Gunthorpe claims fifth Oaks Open

COVINGTON - While the Oaks Course challenged many of the 80 participants in the Oaks Open, Mark Gunthorpe was not one of them, as he won the event for the fifth time in 14 years over the weekend.

The other Oaks Open victories for Gunthorpe came in 1996, 1997, 1998 and last year.

Only two other players have won back-to-back championships. Brady Ward did it in 2001 and 2002 and Joe Grady followed in 2004 and 2005.

Gunthorpe shot the only 60s net score of the tournament with a 69 on the opening day Saturday. He came back the next day to shoot an even-par 72 for the win with a 141 total.

He was four shots better then runner-up John Taylor who had a 74 and a 71 for a total of 145.

"There were four net scores under par and one gross score for the entire tournament. Overall, people don't want people come in net and under par," Oaks Course golf professional Andy Bowman said. "Our goal is not to frustrate people, it's to give them an idea of what the pros struggle with. It's not even close to what they deal with but it's still the opportunity to play in a well run individual tournament. It tests your patience, your skills and your nerves.

"Playing with your buddies is a completely different round of golf then when you have to go out and play in a tournament and to count everything. This tournament just helps you realize just how good those guys on the tour are. They do it day in and day out."

The scores were indicative of the course conditions as the roughs were tall and the greens were fast.

"I thought the rough grew in appropriate areas around the greens," Bowman said. "If (the ball) was in the rough, it was going to be a tough up and down. Curtis (Singleton) said the greens were rolling at 13 on the stemp meter Saturday morning."

"I heard nothing but positive responds. I know that everyone appreciated the difficulty because they understood what the tournament meant. We just want to give everybody a U.S. Open-type experience. This year ranks up there, as condition goes with timing, the greens the rough and the condition of the course, as one of the better years."

An added difficulty came Sunday morning after a storm came through and spread debris throughout the course.

However, Singleton, who is the course superintendent, and his crew were able to get the tournament up and running with little delay.

"With the storm coming through Saturday night, I think Curtis and those guys did a great job. When you think about the PGA tour event and all the equipment they have it would delay play until about noon to get the course ready," Bowman said. "We were only 30 minutes behind schedule because of his crew and what they were able to do. Bunkers had to be raked, fairways had to be blown, the greens had to be blown."

Rounding out the top five in the championship flight were Robbie Williams at 148 (74-74), Stephen Hall at 150 (78-72) and Ronnie Horton at 150 (76-74).

Richard Allen prevailed in the A Flight with a 138 (68-70), Andy Watson took the B Flight with a 140 (75-65) and Buster Davis won the C Flight with a 139 (68-71).

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.