Circle shot makes Wong a winner

Approaching his shot to the 18th green, Vancouver's Eugene Wong told his caddie: 'Hey, you know...

Approaching his shot to the 18th green, Vancouver's Eugene Wong told his caddie: 'Hey, you know what? It would be a nice to hole the shot out right now." He then did it to win the tourney. (Canadian Tour/photo)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:34 PM ET

Standing in the middle of the 18th fairway, Vancouver’s Eugene Wong didn’t need a miracle but he found one.

Looking to conjure up a quality shot to the raised green from 65 feet below and 130 yards out, Wong needed to stick one close, then sink the putt for a birdie to force a playoff against tournament leader Joe Panzeri, who was signing his card in the scoring tent showing he had finished the $100,000 Canadian Tour Championship at 13-under par.

Wong, one shot back, fired at the flag. The ball, dead on line, hit about six feet in front of the pin, took one bounce and then went PLOP — right in the hole.

The small crowd gathered around the green at the beautifully lush Scarboro Golf and Country Club erupted in cheers and whistles.

Down in the fairway, Wong looked up in surprise and then realized his shot had found the bottom of the cup to supply him with a one-shot triumph and his first professional victory.

“I’m still in shock,” Wong, a graduate of the University of Oregon, said as he received the trophy and first-place cheque of $20,000.

Standing over the ball, what were his thoughts.

“Actually it was pretty funny because I told my caddy: ‘Hey, you know what? It would be nice to hole the shot out right now. It would be the perfect time.’ ”

Man, was it ever.

“I didn’t expect to hole it but I did it. I’m still really in shock over holing out to win the tournament.

Wong’s shot selection was a “punched nine” and to make the shot more difficult is that due to the length of his tee shot, he could only see the top half of the flag.

“I know when I hit the shot it was tracking to the pin,” Wong said. “I couldn’t see it but I felt it might be really close. When I saw the people jumping up and down I figured it was really close. Someone said it went in and I said ‘Wow.’ I didn’t see it go in.”

At the start of the day Wong was the co-leader along with Trey Danton of Madison, Mississippi, both at minus 10.

Panzeri, of Meridian, Idaho, was in the group in front on Wong, one shot back.

By the time Wong hit the 16th tee, however, Panzeri was at minus 13 and holding a two-shot lead.

He seemed to be home free.

Wong, though, rolled in a seven-footer on the 16th to move to within a shot and then almost dropped in a 25-footer on 17.

Then came the heroics on 18.

Coached by former PGA Tour pro Casey Martin at Oregon, Wong was making just his third start on the Canadian Tour after turning pro in July.

While at Oregon, Wong was the 2012 PAC-12 player of the year and is a former Jack Nicklaus Award winner.

So, he knows how to close ’em out. Sunday, though, he kicked it up a notch.

Wong’s day started in great fashion when on the opening hole, a par five, he chipped in for an eagle to drop to minus 12. Then his game kind of stalled until he made the birdie at 16 which put him back into range.

“I’m just really thrilled right now,” he said. “It’s an honour to me because I get to place my name alongside great players that came through here and are now on the PGA Tour.”

He said he didn’t expect to win this early in his pro career.

“I just wanted to get my feet wet, but to have this come this early, I’ll take it,” he said.

Panzeri, meanwhile, was simply stunned. In the scorer’s tent he figured his four-under round was good enough for the win.

“I don’t even know what to say to be honest,” Panzeri said. “It is what it is. It was a heck of a shot.”

Finishing second is no small feat but that was of little consolation for Panzeri this day.

“I had opportunities to go lower than 13 but I didn’t take advantage of them,” he said. “But it still was a heck of a shot to win the tournament. Good for him.

“It’s not like I did something stupid to lose, it’s just that something great happened for him to win.”

Actually, it was more like a miracle.

ONE WACKY ROUND

The Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde round of the day had to go to Vancouver’s Ryan Williams.

Starting the morning at one-over-par 214, Williams dug himself a giant hole on the front nine in Sunday’s final round when he went triple bogey, double bogey on the fourth and fifth holes.

On the par-three fourth, Williams tee shot went right and he was left with an awkward lie. He chunked his chip and followed that by sending his next chip to the far side of the green. He completed the disaster by three putting.

He didn’t exactly right the ship on the fifth. Following a good drive he came up just short of the green, he then skulled his chip and three-putted for the double.

After he parred the next four holes to finish the front nine with a five-over-par 41, Williams decided to just let it fly on the back nine, the old grip-it-and-rip-it philosophy.

Did he ever.

Over the back nine, Williams birdied seven of eight holes to post a seven-under 28.

That’s right folks, he shot 41-28 (69).

 


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