MEDICINE HAT, AB – This year’s Victoria Day Classic champions couldn’t have taken more different paths to their respective victories if they tried.
One, a model of consistency that has etched herself among Medicine Hat’s all-time great golfers. The other, needing a monster final round to get his game back to form.
As the sun began to set at the Medicine Hat Golf and Country Club on Monday night, Mitchell Kurtz and Becky Martin sunk their final puts to leave the 2019 Victoria Day Classic as champions.
Kurtz stormed up the leader board on his final day of competition, coming into the final round sitting four shots back of leader Mitch Bach in fourth place.
With his putter failing him over the first two days of the event, Kurtz put his TaylorMade Spider putter away in favour of a Nike Method picked up at Desert Blume Golf Club.
“Put the Nike in the bag and I made more putts in the first five holes than I did all weekend before that,” said Kurtz. “So, that was probably the biggest thing for me, finally hitting the ball good and converting it.”
That decision made all the difference for the 28-year-old Kurtz, who stormed out of the gate with a birdie and an eagle through his first two holes to shoot a 69 on the day and win the Victoria Day Classic title by three strokes.
It’s Kurtz’s second career Victoria Day Classic win, but his first since taking home the title roughly five years ago during his college days.
“I played okay that tournament, but I had a three-shot lead and I just kind of fell into it to shoot like 77 to finish,” said Kurtz. “But, to come in here four back and stab a 69 in the heart, it felt good to make that last putt instead of lagging it up there from four feet.”
Since then, Kurtz’s game on the links has been an up and down struggle, but he added it’s fulfilling to see everything click again years after winning his first Victoria Day title.
“I’ve been a better golfer since then and I just couldn’t ever put three rounds together,” he said. “Now, it’s so nice that I was actually finally able to do it again, I’ve been playing some of the best golf of my life in the last two weeks. Those first two days were so disappointing, it’s nice to finally put it all together and get it back again.”
Ryan Werre finished as the runner-up in the men’s championship flight with a Monday score of 73, ending his tournament six shots over par.
Reigning men’s champion Dillon Batsel was unable to defend his crown, netting a 75 in his final round to finish tied with Dallas Bassen for third place, five shots back of Kurtz.
As for two-day leader Bach, he suffered a right hand injury early in Monday’s final round and ended his tournament in sixth place after firing a 13-over, 85.
No surprise on the women’s side though, as Martin went wire-to-wire to earn her eighth Victoria Day Classic championship in nine years.
Martin shot a final round 76 on Monday, wrapping up her tournament at 14-over par which was good enough to win the weekend title by a whopping 23 strokes.
“I had a really good start, we started on the back nine,” said Martin. “I was two-under after nine and then I kind of fell apart a little bit, but definitely was able to keep my lead there.”
Reigning in her fourth consecutive Victoria Day trophy at her home course, Martin was the lone women’s golfer to shoot a round under 80, which she did on all three days.
Something she prided herself on over the long weekend.
“I shot three scores in the 70s, had a few hiccups here and there,” she said. “But, I’m very excited because I kept it under a bogey or less which is a good sign. I mean, that’s how you shoot low scores by not taking large numbers.”
After graduating from the Medicine Hat College Rattlers program last fall, it’s a unique season ahead for Martin who will be without the usual collegiate tournaments later in the year.
A fourth-place finisher at CCAA Nationals at Desert Blume last October, Martin took home Rattlers female athlete of the year honours this spring.
Now looking ahead to the Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship in Red Deer in two months time, Martin added she’ll try to use her success in the college ranks on another national stage.
“I feel like I’m coming off of some success, which is nice because I had that small break in there when I was going through some health issues,” she said. “I’m excited that it’s in Alberta, I’m just excited to see where it goes.”
A familiar name dominated the senior men’s category as well, with Kelly Risling adding another trophy to his collection by picking up the 2019 Victoria Day title.
Risling, a recent inductee to the Medicine Hat Sports Wall of Fame, shot a pair of 73s on Sunday and Monday to win this year’s title by 10 shots over Gary Kavanaugh.
It was a tight race for third place meanwhile, but a final round 79 was good enough to put John Wurtz on the podium ahead of Mick Unger.
Last year, Kavanaugh held off a late charge from Risling to win the 2018 edition by two strokes.
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