MOUNT MORRIS – Prairie Ridge had a bit of a mountain to climb if it was going to defend its championship in the Senior Men’s Rock River Classic golf tournament.
The Morrison golfers entered Sunday’s final round at Sunset Golf Course with an 18-point deficit against first-round leader Prophet Hills, which played the first 18 holes on its home course Saturday. It was a different story on Sunday.
Paced by overall runner-up Tom Houzenga, Prairie Ridge finished with a +154 best-against-bogey score, six more than Prophet Hills. The Prophetstown course was +86 after the first day, compared to +68 for Prairie Ridge.
“The guys came out today and knew they had a chance,” Houzenga said. “They kept it in play all day, got the points when they needed to, and wound up coming out on top. We caught them on the front nine, and closed it out on the back nine. It was an awesome feeling.”
Prophet Hills was a more-than-respectable +62 in the final round, but it wasn’t enough to hold off Prairie Ridge, which went +86 the final day.
“It was disappointing, because it had been a long time since we had been in contention,” Prophet Hills’ Leo Heaton said. “Just being in contention was enjoyable. Maybe next year, like the Cubs fans say.”
The overall medalist was Shady Oaks’ Jim Larkin, who finished with a two-round total of 3-over-par 145. It was three strokes fewer than Houzenga, Heaton, and Emerald Hill’s Rick Andersen.
“I hit my driver pretty good,” Larkin said. “I hit it longer than I ever hit it – I don’t know what’s going on with that. I was getting up and down today and yesterday if I missed something, but I was hitting a lot of greens. I played pretty good.”
Larkin’s best-against-bogey score was +33, but as medalist, he was ineligible to win the best-against-bogey trophy. That resulted in a playoff, which turned out to be somewhat bizarre, between Houzenga, Heaton, and Andersen, who were each +30.
On the first hole, Houzenga and Heaton hit good tee shots, while Andersen shanked one to the right, leading to a bogey on the par 4. Houzenga and Heaton both made pars, sending them to the second hole.
There, Heaton was just off the green in two shots, while Houzenga hit a poor chip shot to leave him on the fringe after three shots. Houzenga then drained a 30-footer for par, while Heaton made a 5-foot comebacker for par to extend the playoff.
On the third hole, Houzenga hooked his tee shot out of bounds to the left, but Heaton was unable to take advantage, as his tee shot went into the pine trees to the right. Both shots were out of bounds, so both players hit their third shots from the tee.
Houzenga hit another ball to the left, this time into a corn field, while Heaton striped one down the middle. Upon learning his second ball was also OB, Houzenga was ready to concede the hole, but the format for the playoff was best against bogey. Heaton still needed to make a bogey to win the playoff.
His fourth shot went on the green about 30 feet away, and he narrowly missed that to send the playoff to the fourth hole.
Heaton went first and put his tee shot on the 149-yard par 3 hole just short of the green. Houzenga followed with an 8-iron that never left the flag, leaving himself an 8-footer for birdie.
Heaton nearly holed his chip, resulting in a conceded par. Houzenga then drained his birdie putt, worth two points and the win. Heaton got one point for his par.
“I just threw it at the flag, and if it goes there, it goes there,” Houzenga said. “I was fortunate enough to hit a really nice shot, dropped it in there about 8 feet, and made the putt.”
Heaton ended up the First Flight winner. Also winning his flight for Prophet Hills was Tim Smith, who who took the Eighth Flight with a +26 total.
Prairie Ridge had a pair of flight winners in Tim Slavin (Third Flight, +25) and John Hudson (Fifth Flight, +23).
Emerald Hill, third in the team standings at +142, had a flight winner in John Wenk, who took the Fourth Flight at +28.
Sunset, fourth as a team at +130, had a pair of flight winners in Terry Severns (Sixth Flight, +23) and Ray Hawn (Seventh Flight, +17).
Shady Oaks, fifth as a team at +120, had a flight winner in John Klausen (Second Flight, +27).
Top 3 teams
1. Prairie Ridge +154
2. Prophet Hills +148
3. Emerald Hill +142
Medalist: Jim Larkin (Shady Oaks)