WASAGAMING — Jay Thiesen has always viewed the Tamarack as the pinnacle of all Westman amateur golf events and told his friends and family if he ever won one, then he wouldn’t need to play golf any more.
On Saturday, the 28-year-old from Russell won his first men’s championship with a 1 up win over Brandon’s Dale Coulter at the Clear Lake Golf Course. He’s not planning on abandoning the sport any time soon and just enjoyed basking in the glow of his conquest of the eight-day tournament, which was in its 81st year.
"It’s awesome," Thiesen said. "I wish I would have played a little bit better today, but it’s a pretty cool feeling. All my friends and family here, it was awesome."
Neither Coulter nor Thiesen had been in a Tamarack final before, and they both battled their nerves in a match in which only five holes were halved.
Thiesen was one up on 15 and believed he needed to two-putt to halve that hole, but he was strong on his first putt and ended up losing it and the next one to go one down with two holes left. He drained a 10-foot putt on the 17th hole to draw even and then got lucky on 18.
Thiesen hooked his tee shot, but it bounced off a tree and the cart path before settling on the fairway. He sank a four-foot putt and watched Coulter miss one of his own, which would have forced a playoff.
"I looked at my buddy caddying for me and he said ‘That (the bounce) means something,’" Thiesen said. "I don’t know. That’s the bounce I got and I needed it today and got it on that hole and at that time."
Despite the loss, Coulter remained positive about the experience of playing in his first Tamarack men’s final.
"It was a good week. I got all my green fees worth," he said. "To put it in perspective, (Friday) Jay and I said we were both nervous, maybe me a little more so than him, but I think it might be my last kick. Other than that, it was a fun day. Obviously the weather’s no fun, but it was a good day of golf."
Saturday, like most of the week, was chilly with on-and-off showers and winds that picked up on the back nine, which caused Clear Lake grounds crews to work hard to keep the course in good shape for the event.
Coulter isn’t sure how often he’ll back to the tournament, especially with his son, Tyler, climbing the hockey ranks. He currently plays with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings and Dale Coulter isn’t sure how well the schedules will mesh for him to play in future events.
However, he enjoyed playing in a group on Saturday that also featured his brother Grant, who won the men’s championship flight consolation title over Dauphin’s Regan Hedley.
"It was really special just to play with Grant today," he said. "I think at times he was rooting harder for me than I was myself."
Meanwhile, Colton Willms ended Steve Young’s reign atop the junior men’s event. Willms, an 18-year-old Brandonite, took advantage of the three-time defending champ struggling on the front nine to post a 4-and-3 win in their final.
Young, who’s from La Salle, had one of his worst days of the season by shooting a 49 and was five down after nine holes. While he hated to see one of his best friends struggle, Willms was ecstatic to win the junior men’s championship in his final year of eligibility.
"It’s nice going into men’s to come out the champion," he said. "I think it brings a lot of confidence into my game and just being able to edge out Steve today means a lot to me. He’s such a well-rounded player. To edge him out today was special to me."