28 Aug 13

Chile’s Leon wins second Great Waterway Classic

Hugo Leon putts on the 18th green during the final round, Aug. 25, of the Great Waterway Classic. Leon, with a one-shot lead at this point was able to two-putt to win the event.  Matte photo

Hugo Leon putts on the 18th green during the final round, Aug. 25, of the Great Waterway Classic. Leon, with a one-shot lead at this point was able to two-putt to win the event.
Matte photo

Darren Matte

Sports Editor

MORRISBURG— The 2013 Great Waterway Classic dealt with severe weather when the PGATour Canada event got underway on Aug. 22 at the Upper Canada Golf Course in Morrisburg. However, after the first day it was clear skies and sun as the area witnessed some great golf. The event saw holes in one, massive drives, new course records and ultimately a new champion, in the form of Hugo Leon, crowned.

On the opening day, some golfers made it through the 12th hole but most were still on the front nine when the horn sounded to bring everyone back into the clubhouse. The leader at the time of the delay was American Will Stickler who was -5 through nine holes.

When play did get underway the wet course meant slow fairways and greens.

2012 winner at Smuggler’s Glen in Gananoque, North Vancouver’s Eugene Wong, was through nine and at even par when play was delayed. He gave his thoughts on returning to the event as champion. “It is great to return as defending champion. It’s my first time defending a tour event and I feel great about my game. Winning last year was great especially with it being the inaugural event and having my name be the first engraved on the trophy. Winning three straight tournaments was a shock at the time but now it’s set in and I have realized how much I’ve accomplished.”

Returning as the event champion does create some added pressure for Wong. “You want to defend the win but at the same time it gives you confidence knowing that I can do it again.”

Early on, Wong believes he has done a good job handling the pressure. “So far it has been good. I just try to keep calm, stay relaxed out on the course and not look too far ahead.”

Wong did notice some similarities with the 2013 course and the one he won on in 2012 in terms of needing to be accurate off the tees because of narrow fairways but did say that the tee boxes at Upper Canada didn’t have the same elevation as the ones at Smuggler’s Glen.

At the time of the delay in the opening round, Wong sat at even par through nine.

He finished the first round at even par, six back of the leaders. However, after a three over, 75, in round two, Wong missed the cut and was unable to defend his title.

Open qualifying for the event took place earlier in the week, Aug. 19, at the Cornwall Golf and Country Club. One Eastern Ontario golfer, Carl Desjardins from Chute-a-Blondeau, earned his way in with a round of 68 tying him for fifth. He spoke about what it meant to him to get into the tournament. “It had been three years since I had played in a competitive tournament and I have played less than 20 games this season. I wanted to see where my game was. It was great to qualify, but today has been tough,” Desjardin explained after his opening round concluded on day two of the event. “I finished with a 76 and found out this morning that my clubs were an illegal size so I have been using a different set.”

Desjardins did point out what he did well in qualifying and what he was hoping to duplicate at the event. “I hit close to the pin a lot and registered a lot of birdies. The problem I am having right now is that I am just not playing enough and am hitting too many bogies that wipe out the birdies.”

For Desjardin his last event came in 2008, but he has had his assistant pro card since he was 21 and achieved Nationwide Tour status in 2005.

The Hawkesbury Golf and Country Club member is not feeling the pressure though even if he is one of the few Eastern Ontario golfers in the field. “I’m not feeling it too much. I am just trying to make the cut. I hope I can play well and see where I end up.”

Desjardins did have a much better second round shooting a 72, but his troubles during the opening round were too much and he too missed the cut.

At the end of the first round it was Alberta’s Steven Lecuyer, Americans JJ Spaun and Strickler who shared the lead at six under par. The opening round also saw a pair of hole in ones as Brett Lederer and George Bradford each sunk a tee shot during day one. For Lederer, it came on the 15th with a six-iron and Bradford did it on the third with a pitching wedge.

With the sun out on Aug. 23, the course began to dry up. As some players finished up their first round, the second round got underway a little later than scheduled at 11:30 a.m. By the end of the day a new leader emerged as Brazilian Lucas Lee held the lead at 13 under by one stroke over American Sean Shahi.

Shahi would continue to make a move on the third day. He had one of the best rounds on Aug. 24, with a six under 66 and took the lead at -18 into Sunday.

On the final round it continued to be Shahi in front as he was one under for the round through seven holes. American Brandon Harkins made a charge on the final day as he was seven under through 11 holes and just a shot off the lead. Harkins continued his strong play and finished the round at an incredible 10 under, 62, and held the clubhouse lead at 21 under.

“I have been hitting well all week,” said Harkins. “It was just a matter of putting, which I did well today. I was just trying not to think about the round as I went along. I was chatting with my caddie, who is a tour player himself, and it made the day seem easy.”

Harkins knew he still had to sit through another hour to find out if he would be the winner.

After Harkins was in the clubhouse, the focus shifted back to the final pairing of Shahi and Hugo Leon. After a birdie on 13, Leon had tied Shahi at 20 under. On the par four, 16th, Leon’s tee shot wound up on the cart path and he received a free drop. His approach was excellent and set up a birdie putt to tie. He made no mistake and vaulted into the lead.

Meanwhile, the leader to start the day Shahi, continued to play par-golf on the back nine. He never quite got the bounces and would finish in third at 20 under for the tournament.

On 17, Leon made another great approach and had a makeable putt for birdie. Again, the flat stick didn’t fail him as he drained the putt to take the outright lead.

Leon hit the fairway and the green on 18 and was able to two-putt for the win, capturing the 2013 Great Waterway Classic.

“I am very happy,” said the champion after the round. “It has been awhile since I have played very good golf like I did this week. It took a lot of hard work, but to be able to just walk the course and hit shots they way I did was great. I felt really good out there today.”

Leon went on to talk about how his play at the end of the round made the difference. “Usually you look at the end and I played well on the end part of the course all week. I knew if I got to 17 in striking distance, I would have a shot. I made some crucial putts earlier in the round like an eight-footer on four for par and then an eight-footer on 11, downhill for birdie. All that kept the round mistake-free. I trusted that my game would come through for me today.”

Leon was asked about the late charge by Harkins and when he noticed his name shoot up the leaderboard. “I saw the leaderboard on the 14th but he gave me a little relief at that time. It is nice to know that there is a number. I knew pars weren’t going to cut it and I had to be aggressive at some point.”

Leon concluded with what the win meant to him. “This win is very big for me because after I won in August of 2011, and November that year, my game hasn’t been the same. I have worked as hard as I ever have in my life to help get it back. To hit the ball the way that I did, play the way that I did and feel the way that I did is an amazing accomplishment.”

With that, the stop at the Upper Canada Golf Course is officially over. With the win, Leon jumped to fourth on the money list and is now in one of the five spots to earn a Web.com Tour card for next season. PGATour Canada has three tournaments left beginning this weekend with the Wildfire Invitational at the Wildfire Golf Club in Peterborough.