Kelly wins inaugural Men’s Open

He celebrated by filling his gastrointestinal tract with a ribeye steak (cooked medium, “but not too bloody”) and a baked potato, accompanied by a Caesar salad, before trekking over to a pow-wow at the Nanicost Building on Couchiching.
“He” is Sheldon Kelly, who earned the distinction of being Heron Landing Golf Course’s first-ever Men’s Open champion after shooting a combined score of 150 (76 on Saturday and then a 74 on Sunday).
“Honestly, I’m pretty surprised that I won,” said Kelly. “I wasn’t really confident and I was thinking that I might be good enough for second or third place, but not to win it.”
Kelly, who sports a seven handicap, was tied with Greg Tighe after the first round Saturday—and things were still as square as Buddy Holly’s glasses after the front nine Sunday.
“After 27 holes, it was still anybody’s tournament,” said Tighe, who shot a 38 along with Kelly on the front nine Sunday.
The other two in the foursome were Dan Baletki of Kenora, who shot a 39 through nine holes to sit within four shots of the lead, and Kevin Webb, who was five strokes back after a 40.
Play was tight between the foursome as they exchanged crisp shots on the course that was played from the white markers (6,026 yards long—1,048 less than from the black markers).
Kelly knew he would need a good display on the back nine, which is considerably tougher than the first nine holes, to come out on top.
“It made me think a lot more of how I need to shoot and how things need to be done,” said Kelly, who hit a high percentage of fairways and greens to avoid the numerous hazards dotting the course.
Kelly said he started feeling he could win the tournament at the 14th hole.
“It was a putt that actually did it for me,” he recalled of his second round on the 390-yard, par-four. “It was about a 30-footer for birdie and I sunk it, and that really boosted my confidence.”
Tighe remembered the putt, but also noted all four of them had played the hole well.
“Kevin, Dan, and myself were all putting for birdies and Sheldon was furthest away and he canned it. Kevin just missed, and Dan and I both drained ours for three,” said Tighe, who finished with an 80 for a final score of 156.
Baletki would finish with a 78 to give him a two-day score of 157, which was good enough for third place.
Webb struggled to an 84 on Sunday following his opening round of 79 to finish in a sixth place behind Bruce McIvor, who snuck into the fourth place spot with a 161 (80/81) and Al Thomson, who carded a 162 (82/80).
But Tighe, who would capture the first flight (handicap of three-six) also noted how smart the 25-year-old Kelly became in protecting his lead.
“Sheldon played well all day today,” he said. “You have to take your hat off to the young man. He hit the ball super, and never put himself in trouble.
“And once he knew he had the lead, he played very smart and kept the ball in the right parts of the green and didn’t take many chances.”
Tighe said he was pleased with his play, but like any true golfer, admitted there is always room for improvement.
“I felt good about my game heading in,” he noted. “I’ve been hitting the driver really well all year and it was just a matter if my short game was any good.
“But that’s what killed me again today—my short game,” added Tighe, who said his chipping caused him more grief than Charlie Brown trying to kick a football.
What also caused him grief was how much farther the young guns in his foursome were able to hit the ball, which usually left Tighe having to hit much farther (and therefore difficult) approach shots.
“It’s tough to compete against these kids nowadays because they’re so much stronger and they can hit the ball so much farther,” said Tighe.
“Sheldon was hitting it 40 or 50 yards further than me and that’s a huge advantage because while he’s hitting an eight-iron [and] I’m shooting a four-iron.”
It was the placement, not the length, of his shots that kept Tighe in contention, but Kelly just proved to be too much over the two days and this win surely will feed his addiction with golf.
“It’s been an addiction right from the beginning,” said Kelly, who started the game five years ago. He goes to the course “at least once a week” and “a couple of times to the range.”
“I’ve always tried to get better every day, and it’s starting to work out,” he added. “This [win] is going to be in my memory forever. It’s so awesome.
“I know that I don’t show it too much, but inside I’m just thinking, ‘Right on—this is awesome,’” Kelly enthused.