richmond’s even-par 213 just nipped the 214s carded by Mayfair Lakes Golf Club and host Beach Grove, netting the defending champions a second consecutive victory.
The Zone 4 Champion of Champions Tournament has been running since 1972, and represents a climactic and possibly unique end to the competitive golf season, pitting four-person teams consisting of a senior man, an amateur man, a woman, and a junior boy or girl. “We don’t know of another tournament anywhere on the continent with quite this type of format,” says Bruce Main, a Zone 4 director who with Ken Williams chaired the tournament.
The event was first launched by Zone 4 stalwarts Fred Wellsby and Harry White largely to provide the juniors they were helping to develop an additional tournament and a chance to play with established players, says Michael Riste, volunteer manager of BC Golf House and Museum.
This year entries came from 17 clubs, based at a wide range of golf courses, from nine- and 18- hole municipal courses like West Vancouver’s Gleneagles and Vancouver’s McCleery, through internationally recognized private tracks such as Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club and Coquitlam’s Vancouver Golf Club, both frequent hosts of LPGA or PGA-Tour events.
Over the event’s almost half-century of existence, participants have included some of Canada’s top amateur golfers, among them Doug Roxborgh and Gail Harvey Moore, between them holders of almost a dozen national titles. Teams from prominent clubs such as Marine Drive Golf Club, Capilano Golf and Country Club and Shaughnessy have been frequent winners. but their names are joined on the Fred Wellsby Trophy by clubs based at such public courses as Fraserview, Kings Links By The Sea and Nico-Wynd, the latter a nine-hole course of less than 3,000 yards.
Competition is always stiff. “It’s amazing how tightly the top clubs are bunched,” says Main. In 2019, that was as true as ever. Fully nine of the 17 teams finished within seven strokes of the lead.
- Jim Sutherland