Hughes loses in extra hole after late charge forces playoff

The Investors Group Ontario Amateur championship closed in dramatic fashion with Toronto’s Albin Choi earning the victory following a single hole playoff against Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas at Summit Golf and Country Club.

The Team Canada member led the tournament through the first three days and teed up his final round on Friday (July 13) with a four- shot advantage. As the round progressed, several players made a charge to try and catch the 20-year-old former Canadian Amateur champion, setting the stage for an exciting finish. Choi was able to hold onto his frontrunner status all the way through to the 72nd and final hole of the tournament, when Hughes caught him and forced a playoff, while Listowel’s Corey Conners came within two shots of Choi and Hughes.

“I had a four shot lead standing on 16 tee,” said Choi. “Mackenzie and Corey just happened to birdie those holes and I came out with a par but I was still feeling pretty comfortable with a three shot lead.
“I hit a good shot on 17 that decided to take a big hop over the green that led to a bogey. Mackenzie made a great putt off the fringe which made it a two-shot swing and on 18, he caught me.”

The playoff was short lived, however, with Choi hitting a monster drive and well placed approach shot, then rolling in a putt for par to clinch the victory.

The Beacon Hall member carded an even par final round (71) for a four day eight-under par total of 276 (67-69-69-71) adding an Ontario Amateur title to his already stacked golf resume that includes his 2010 national amateur victory.

This was also an emotional win for Choi, who lost his mother seven months ago. Although surrounded by family and friends throughout the week, he wished he could have shared this victory with his mother.

Choi will now prepare to play in a US Amateur qualifying tournament next week before trying for a second Canadian Amateur title later this summer.

Making the biggest move on Friday was Hughes, who posted a four under par 67 to climb into a tie with Choi atop the leader board. Despite his strong effort a bogey on the first playoff hole gave him runner-up honours for the championship. The reigning Canadian Men’s Amateur champion finished alongside Choi at 276 (68-69-72-67), eight-under par. Hughes will now have a week to focus on making his PGA Tour debut at the RBC Canadian Open, an exemption he earned through his 2011 national amateur victory.

Hughes’ Kent State University Golden Flashes men’s golf teammate Conners finished alone in third place at six-under with a total of 278 (70-68-71-69). Conners is also a former Ontario Amateur champion after becoming the youngest-ever winner in 2010 at age 18.

Choi, Hughes and Conners, all members of Team Canada, will represent Ontario in the Willingdon Cup inter-provincial team competition at the 2012 Canadian Amateur Championship set to take place Aug. 7-10 at Camelot Golf & Country Club and Club de golf Outaouais.

Toronto’s Daniel Kim finished in fourth place at five-under par, followed by Mississauga residents Graham Baillargeon and Russell Bowie who both posted strong performances throughout the week to finish tied for sixth at three-under par. 2008 champion Dave Bunker of Woodbridge closed out the competition in seventh place at one-under par.

The Investors Group Ontario Amateur Championship was contested for the 90th time this year, and has a rich history of former champions. Past winners include 2003 Masters Champion Mike Weir (1990 & 1992), PGA Tour player Jon Mills (2001), Gerry Kesselring ( ’49, ’51, ’52, ’53) and Gary Cowan, who holds the record for the most Ontario Amateur Championships with nine (’64, ’68, ’71, ’74, ’74, ’75, ’77, ’78, ’81 & ’84.).

Scores for other Golden Horseshoe area golfers included Oakville’s Brian Churchill-Smith (Toronto Golf Club), 287 for 10th place; tied at 23rd were Burlington’s Blair Hamilton (Hidden Lake GC) and Georgetown’s Luke Ovenden (The Club at North Halton) with 293s; sharing 39th place was Ancaster’s Un Cho (Hidden Lake GC), 299; tied at 45th were Ancaster residents Paul Lang (Beverly G&CC) and Michael Lancaster (Hamilton G&CC) with 301s; St. Catharines’ Robert Ellis (St. Catharines G&CC) shared 52nd place with a 303; and Hamilton’s Luke Atack (public player) was 59th with a 307.