By Woodard, Dale on June 26, 2020.
For the first two days of the Alberta Men’s Mid-Amateur Golf Championship, Ryan O’Donnell’s putter couldn’t miss.
The sizzling short game put the Lethbridge golfer in the championship group on the final day Thursday in Sundre and in the hunt for first place after scores of 69 and 68 Tuesday and Wednesday.
On Thursday, however, another member of the championship flight picked the final round to light it up on the greens. Alex Large of Canmore rolled in seven straight birdies, while O’Donnell carded a six-over 77 to finish tied for ninth after starting the day in second place.
Once Large drained seven straight birdies from the eighth to the 14th holes – in spectacular fashion, to boot – O’Donnell knew he’d have to pick up the pace to keep up.
But a double bogey on the 12th hole and two more bogeys on 14 and 16 allowed Large to pull away from the field and O’Donnell finished with a three-day total of 214.
“Once Alex made seven birdies in a row it wasn’t demoralizing, but it was over,” said O’Donnell. “When you see that happen, and especially the way he was making them, he was making putts from everywhere. None of them were tap-ins, they were all difficult, he was dropping bombs from everywhere. I had to get aggressive, so I kind of got away from my game plan to have a chance.”
Still, it wasn’t too bad of an outing for O’Donnell’s first tournament of the season in a schedule decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was actually just golfing around last week and I was not playing very well,” he said. “So I had pretty much zero expectations coming in. The first two rounds, I don’t know, I guess I just caught fire and putted it well. Everything was working for me and I only made two bogeys the first two days. Really, my putter just got hot. My misses were in the right spots and it made things pretty easy on myself.”
O’Donnell headed into Thursday’s final round chasing Ryan Swelin, who sat atop the leaderboard after the first 36 holes.
The Lethbridge product almost caught the leader right at the beginning of Thursday’s round.
“The first hole we almost had a two-shot swing,” said O’Donnell. “I lipped my birdie putt and he made a bogey. Right there I was right in it. I was only two back. Not that my score on the front nine was that bad, but I played better than a couple over on the front nine. I just couldn’t make any putts. Then on the back nine (Alex) went off for seven birdies in a row, so I had to start playing aggressive and as soon as that happened I made a couple of bogeys and errors and I guess that’s where the tournament fell apart a little bit.
“I feel good about it. It would’ve been nice if I could’ve put together a little bit of a better day today. Once I made a double on 12 I wanted to stay under par for the tournament and obviously that didn’t happen, but things are good.”
With the pandemic wiping out most summer sports, O’Donnell was happy to get in an event given the uncertainty.
“I’ve been playing as much as I can, probably about five or six days a week,” he said. “I’ve been playing a lot. I wouldn’t say I’ve been playing great, but it was just nice this week to get out and play in a tournament, honestly. With everything going on I had no idea we were going to get that opportunity a month or two ago. It was nice to get that and it was nice to have a good week, too.”
Next up is the Alberta Amateur in Medicine Hat the third weekend of July.
“I’ve played in that and I’ve played pretty well in the past. So it should be good,” said O’Donnell.
The Alberta Open at the end of July remains another possibility.
“We’ll have to see if I can still get into it,” said O’Donnell. “But besides that, there won’t be much going on with COVID. It has cancelled a lot of men’s events I normally play in.”
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