Elkington-McCarron sizzle en route to Umpqua Bank Challenge title
- Steve Brandon
- Portland Tribune - Sports
Steve Elkington and golfing partner Scott McCarron danced the night away at the dinner auction on Monday, joining host Peter Jacobsen and others on the floor till 11:30 p.m.
"It didn't do anything for my golf today, but it did a lot for yours," Jacobsen told them after Tuesday's final round of the Umpqua Bank Challenge.
Elkington and McCarron may have saved their best moves for venerable Portland Golf Club. The good friends two-stepped their way to a second-round 59 and a winning best-ball total of 24-under-par 120.
Their mid-round blitz - eagle 3 on the 5th hole, followed by six straight birdies - turned back the challenge of Jay Haas and John Cook, who were also part of the final twosome.
Those two teams were tied at 12-under through four holes Tuesday, after Haas and Cook birdied the first two holes to erase their two-shot deficit.
After the group all walked off the 11th green, though, Elkington and McCarron had a five-shot lead.
Nick Price and Mark O'Meara eventually caught Haas and Cook for second place, with O'Meara chipping to four feet for a birdie on the 18th. The Price-O'Meara combo shot 62 to match Haas and Cook, who had a 63, at 18-under 126.
Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman placed fourth at 17-under after a closing 61.
The largest crowds, however, were following the first pairing to tee off Tuesday morning. Those people came to see 81-year-old legend Arnold Palmer complete his 18th Challenge - all of them - aside Portland native Jacobsen.
Palmer and Jacobsen shot 69, two shots better than their opening-round score, and they finished at 4-under for the tourney.
Also in their group, Fuzzy Zoeller and Ben Crenshaw had a 68 to get to 7-under.
Palmer hit some solid shots and had some good birdie opportunities, including on the final two holes, holding up well despite playing 36 holes in two days for the first time in about a year.
"I got a little bit excited (about my game)," Palmer said.
Elkington and McCarron, the youngest players in the 12-man field, said their victory would give them hope for success in the remaining tournaments of the year.
"The only thing we've been winning is scratch-off tickets at the grocery store," Elkington quipped. "So we're going to take this little piece of momentum and see if we can parlay it on the tour."
The winning Challenge team will split $100,000 from the purse of $532,000 - but Elkington and McCarron seemed just as excited about their other prize, the matching "Peter's Party" denim jackets that traditionally go to the tournament champions.
Not too mention the opportunity to play with old friends and Hall of Famers such as Palmer.
"It's so special to be a part of anything that Arnold Palmer is involved in," McCarron said. "To be able to hear him speak last night, and to have breakfast with him this morning and talk with him ... he is 'The King,' truly one of the greatest gentlemen ever to play the game."
Both Elkington and McCarron had been to Portland for the Fred Meyer Challenge, which ran for 17 years; McCarron won the final event in that run, in 2002, with Oregon's Brian Henninger as his partner.
"I don't know if it's ever been any better than this," Elkington said, mentioning the frolicking and "spectacular" players' clinic on Monday, the cool weather - "I've been in the heat of Houston" - the way the Challenge is run and the way everyone involved in the tourney, not just the players but also the volunteers, seemed to enjoy being part of it.
"They're so inclusive, and everybody who comes away from this loves it," Elkington said.
"It's fun. Peter's Party, that has a ring to it," McCarron said. "It's fun for us and fun for the fans. Our hosts and the volunteers ... everybody seems to have a great time."
McCarron earned the final spot in the Umpqua Bank Challenge field when Beaverton native Ben Crane, who grew up playing at PGC, qualified for the FedEx Cup playoffs on the PGA Tour.
"It's just an honor to play with all these guys," said McCarron, who lives in Sunriver and teed it up in Sunday's pro-am.
Elkington's family has spent time with McCarron and his family in Sunriver.
"It was one of the best holidays we've ever had," Elkington said.
On Monday night, the Umpqua Bank Challenge named Palmer as its first honoree. Other awards announced for 2011 went to Ed Ellis as the first recipient of the Spirit of Oregon Golf Award and to Ralph Holland as the winner of the Al Gloeckner Volunteer of the Year Award.
Jacobsen said his goal is to keep bringing back the tournament and build on this fresh start, and even Palmer said he wasn't ruling out a return.
"I want to have this tournament every year, raise a lot of money for charity and have fun out there," Jacobsen said.