Lancaster soars over gold field to earn first provincial victory

Ancaster resident Michael Lancaster, 20, earned his first provincial title on Friday (June 4) after outlasting the competition at the Ontario Men’s Match Play Championship hosted by The Lake Joseph Club in Port Carling.

Lancaster, a former Team Ontario member, worked his way through six rounds of play and the field of 64 golfers to top Kitchener’s Chris Hemmerich on the 18th hole of the final round.

The final match saw the duo battle back and forth for the lead throughout the day, before Lancaster drained a 20-footer on the 17th green to take a one-up lead with a single hole left to play. Hemmerich answered back by placing his approach on 18 to within 10 feet of the hole, before Lancaster fired in his own shot, dropping it inside Hemmerich’s ball to set up the birdie putt that would earn him the title.

The University of Toledo men’s golf team member had a strong contingent of supporters cheering him on throughout the round, and credits his family with helping him pull off the victory.

“Hats off to my brother and caddy, Chris, he’s a great golfer himself and really helped me stay in the moment and not get ahead of myself,” said Lancaster, who made a point to avoid watching Hemmerich during the match. “I really tried to just hit golf shots and stay on the task at hand. I had to keep focused on myself and doing what I needed to do, and I knew that if I delivered that, everything else would just take care of itself.”

The Hamilton Golf and Country Club member was confident that he had the ability to go deep in the tournament after watching his Toledo teammate Chris Selfridge win the Irish Amateur two weeks ago.

“My mindset coming in was that I had been doing a lot of the right things. Seeing [Selfridge] win, and knowing I can do the same things that he can do, as well as having beat him before in practice gave me a lot of confidence coming here. That was my springboard,” he explained.

Lancaster will now prepare to play in his first Ontario Amateur championship when he takes to the course for the 2012 event alongside Hemmerich at The Summit Golf and Country Club July 10-13. Both golfers earned an exemption into the tournament by being the final two players in this week’s event.

“I was supposed to play in the Amateur qualifier on Monday, so this is great,” grinned Lancaster. “This win is going to take a bit to soak in, but I’ll be able to celebrate over the weekend.”

Hemmerich picks up the silver medals after taking down 2011 champion Zack Kempa of Brantford in the semi-finals. Kempa finishes tied for third alongside 2011 Ontario Junior Boys’ champion Lucas Kim of Toronto who lost to Lancaster in the other semi-final.

The Ontario Men’s Match Play Championship is contested annually and features 64 of Ontario’s best amateur golfers that have qualified through one of six qualifying tournaments held earlier this season, or who have gained an exemption into the event. Notable former champions include PGA Tour player David Hearn, Ian Leggatt, Dave Bunker and Big Break Indian Wells champion David Byrne, who captured the title in 2007, 2008, and 2009.