Muskie golfers gearing for surprise OFSAA trip

Dan Falloon

There’s something to be said for coming through in the clutch.
The Muskie golf team did just that—blowing the competition out of the water at the NWOSSAA championship in Geraldton last Thursday, winding up with a total score of 308 on the day, 14 shots better than second-place Dryden.
The victory propelled the black-and-gold into the all-Ontarios, set for Oct. 13-14 at the Barrie Country Club in Barrie—the first time a Fort High contingent will tee it up at OFSAA.
The NWOSSAA showdown was a break-out performance for the Muskies, who tended to finish third in the NorWOSSA competitions leading up to the big event.
Kevin Jackson led the way in Geraldton, carding the top individual score of the tournament with a 72.
Teammate Alex McDonald was third with a 75 while Ryan Mosbeck’s 78 was good enough for eighth.
The top four scores from each team counted, meaning James Brown’s 83 (good for 16th place) counted while Cody Ward’s 90 (30th place) was wiped clean.
The golfers felt they had some doubters entering NWOSSAA, which motivated them to win even more.
“No offence but no one here thought we were going to make it,” said Jackson.
“We were huge underdogs,” echoed McDonald. “We weren’t even supposed to come close.”
“That probably pushed us to do a little but better,” Jackson reasoned. “Let’s do something in the tournament.”
Jackson said he was fairly calm early in the day—until he discovered over the final holes that he was running even with a golfer in the group ahead of him.
“At first I was calm, then I found out me and that guy were tied, then I started getting nervous,” he admitted.
“The last three holes I was watching his shots and it was pretty nerve-wracking.”
Jackson noted he had some support on the course saying all the right things to keep his mind focused on the ultimate goal.
“He was telling me to keep my head in it and just relax,” Jackson recalled. “Not do anything stupid.”
After starting on the back nine, Jackson said some holes on the front side ended up posing some challenges, but he persevered after narrowly avoiding the obstacles.
“Our second-last hole was one of the worst ones,” he remarked. “There were lots of trees and I was pretty nervous about putting it into the bush.
“Then I thought I hit my second shot tight,” he added. “[But] when I got up there, it was about 20 feet [away] and I was worried about a three-putt.”
Jackson, however, was able to knock the ball quite close to the hole to avoid the dreaded three-putt. And by the time he reached the final hole, he knew exactly what he needed to win—and met it.
“I was two feet left, but then I made that one. And then on the last hole, I had 15 feet for birdie and just knew a two-putt was good, so I just eased around up there,” he recalled.
McDonald, meanwhile, was able to recover on a trio of challenging holes, making no mistakes after landing the ball pretty much squarely on the green.
“I made an up-and-down from 40 yards and an up-and-down from 75 yards,” he noted.
“I had a rough start, so I wanted to end it off good.
“[On one hole], I put it in the bush and I had to punch it out. I had 140 yards to the stick,” he continued.
“I put it to 10 feet, made the putt for par, then buried the next one.”
For his part, Mosbeck concentrated on just trying to stay close—focusing on the hole at hand.
“I just tried to hold it together ’til the end, I guess,” he reasoned. “I just kept thinking ‘play for a par, par is good.’
“Get on the green in two and make a couple solid putts.”
The secondary game out on the golf course was doing some mental math to figure out where each team ranked—and judging the likelihood of a trip to the all-Ontarios as the day progressed.
McDonald, in particular, remembered wild rumours flying around as he tried to get a handle on Fort High’s ranking.
“I was talking to a guy from Dryden, and he was talking about how his team wasn’t doing very good and how he didn’t think they were going to make it to OFSAA as a team,” he recalled.
“[After the round], ‘Mos’ [Mosbeck] came up to me and was like, ‘What’d you shoot, what’d you shoot?’
“So I told him and [he] was like, ‘Man, if Cody or James shoots mid-80s, we’re probably going to OFSAA.’
“For some reason, there was a rumour that St. Ignatius was close to us,” McDonald added.
“We went over to their table, told them we had a 308,” chipped in Jackson. “St. Ignatius won it the year before. They said their low score [was] 328.
“We knew that we had a good chance when Dryden’s total score was 322.”
Ultimately, Dryden’s score ended up being the second-lowest of the day, handing the NWOSSAA title to the Muskies in convincing fashion.
After plenty of Muskie heartbreak in the past year, with the soccer and basketball teams falling agonizingly short of all-Ontario berths, Jackson was proud that an underdog black-and-gold squad was able to make it through.
“We’re one of the only sports from this school to be able to go to OFSAA, so it’s a pretty big accomplishment,” he enthused.
“We looked at all the teams on the trophy,” he added. “It’s mainly Red Lake and Thunder Bay.
“It’s nice to have Fort Frances on there to show that we actually accomplished something.”
The team lauded Brian Johnstone and Sheldon Kelly of the Heron Landing Golf Course for helping out the team, taking their suggestions and applying them in the tournaments.
“For me, it was to swing a lot smoother, and follow through with your swing. Don’t try to hammer it,” Jackson noted.
“He [Johnstone] told me to use a spider putter, and it was a big change because I always used a blade putter,” added McDonald.
“It worked really good, actually.
“When your putting’s getting better, your score’s going to be lower,” he reasoned.
Meanwhile, coach Shane Bliss praised his team for staying cool in the heat of the tournament.
“The boys all have talent but, as I have tried to work with them on, the mental aspect of the game is their biggest challenge,” he noted Friday.
“They were all very focused yesterday [Thursday] and were able to put together great rounds when it counted.
“We have been doing quite well all year, but for whatever reasons haven’t been able to get a strong team score until yesterday [Thursday],” Bliss added.
With quality competition awaiting Fort High in Barrie, Bliss stressed that maintaining their composure will be key to posting a competitive score.
“If the boys continue to stay focused and don’t let a bad shot or hole get them down, they will do just fine,” he predicted.
In related news, the Muskies are looking for sponsors to help them with costs associated with travelling to Barrie.
Anyone interested in sponsoring the team can contact Bliss at 274-9855 ext. 5015.