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Sunday, Jul. 22, 2018
Bortolotto shows the way in less than ideal conditions
by Randy Pascal

As usual, there was playoff drama that accompanied the qualifying round of the Idylwylde Invitational on Friday. This year, however, it just didn't last very long.

Mike Roberts calmly sank a two foot birdie putt on #10, the first playoff hole, securing the 16th and final championship flight berth, and relegating Steph Mayotte, Dale Valade and Liam Hamlin to the first flight.

Roberts, who lost in the final in 2015 to Ryan Willoughby, now draws the low qualifier, Idylwylde club champion Matt Bortolotto, in first round match play Saturday morning.

Bortolotto opened with a course record tying 31 on the back nine en route to shooting the day's best score of 70, three strokes better than 15 year-old Evan MacLean at 73.

"I just got off to a good start," said Bortolotto. "My second shot on ten actually went in the hole, on the fly, and bounced out to within a foot. Then I missed a short putt on 11 for birdie, tapped in on 12, and had a beautiful chip in on 14."

"It was kind of weird," added the 28 year-old, who had shot a 30 on the back nine on one previous occasion, though not in an official tournament format. "I wasn't really thinking about it. I hit a couple of shots and things got rolling."

After much pre-tournament fanfare about the young guns, the teens did not disappoint. Recent Lockerby Composite graduate Ward Kyle was one shot back of MacLean, at 74, while Laurentian Voyageurs' freshman Nick Quesnel found himself bunched in with a group of eight other golfers at 75.

That collection of talent included Justin Fluit, a Cambridge native who now resides in Toronto, and one of a handful of strong southern Ontario players that former Lively native Ian MacDonald has recruited to the event over the years.

Making his second straight appearance at the tournament, and qualifying for the championship flight for the second time in as many years, Fluit acknowledged the heads up he was provided from fellow southerners Kyle Rank and Roberts before tackling the unique northern venue.

"It's a tricky golf course," said Fluit. "You've got to pay attention on every shot out here, or else it can get ugly in a hurry. And with the wind today, and the rain, it was extra, extra hard."

In fact, prior to the arrival of the final few foursomes from both the front and back nine, Bortolotto's score was the only sub-74 on the board, in an event where 74 is sometimes the high water standard to qualify for the playoff.

The balance of the gathering at 75 included some very familiar names, with Vince Palladino, Kyle Rank, Owen Rigg and Todd Crowder included, as well as first time championship qualifiers Mike Andrighetti and Dan Couillard, and second timer Bart Hurley.

Avoiding the playoff drama by just one stroke were the trio of Eric Edelman, Steve Wrixon and Frank Kucher, with the latter coming off a tournament win in his hometown of Sault Ste Marie last weekend.

"It's nice to get back into championship flight," stated Kucher, who has now turned the trick on half of his eight visits to the Sudbury summer golf mainstay, qualifying three years in a row from 2009 through 2011. In 2010, Kucher lost in the final to Willoughby.

"I haven't been playing all that much at all, but I did play in a tournament last weekend and managed to take the trophy. It gave me a little extra confidence coming in, for sure."

After a week of stifling hot temperatures, the field of 174 golfers were treated to anything but ideal conditions on Friday. "The wind was howling, temperatures were down, rain was coming down here and there," said Kucher. "You needed patience just to stay with it."

"It was a different wind than usual, north instead of south," acknowledged Bortolotto. "The ball wasn't flying. I was hitting almost a club more today to get it there. But I play here enough that I know I just have to stay focused."

Ironically, the high temperature for the day quite likely came some time shortly after 8:00 p.m., as the playoff foursome walked their way back to the clubhouse. Play resumes Saturday morning with the first round of 16 matchups, with quarter finals slated for later in the day.

Among the usual contenders who narrowly missed the championship flight cut were Ryan Willoughby, Ryan Hagger and Corey Vaillancourt, all at 78, as well as 2015 low qualifier Matt Chiasson, Jay Jewett and Ian MacDonald at 79.

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