MORDEN — Most golfers wouldn’t take an 11-year-old caddy with them on the final round of a championship. But Ben Bandura believes he has the best caddy around — his son, Brady.
Bandura cruised to victory in the final round of the Manitoba Men’s Mid-Amateur Golf Championship at the Minnewasta Golf and Country Club Wednesday.
"He was with me in my first mid-am in Selkirk and that was pretty special, but this is even better with him here. He’s the best kid in the world," Bandura said of Brady.
The moment for the father and son combo was made even sweeter given the fashion in which Bandura picked up the championship.
Bandura started the third and final round three shots back of co-leaders Matt Gray and Jesse Skelton. However, Bandura completed the round of a lifetime, firing a sparkling 6-under-par 66 to finish the 54-hole event at 2-under with a score of 214 and a four-shot victory. Bandura had six birdies and didn’t bogey a single hole in the final round.
"It was incredible. It was probably one of the best rounds of golf I’ve ever played," Bandura said. "Everything was going in and I just didn’t make any bogeys. My three hybrid was the best club in my bag today. I hit it four times and I hit it right on the nuts all four times."
After hitting birdies on the second and third holes, Bandura finished the front nine at 2-under before learning he was right in the hunt for the championship.
"I found out at the turn that I was even with everybody and I thought, ‘You know what, you’ve got a legit shot at winning this here’ and I just kept it going on the back nine," he said.
And that’s what he did. Bandura went on to manage another four birdies in the back nine and saved par on the difficult 18th green.
Bandura believes kind of clutch putting was the biggest difference maker in the final round. He struggled with it during the first two rounds.
"I was rolling my putts on the first two days. My son was caddying for me and he said ‘Dad, you can’t miss those five-footers’ and I missed about five or six five-footers in the first two days," Bandura said.
Bandura faced some tough young talent. Gray finished as the runner-up with 218 and Garth Collings took third with 219. Collings defeated Skelton in a tiebreaker. The three golfers will compete at the 2013 Canadian Men’s Mid-Amateur Championship in Spruce Grove, Alta.
Meanwhile, Elmhurst’s Bri-Ann Tokariwski had a bit of déjà vu from last year’s Manitoba Women’s Amateur. Last year, Tokariwski had to beat Jenna Roadley in a playoff to win the championship. This year, she was able to finish it on Minnewasta’s 18th green.
Tokariwski started the third round three strokes up on Roadley. But after three double bogeys and two bogeys in the front nine alone, she and Roadley were neck and neck. Roadley was one stroke back of Tokariwski on the final hole. Both of their approach shots landed on the high side of the green and they were faced with difficult downhill putts. Both three-putted to bogey the hole.
"There were some very cruel pin placements out there, especially where Jenna and I were on 18. We both kind of looked at each other and thought ‘Oh so we’re just going to blow on these and they’re going to roll down,’ " Tokariwski said.
Tokariwski finished the championship with an 17-over 239 to claim the title by one shot over Roadley.
"It’s absolutely unbelievable. When I started out nine years ago I never thought I could do this. I was always looking back at Jill Hardy and Kaitlin Troop and saying, ‘One day I want to be like them’ and it’s finally starting to happen. All I can do is just go up from here," Tokariwski said.
Tokariwski, Roadley and Mindy Lichtman (plus-22) will go to Beloeil, Que., to represent Manitoba at the Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship later this month.