Wouter Morkel is the 2020 Northern Men’s Open Champion.
After carding rounds of 71 and 72 (143) on Saturday and Sunday, Morkel trailed both second-round leader Dennis Williams (140) and second place Trevor Metcalfe (141) entering Monday’s final round.
Williams (winner of this year’s Senior Men’s Open) fell off the pace early carding a five-over-par 41 on the front nine while Morkel drew even with Metcalf (2014 Northern champion) with a two-under 34 to Metcalf’s par frontside.
On the back side, Morkel and Metcalf traded blows on holes 10 through 14 with Morkel taking the lead twice only to have it taken back. But Metcalf birdied both the par-five 15th and par-three 16th to Morkel’s pars and took a two-stroke lead to the par-five 17th tee.
Then disaster struck for Metcalf when he hit it into the trees on 17 and struck a tree trying to get out. He managed to get it on the green in five, but three-putted for his only triple bogey of the weekend allowing Morkel to take a one-stroke lead into the final hole.
Metcalf would bounce back, though, with a birdie on 18 forcing Morkel to make a putt to match for the win.
Morkel said it was very satisfying.
“Oh man, very blessed, very thankful,” he said “I came out here this morning thinking, the world’s struggling with COVID and we’re going to worry about a golf tournament.
“I’ve really wanted to win this thing for a long time, so it’s really good that it’s in the bag and it’s nice that it stays in Smithers. I’m proud of that and I’m a proud champion, I can tell you that.”
Smithers Golf and Country Club pro John Pierce said it was a great tournament.
“The caliber of play we watched out there was fantastic with those guys back and forth coming down the last few holes there and both of them birdieing 18 to have Wouter come out on top was amazing,” he said. “I thought that was one of the best finishes I’ve seen in a tournament in a long, long time.”
In addition to the champion’s trophy, Morkel took home a big screen TV.
Despite carding a third-round nine-over-par 81 to fall out of contention for the overall championship, Williams, whose handicap is four, was the overall low-net winner. His net 66, 66, and 77 rounds for a total of 209 gave him a one-stroke advantage over Bill Maskiewich (also a four-handicapper), who shot rounds of 76, 72, and 74 for a 210 total compared to handicap (Hcp).
Williams said it wasn’t what he wanted, but was happy with the result.
“I didn’t really expect to win low-net for the tournament, I’ve never even come close to low-net before, but as a low-handicapper, it feels great to capture low-net,” he said. “I really wanted to win the overall low-gross prize, but maybe next year.”
After collecting the low-net trophy, Williams selected a barbecue for his prize.
Last year’s champion, Otto Koldyk, never contended this year shooting 78 (net 80) in round one and 81 (net 83) in round two and did not play round three.
Prizes were also given out to the top four low-gross and low-net winners in each of the four flights with Morkel and Williams excluded from A-Flight on the basis of their overall wins.
In the A-Flight (handicaps of 6 and lower), Metcalf (Hcp 0) prevailed in the low-gross category with rounds of 69, 72 and 73 (net 214). Maskewich (Hcp 4) was the low net winner.
B-Flight (handicaps of 7 to 12) saw Sean Wright (Hcp 9) take the top prize in the gross category with rounds of 83, 79 and 86 (248). Rod Weise was the net winner with a net 223 total after rounds of 86, 85 and 85 (256).
Terry Kruger (Hcp 14) won the C-Flight (handicaps of 13 to 18) carding rounds of 91 86 and 87 for 264 (net 222). The net winner was Joe Hirak (Hcp 18) with net 211 on rounds of 88, 91 and 86 (265).
In the D-Flight (handicaps of 19 and above), Thom Barker (Hcp 20) came out on top with a gross total of 283 (net 223) on rounds of 93, 90 and 100. Dakota Wilson (Hcp 33) captured the low net prize with rounds of 109, 114 and 107 (net 231).
Given the record-breaking wet summer, conditions were tough for most golfers, but the champion was very complimentary to the club.
“The conditions were good,” said Morkel. “At the start of this summer, or the spring, this course was in terrible shape after the winter, so I think the greenskeeping staff did a great job. I think the clubhouse itself, the food, the vibe here is really good now.”
The Northern is traditionally the club’s biggest tournament of the year and despite all the challenges of 2020, that was also the case this year with 117 registrants of which 108 finished all three rounds.