(LONDON, ON) – Collingwood resident Mike Jackson earned his second Investors Group Ontario Senior Men’s Amateur title on Thursday, finishing off the tournament with a three-hole playoff victory at Sunningdale Golf and Country Club in London.
Jackson, the 2010 champion, was the talk of the tournament when he opened the competition with a blistering eight-under 64 on Tuesday to take a four stroke lead over the field of Ontario’s best amateurs age 55 and older.
"I started on the back nine and knocked one almost in the hole on the (par 4) 11th, then after that I was just birdying every hole, especially the par-fours," said Jackson of his sensational opener that featured nine birdies. "Typically you’d make birdies on the par-fives but those par-fours were coming in," he explained.
"I also didn’t go for the green on any of the par-fives, so you think that the scoring would come out from going for the greens and possibly making eagles, but I didn’t do that, I was just in a zone,” Jackson continued. "When I finished I wasn’t even sure what I scored. I knew it was deep, and I’ve done this before where I just get down to it and focus on hitting quality shots instead of thinking about the score.”
His approach paid off, giving him a buffer he’d need to stay ahead of the talented field. He followed up his 64 with a 76 on Wednesday, falling a stroke behind London’s Garry Spence when he teed up his final 18 holes. Despite taking a three-stroke advantage by the 7th hole, Jackson was forced into a playoff with Pickering’s Chris Kertsos and Oakville’s Larry Cooper after going bogey-bogey on 17 and 18 to finish with a final round 75.
"It could have ended earlier, I have to congratulate the other guys for playing well, they hung in there and I opened the door for them," said Jackson. "I didn’t really hit a bad tee shot all week until number 14 today, and then it just seemed like bogey, bogey, and they weren’t loose bogeys – I just should have been there. I missed a couple of short putts and three-putted 18 all three days. I knew that a two-putt would win for me but just didn’t get it done."
It took three playoff holes to decide a winner, with Cooper narrowly missing putts to win on the first two holes while Kertsos dropped away as they took to a third extra hole. Jackson placed a shot from the rough to 25 feet, then rolled his putt uphill to within a foot while Cooper tackled with a tough lie after hitting over the green. Jackson would emerge as the eventual winner and two-time Ontario Senior champion after Cooper couldn’t recover.
"It would have been nice to win with a birdie on the second playoff hole but I had a job in front of me and I’m glad I came through winning," said Jackson.
Despite taking a longer road to victory than he would have liked, Jackson was all smiles after picking up the gold medal.
"Entering this year, I knew that my game was pretty good, but I didn’t know that it was up to winning this because there were some younger guys coming in and they’re good players," he said. "Fortunately I had a really great day (on Tuesday). I can’t say that I played as well as I could have in the last two days but because of the lead that I had, it made a big difference."
Jackson was impressed with the conditions at Sunningdale, which he hadn’t played since competing in the Canadian Amateur in 1985.
"The course is set up really nice and was great for a tournament like this and for the distance that we hit them. I’m not a big hitter like a lot of the guys but I just try to sort of plod along methodically and try to get in position."
Jackson is also a former Ontario Men’s Mid-Amateur champion (2003) and was thrilled to notch another senior provincial victory.
"It’s always nice to win," he laughed. "There’s some other guys out there that have won this tournament multiple times and it’s really nice to be able to have done that, it’s an achievement. Winning the first time was great, but this time around is just a little sweeter."
Finishing tied for second place were Cooper and Kertsos. Cooper, a member at Mississauga Golf and Country Club, laid down three solid rounds of 70, 73 and 72 to share runner-up honours. Kertsos didn’t stray far from the top of the leaderboard through all three rounds, carding 68, 73 and a final-round 74 to pick up a silver medal.
Second round leader Garry Spence of London finished alone in fourth place after carding a five-over 77 in his final round. The St. Thomas Golf and Country Club member was a local favourite throughout the week and put together rounds of 69 and 70 before closing out the tournament with a total score of 216 (+5), a single shot out of contention for the playoff.
National Golf Club of Canada member Dan Partland had the round of the day on Thursday, carding a solid 66 (-6) to close out his week at the tournament. His seven birdies and single bogey catapulted him up the leaderboard into a fifth place finish just two strokes off the lead, with a total score of 217 (74-77-66), one-over par.
Jackson also earned the men’s 60 and over title with his overall victory, while in the men’s super-senior (age 70 and over) category, Georgetown’s Reg Finlayson earned the title for the second consecutive year, finishing with a total score of 231 (74-77-80), +15.
Amherstburg’s Paul Nielsen finished tied for 14th with a three-round total of 223, and seven over.
The Investors Group Ontario Senior Men’s Amateur Championship also serves as a qualifier for the Canadian Senior Men’s Amateur, set to take place in Ontario at The Briars Golf Club August 27-30. The top 39 finishers in the tournament plus the top three super seniors have earned exemptions into the national championship, and representing Ontario in the inter-provincial team championship will be Jackson, Cooper and Kertsos.