Bodogh, Ellis and MacLean crowned Champion of Champions
Robbie Ellis tees off on the 18th hole at Rockway Vineyards Saturday. The St. Catharines Golf and Country Club member won the men’s division at the 69th Walt McCollum Champion of Champions with a 70. Photos by BERNIE PUCHALSKI.
The biggest drama involving Bernie Bodogh’s first-ever Champion of Champions title was whether or not he would make it to the course on time.
The 56-year-old St. Catharines Golf and Country Club senior men’s champion arrived 20 minutes before his Saturday tee time at Rockway Vineyards. He had spent the week competing at the Canadian men’s senior championships in Bathhurst, N.B., where he tied for 55th, and he thought he had plenty of time to get back to St. Catharines.
Bodogh caught a plane from New Brunswick to Montreal Saturday, where his flight to Toronto was supposed to leave at 8 a.m. But the plane had engine issues and he spent 45 minutes waiting on the runway.
“When the plane took off, I thought there was no way I was making it, but the guy must have booked it because he was flying fast.”
He arrived in Toronto at 9:33 a.m. and luckily he was able to get his clubs and get out of the airport in rapid fashion. The airline made it a priority for all golfers to get their clubs quickly because it had failed to get the clubs of 25 golfers to the Canadian championships until the night before the tournament started.
“I guess that is what they did and it was very luck for me,” Bodogh said.
With two hours sleep, Bodogh recorded a two-shot victory in the Champions senior men’s division with a round of 37-36-73.
“I was very confident today after having four rounds of difficult competitive golf. Keeping my concentration was the No. 1 thing I was trying to do,” he said. “It was just hit in the centre of the club, hit in the fairway and get it on the green.”
It was his first Champions title in five tries. He has won the men’s club championship eight times at St. Catharines, but because of a conflict — the Redtail Golf Tournament — he only represented his club on four occasions in the season-ending event.
“Everyone is a good player here and to finally do it is a notch for me,” said the broker with Seymour Fair Insurance.
He was planning a modest celebration.
“I think I am going to have a few celebratory beers at home, sit down and put my feet up and pass out.”
Rounding out the top five in the senior men’s division were: Rockway Vineyards’ Tim Dundas (38-37-75): Rolling Meadows’ Jim Brown (37-38-75); Grand Niagara’s Mark Rankie (41-37-78); Beechwood’s Pat Berti (42-39-81); Port Colborne’s Bob Goss (38-43-81); and, Queenston’s Jon Odegaard (40-41-81).
ANOTHER FIRST TIME WINNER
Joining Bodogh as a first-time winner at the Champion of Champions tournament was fellow St. Catharines Golf and Country Club member Robbie Ellis.
The 26-year-old St. Catharines resident fired an impressive 35-35-70 at Rockway Vineyards to record a six-shot victory over four other golfers in the men’s division.
The civil engineering technician with Ellis Engineering had won four straight men’s titles at St. Catharines, but couldn’t represent his club at any previous Champions events because he was out of town.
“Two years ago, I qualified at Bridgewater and then ended up not being able to play in the actual event,” the Niagara College graduate said. “It was fun to win and we had a great group today.”
Among the golfers in Ellis’ foursome Saturday were multiple champions Matt Graham and Kham Vong.
“I know both those guys and I knew it was going to be a great day.”
His great day included a strong performance off the tees and on the greens, excluding a four putt on the 11th hole.
“It messed up my momentum a bit, but I was able to concentrate and focus on the task at hand.”
He finished with five birdies on the day.
“I was really wanting to break 70, but I hit a five footer on the last hole to shoot 69 and I hit it exactly the way I wanted to,” he said. “It was a great putt and it didn’t go the way I wanted.”
But he was delighted with the win.
“There are so many great players in the field and it’s great to come out on top,” he said. “It’s definitely up there, for sure.”
Although Ellis has never won a Champions title, he has put together a solid amateur career, including a top 20 finish in the Ontario men’s amateur and a top 30 showing at the Canadian amateur championship in 2014.
His tournament play has been sporadic at best in 2018.
“This year I am getting married,” he said. “I have been playing quite a bit and I make sure I get out, but there was no tournament golf.
“I like the style of amateur golf, but I’ve decided to have a career in engineering and do golf on the side.”
Rounding out the top five on the men’s side were: Bridgewater’s Nolan VonKalkreuth (40-36-76); Rockway Vineyards’ Vong (39-37-76), the defending champion; Port Colborne’s Graham (39-37-76); and, Lookout Point’s Taylor Tyminski (38-38-76)
BEN STRIKES SATURDAY
Ben MacLean put an exclamation point on a fine summer of golf Saturday by winning the junior boys division at the Champion of Champions tournament with a 40-34 score at Rockway Vineyards.
Earlier this golf season, the 14-year-old Niagara Falls resident won a pair of Canadian Junior Golf Association events in the spring and captured the overall bantam boys title on the Niagara Junior Golf Tour.
The A.N. Myer Secondary School student, who plays at Lookout Point and the St. Catharines Golf and Country Club but was representing Lookout Point Saturday, felt putting was his key to victory Saturday.
He started his second nine with a pair of birdies and then parred out the rest of the way for an impressive 34.
Ben, who started playing golf when he was four, was playing in the Champions event for the first time.
Completing the top five in the junior boys division were: Grand Niagara’s Nolan Piazza (39-37-76), the 2018 Ontario junior boys champion; Links of Niagara at Willodell’s Blake Pingue (40-40-80); Whiskey Run’s Brandon Ruch (41-42-83); Rockway Vineyards’ Philippe Bedard (47-38-85); Sawmill’s Alex McGee (41-44-85); and, Cardinal Lakes’ Brenden Morin (43-42-85).