Dave Unger came out of nowhere to shock the Tamarack field last year, but he’s not sure if that will be the case this year.
The 42-year-old Brandonite shot the lights out with a 69 in the second round of qualifying last year to secure the fifth seed in the men’s championship flight, only the second time he has made the top tier of the competition. Unger proceeded to beat Russell’s Brad Clement 2 up in the quarter-finals, fellow Brandonite Brad Pardy 4 and 3 in the semifinals and Brandon native Josh McPhail 2 and 1 in the final — all of whom are back this year — to claim his first championship.
His run to the title surprised Unger so much that he doubts he’ll be able to pull out a similar performance when the 80th annual golf tournament begins on Saturday at Clear Lake.
"Probably about the same (expectations as last year)," he said. "I can’t imagine winning the Tamarack again."
While some defending champions would raise their goals to get back into the championship flight of the 240-golfer event, Unger is taking a very relaxed approach. He hasn’t gone out of his way to prepare for the eight-day tournament, opting instead to play one round a week at various courses throughout Westman.
He’s added to his relaxed approach by getting a couple friends to play with him in his qualifying group, which he has never done before.
"I’m golfing with a couple friends this year, so I’m more excited than any other year," he said.
Although he’s not sure how serious of a contender he will be next week, Unger plans to be around the Clear Lake course for the vast majority of the time, as both a player and a caddy. His son, Matteo, won a Cubs title last year and moves up to play at the Clear Lake course in the older Cubs competition this year.
Unger plans to carry his son’s clubs during that portion of the week and he can’t wait to have that bonding experience.
"He gets to play the big course this year, so I’m really excited about that," Unger said. "He’s hitting the ball better every time he plays. I’m looking forward to caddying for him for a few days."
Although being a caddy could distract some people, Unger doesn’t think that it will be bad for his game.
"I’m out to have a good time," he said. "If I focus, I usually play worse."
Most of the other four divisions have both finalists returning this year.
Brandon’s Paul Solon will be back to defend his senior men’s title with runner-up Ken Hoy from the Wheat City and 82 others looking to dethrone him. Winnipeg’s Sarah Stebeleski, who won her first title last year, is back along with runner-up Kaitlin Troop from Brandon. The women’s field will be comprised of 44 competitors.
Meanwhile, La Salle’s Steven Young will try to win his third straight junior men’s title. Nick Myhre, who’s from Rolette, N.D., and lost in the final, is also in the 40-golfer field. Defending junior women’s champion Bobbi-Rae Uhl from Erickson will try to repeat in the six-player event.
JUNIOR TOUR:The Westman Junior Tour wrapped up on Tuesday with its finals at the Oak Island Resort.
Tyler Turner left as the 16-18-year-old boys’ champion with fellow Brandonite Cole Mushumanski claiming the 14-15-year-old boys’ crown. Minnedosa’s Zane MacDonald racked up the most points to become the 13-and-under boys’ champion, while Uhl won the girls’ group.
FAMILY GOLF: Registration for the Brandon Sun’s father-son and mother-daughter tournaments is being accepted. Both events will be played on Sept. 8, although the father-son is an 18-hole alternate-shot event at the Wheat City course, while the mother-daughter is a nine-hole alternate-shot event at Northern Pines. The father-son event costs $80 per team and people can register by calling Shawn at 204-725-1958 or emailing Glen at email@example.com. The mother-daughter event costs $25. Email Marlene at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
CHIP SHOTS: The next stop on the Desjardins Financial Golf Tour will be at the Wheat City on Saturday … The Minnedosa Country Club will host a mixed tournament on Saturday …Boissevain’s 6-6-6 two-person tournament will be held on Saturday. The club will then host a senior men’s tournament on Aug. 26. … Shilo will host a two-person scramble on Sunday with proceeds going to Special Olympics. The cost is $45, including golf and food. The Westman Invitational will run from Sept. 13-15 at Shilo. The cost is $90. Contact the club for both events. … Northern Pines is putting on a junior tournament for golfers 16 and under on Aug. 22. The cost is $10. Call the course to register … The Killarney men’s open will be held on Aug. 25.