Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com
Evan Littlefield stormed back Monday from an early deficit to defeat Jeff Hunter 2-up to win the first Whitewater Invitational golf tournament.
There was nothing too exciting about Evan Littlefield’s game on Sunday afternoon.
Fairways, greens in regulation and a heck of a lot of pars were the order of the back nine in the championship match of the inaugural Whitewater Invitational presented by Boston Pizza.
Sometimes boring golf pays off.
Littlefield, who was down two holes to Jeff Hunter through seven, turned his game around in a hurry, winning four of the next five holes to go up a pair, then held on the rest of the way home to earn the win.
The 2010 District Open winner just finished his freshman season with the Western New Mexico Mustangs and said it felt great knowing he’ll always be recognized as the first champion in an event organizers hope will ultimately grow into the fourth major on the Thunder Bay District Golf Association calendar.
“I played well all weekend and every match was a grind. They were throwing a lot of good shots at me. I just somehow grinded it out in the end,” said Littlefield, who added he hit every shot for his grandfather, celebrating his 95th birthday.
“I made a couple clutch putts in that stretch, hit a couple of really good shots that really turned it around for me and got my head back into the match.”
Hunter wasn’t exactly helping his own cause.
He bogeyed nine, allowing Littlefield to tie the match.
On 10 he fired his tee shot into the woods, well left of the fairway, and left himself no choice but to blast it out sideways. He managed to save his par with a nice approach, but Littlefield sank a lengthy birdie putt to take the lead.
The two golfers halved the 11th, but facing an untrustworthy driver, Hunter pulled out a three-wood off the tee of the par 5 hole, ceding about 100 yards on his second shot to Littlefield.
“I was having a little bit of trouble with (the driver), that’s for sure,” said Hunter, a junior at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
Hunter wound up in a bunker with his second shot, then went over the green on his third. Littlefield, whose second shot was well left, recovered and dropped it eight feet from the pin. When Hunter chunked his chip, the hole was conceded and Littlefield went two up.
Both Littlefield and Hunter recorded pars on the picturesque par 3 13th, and Littlefield stepped to the 14th tee box with a little swagger in his step, quickly running Hunter out of holes.
But the only miscues he made on the back made it a match all over again.
Littlefield dumped a pair of tee shots into the lake and conceded the hole then and there, with Hunter sitting pretty in the fairway on the short par 4.
“We had the wind with us and it was only about 260 yards to carry. I thought if I caught it good I would put it there. I just didn’t seem to put the right swing on it,” said Littlefield, who earlier in the day beat Evan DeGrazia in the semifinal to advance into the championship flight final.
It was the last error the Thunder Bay native would make.
He sank a tester on 15 to halve the hole with Hunter, who knocked off Aaron Leupen in the semifinal. Hunter lipped out for birdie on 16 and both golfers missed makeable birdie putts on 17, leaving it all on the line on the daunting par 5 18th.
Hunter was his own worst enemy again, landing his tee shot in the trees to the right of the fairway, forced to punch out sideways.
Littlefield marched down the fairway, hit the green in regulation and when Hunter failed to sink a long par-saving putt, the title was Littlefield’s.
“He missed a couple of shots, but he missed them in the right places and he made a couple of putts that changed things,” Hunter said.