For the second time in his golfing career, Wellesley’s Rob Cowan is the Golf Association of Ontario (GAO) “Champion of Champions.”
The title is awarded to the winner of the GAO club championship tournament, which features the top amateur golfers from clubs across the province. This year, the event teed off at the Peterborough Golf and Country Club on June 12.
“I hit it pretty well and didn’t cause myself any grief,” Cowan said, describing the round. “I was never in danger of doing anything stupid. It was a shotgun start so I started on number two. I parred the first nine holes and then I finally made a put for birdie on 11, and then I made a longer putt, maybe seven or eight paces, for birdie on 12.”
But he stumbled down the stretch with two bogeys to card an even par 71.
“I made a couple, not big mistakes but just little things coming in,” Cowan said. “I had a couple more chances to make birdie, but they just kind of rolled over the edge of the hole.”
Meanwhile, Peter Beneteau of Odessa was cruising through the back nine at two under par. The 17-year-old from Camden Braes Golf and Country Club looked to have the edge before dropping two strokes late to match Cowan’s score.
The tie led to a sudden-death playoff on the most challenging hole on the course.
“You can either hit driver to get it over a pond, or you lay it back so you don’t go in it,” Cowan said. “I went over, and (Beneteau) laid it short, leaving a lot longer shot in, so he kind of miss hit it a bit and he was in trouble.”
Stuck under a branch, Beneteau chunked his third shot, finding a greenside bunker.
“I just knocked it on from where I was and ended up just having to two-putt to win,” Cowan said.
The Kitchener native qualified for the event by winning the Westmount Golf and Country Club championship last summer, his 14th victory since 1996 and ninth in a row.
Having joined the club at 11 years of age, Cowan says he has played Westmount thousands of times, and has “hit it everywhere and been everywhere on that golf course.”
He started playing early and had the advantage of learning from his father, Canadian Golf Hall of Famer and two-time U.S Amateur champion Gary Cowan.
Despite earning a golf scholarship to Indiana University, Cowan, now 49, says he didn’t begin to excel at the sport until he turned 30.
“I was okay as a kid, but coming up with the Cowan name, the expectations were there. The progression was late.”
Now, Cowan has five GAO wins: 2010 Champion of Champions title, 2002 Ontario Match Play Championships, 2008 Ontario Mid Master (for golfers over 40), Ontario Better Ball.
He’ll look to add more hardware to his trophy shelf this weekend at the Ontario Mid-Amateur Championship at Taboo in Muskoka, followed by the club tournament at Westmount and finally the Canadian mid-am at the Barrie Country Club in September.
It won’t be easy though, as Cowan saw firsthand with a practice round at Taboo earlier this month.
“It’s going to be interesting. The wind blew when we were there and we said there are going to be guys shooting humungous numbers on some holes.”
The key will be driving the ball straight in order to avoid the danger lurking on just about every hole.
“The same core of eight to 12 guys who play consistently will be the same top 10-15 up there because they’ll hit it in the fairway and they’ll knock it on the greens without getting into too much of the trouble that is not too far off the fairways.”
Next year, he’ll have a great opportunity to repeat at the Champion of Champions event as it is set to take place on home field at Westmount in June 2015.