FUKUSHIMA HOLDS HIS NERVE
6 Dec 2013
By Colin Thompson, The Royal Gazette
Photo by Glenn Tucker
Kent Fukushima overcame a wobbly start and held it together when it mattered most to claim a maiden Gosling’s Invitational title at the second attempt at Belmont Hills yesterday.
The Canadian tour player carded a one-over-par 71 for a 72-hole total of 271, nine under, which left him three shots clear of Jordan Mitchell, who birdied the last hole to pip two-times winner Joe Horowitz for second.
Fukushima sealed victory and with it the $12,000 winner’s cheque after two-putting for par at the last.
The Canadian appeared to be firmly in the driver’s seat with a three-shot lead with as many holes left to play. But a bogey at 16 coupled with Horowitz’s birdie on the same hole shrunk Fukushima’s lead to a single shot.
Fukushima had a chance to make swift amends and put more distance between himself and Horowitz at the par-three 17th after his eight-iron landed eight feet to the left of the pin. But he missed his birdie attempt and settled for par.
Horowitz seemed to be on shaky ground after his tee shot landed on the fringe of the green well left of the pin. But he managed to two-putt for par to stay in the hunt.
However, the American rock singer’s fortunes took a dramatic turn for the worst heading to the final hole to virtually hand Fukushima victory on a silver platter.
Horowitz’s drice went out of bounds to the right of the fairway and, after taking a drop, he found a greenside bunker. He eventually ended up two-putting for a triple bogey and slipped from second to third, with a strong-finishing Mitchell making birdie on two of the last three holes.
It was the final twist in a round in which the lead changed hands twice.
Starting the final round, two shots behind Fukushima, Horowitz regained top spot on the leaderboard for the first time since the first round after his rival double-bogeyed the 2nd hole and bogeyed the 3rd.
Fukushima came roaring back, though, grabbing a share of the lead after a birdie on the par-three 4th.
However, the pendulum swung yet again at the 5th, where Fukushima made another double bogey and Horowitz made birdie to surge into a three-shot lead.
But just when it seemed as though Horowitz was running away with the championship, Fukushima applied the brakes and mounted a comeback, rolling in birdies at the 6th and 8th to regain a share of the lead at the turn.
By now, Fukushima’s confidence was growing and he regained the outright lead for good after rolling in additional birdies at the 10th and 12th, the second of the par-fives. This put pressure on Horowitz, who missed a short birdie putt at 12 and bogeyed 13 to fall further behind.
Horowitz, himself formerly a member of the Canadian Tour, managed to cut it close with a birdie at 16 before blowing up at the end.
“It was quite a battle we had, it was swinging back and forth,” Fukushima said. “I hit a couple of really bad shots, but I was happy with the way I fought back.
“I made a good run through the middle and Joe had a few bad holes. It was fun, but it was nerve-wracking, too.”
Horowitz, who limped in with at three-over 73, paid the price for leaving too many shots out on the course that were there for the taking.
As well as his missed birdie attempt at 12, he squandered short putts for birdie at the 3rd and 6th and a five-foot par putt at the 8th.
“I missed a couple of short putts early that maybe could have put more separation in between us,” Horowitz lamented.
As for his meltdown at 18, Horowitz said: “I wanted to put pressure on Kent by hitting driver and make him make par to win. I wanted to make a birdie, but didn’t make a great swing and was half an inch out of bounds.
“It is very disappointing, but Kent played awesome and it is great to see him come through and win. He played solid all day and deserved it.”
American Mitchell, whose 68 was the day’s lowest round, was surprised to finish second after trailing Horowitz by three shots heading to the last hole.
“Joe and Kent were neck and neck going into the final hole, so I was just going about my business to try to play one shot at a time,” Mitchell said. “I had a 12-footer straight up the hill and luckily it went in.”
Dwayne Pearman, of Bermuda, came in at two-over 72 to finish sixth overall on 281 and first among the local professionals.
Mark Phillips, with 288, and Hav Trott, on 282, convincingly won their respective amateur and senior divisions.
Phillips shot 73 to finish ten shots clear of Jevon Roberts to clinch the amateur title at the first attempt.
“I thought I had a chance and so I just had to go with it and see what the outcome was,” he said.
Trott also shot a 73 to finish 24 shots clear of second-placed Steven Duxbury to retain his senior crown.
“It has been a good week,” he said. “I played OK, hit the ball pretty well consistently and putted OK on the whole.”