PLYMOUTH – From the moment they turned in their opening-round 7-under-par 64 on Thursday afternoon, Lee Skillin and Jim Gorski had a vise grip on the lead, and never trailed in the 51st Annual Canasawacta Country Club Men’s Member-Guest Tournament.
Nearly six hours after they teed off on Saturday afternoon, the two Norwich class of ’95 alumni wrapped up their first career victory in this tournament rolling to a six-shot victory over defending champions Bob and Mike Branham, and co-runners-up Justin Bennett along with Brian Loomis.
“This is the most important tournament I play in, hands down, ever,” Gorski said Saturday evening. “When I was 10 years old, I used to come here and caddy for everybody. You would see how important this tournament was to people. This is my tenth time playing this, and all I’ve ever wanted to do is win this tournament. I’ve been a bridesmaid twice, but not anymore.”
All week long, the duo showed prompt resilience at the slightest hint of adversity. They bogeyed their second hole of the tournament, but immediately came back with a birdie. That theme continued throughout their 54 holes. After bogeying the short par-three second hole on Saturday, they immediately came back with a birdie on the par-four third. On the 11th hole, Bob Branham rolled in a 30-footer for birdie that could have served as a catalyst for back-nine momentum. Just a moment later, Gorski calmly rolled in a six-footer to equal Branham’s red number.
“It was mentally grinding today,” Gorski said. “But the key today, and all week for us, was bouncing back.”
The Branhams were looking for their third championship in five years, and the elder Branham, Bob, already had 10 career titles in the bank, far and away the most prolific winner in tournament history. Gorski, in previous years, had played with Branham in the final round of this tournament, and obviously had come up short.
“I think it’s more satisfying to win knowing he (Bob) was right there with us,” Skillin said. “He’s won it so many times before.”
“And it helped to have a big cushion,” Gorski quickly added.
Gorski and Skillin led by seven shots with seven holes to play after Gorski matched Bob Branham’s birdie on number 11. The next four holes were perhaps the only hiccups in a rather steady day of play.
The new champs both missed the green on the par-three 12th hole, and neither converted their par putts. Branham, meanwhile, sunk a tricky six-foot par putt to trim the margin by one.
Mike Branham reached the par-5 13th hole in two shots – as did his dad – and two-putted for birdie. Skillin, on the back fringe in two shots, was unable to get down in two as the lead was trimmed to five.
Both twosomes came away with a bogey on the 14, much of that due to a bullish pin placement in the back right of the green.
On 15, the Branhams closed to with four shots – the closest they would come – when Mike Branham two-putted for par, and Gorski and Skillin each missed short par putts.
The quick response for Skillin-Gorski was two stiff wedges into the par-four 16th hole, neither more than six feet from the cup. Skillin birdied the hole, while the Branhams failed to record a par. The lead returned to six shots, the final margin.
“We hit the ball the same as we always have before, the difference was making more putts,” Skillin said of the tournament.
“Hitting the ball has never been the issue,” Gorski said as well. “It was a matter of getting it in the hole once we were on the green. As you could see on 15, we are not the best putters.”
Balky putters or not, the winning team finished its three rounds with the widest margin of victory in many years, and for Gorski, one big monkey is off his back.
“Because of David Branham (former C.C.C. head pro), I am the golfer that I am today,” Gorski said. “He supported me more than anyone else, and he always used to tell me I was the best golfer to never win anything up here.”
No one can say that anymore Jim.
Other flight results: A first-year pairing led to Bob Adsit and Dave Cappadonia led to a win in the Heritage Flight. Adsit and Cappadonia fired a 5-under-par 66 in the last round, the lowest score on Saturday. The winning duo’s 206 total was also the second lowest overall among the 100-team field….Tom Muserilli and Keegan McCumiskey continued their consistent scoring improving by one shot in the final round to win the Doral Flight by one shot of Edd Jenkins and Colin Fraser… .While not paired in the same final group, the Somiches owned the top two spots in the Memorial Flight. The younger twosome, Pete and Phil, shot a even-par 71 to edge their elders – Pete Sr. and Steve – by one shot… .Matt Ryan and brother Bob Ryan improved each day, and cruised to a three-shot win in the Colonial Flight… . Tim Corey and Mike Hawkins won a three-hole playoff over John Mitchell and Tom Flanagan to capture the Westchester Flight. Hawkins two-putted from the fringe on the long par-3 17th hole to clinch the win… .Aiden Hannan and Doug Coggins emerged victorious in a one-hole playoff victory over the father-son team of John and Terry McCumiskey. Hannan’s steady fairway-and-green approach yielded a par on the first hole, good enough to knock off the McCumiskeys… .Lance Yerton and Jim Fowler bounced back from a poor second round to take the Kemper Flight by one shot over John Swertfager and Lou Shaheen… . Longtime friends, Dave Flanagan and Glen Boulton, had the best final round of the Bay Hill Flight to win by three shots.
(Top six plus ties by flight)
Ju. Bennett-Loomis 71-67-69-207
Smith-T Seiler 67-72-70-209
Carson-S Seiler 69-71-72-212
M Flanagan-Larkin 74-71-74-219
Muserilli-K McCumiskey 74-74-73-221
Pete Somich II-Ph Somich 79-73-71-223
P. Somich I-S Somich 74-80-71-225
M. Ryan-B Ryan 81-76-74-231
P Flanagan-True 78-81-76-235
*won playoff on third hole
*A Hannan-Coggins 85-80-78-243
E Burrell-Roswick 77-86-85-248
*Won playoff on first hole
D Flanagan-Boulton 86-85-171
*Last round plus better of first two rounds make up final score.