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Rank finally tastes invitational victory at Idylwylde

Down three with three holes to play, Rank mounted a comeback that would force the extra holes, finally garnering his first title after sinking a short par putt on No. 3.
Kyle Rank plans out a putt during the final round of the 2013 Idylwylde Men's Invitational, during which he lost to Elmira's Braeden Cryderman. Rank went on to win the event this year. File photo

Down three with three holes to play, Rank mounted a comeback that would force the extra holes, finally garnering his first title after sinking a short par putt on No. 3. Like the weekend itself, the final match featured far more twists, turns and changes in momentum that any short recap could ever do justice to.

With Jewett in control of the final for much of the afternoon, things really did not get interesting until the 16th tee.

"I was struggling all day, couldn't make a birdie, couldn't get anything going," said Rank. "I needed to make something happen."

That he did. Making a nice birdie on 16, Rank began to apply the pressure. When an approach pitch by Jewett checked up far quicker than he envisioned one hole later, the door was now wide open for Rank, the Elmira native who lost in the 2013 final to Braeden Cryderman.

"I hit probably one of the best drives and four irons that I've ever hit on 18, and then it was a battle," said Rank.

Sinking his birdie putt on the closing hole of regulation play, the 31-year-old stretched a weekend that already is classified among the toughest grinds in amateur golf.

With the momentum in his corner, Rank's opportunity to pounce appeared at hand as Jewett sailed his second shot on the first extra hole into the bunker to the left of the green.

"Before I hit the shot, I told my caddie 'that's dead'," said Jewett, who pulled off a miraculous bunker blast that left him a short putt for birdie. "I thought I would have a 30-footer minimum coming back. I tried to nip it as best as I could and it came out perfect. It was probably one of the better bunker shots I've hit in a long time."

Rank, who had matched the birdie in far more conventional fashion, would have to delay the celebration.

"You have to expect that in match play," he said. "You have to expect your opposition to hit some great shots."

Come the second hole of the playoffs, great shots were much more scarce. It was Rank's turn to scramble, after drilling his tee shot into no man's land, well over the green. In a mess of trouble, Rank looked to get somewhere close to the green.

"I literally thought I was going to get it out six feet, and it ended up going 60 yards."

Jewett, who had pulled up short and right on his tee shot before sliding his second clear across the green, now seemed in the driver's seat. But an incredible putt by Rank, leaving him a tap in for bogey, combined with a missed eight-foot putt by Jewett, prolonged the agony and excitement for the crowd of 70-80 golf fans following the pair around.

With both players landing to the left off the third tee, things continued to get interesting. Jewett drifted left of the green, into a bunker for the second time, only to pitch out and hit the flag with a shot that nearly reversed the final outcome.

Rank, who pulled up just short of the green on his second shot, pulled his third shot just right of the hole, but comfortably within distance of par. As fans prepared to make the trek to the fourth hole, Jewett missed his putt, allowing Rank to call it a day, draining from less than three feet.

"It's a grind," said Rank. "It weighs on you mentally. I played really good in the qualifying round, and that gave me some confidence. Then I played well in my first couple of matches and got them over early. I think that was the difference."

Last July, Rank went to four playoff holes in his semi-final with Ryan Hagger, leaving precious little in the tank to face a youthful and rested Cryderman in the grand finale.

Despite the tough loss, Jewett was the consumate gentleman, keeping everything well in perspective as always.

"For the amount of golf I've been playing, and how I was striking the ball coming into this weekend, to be in a playoff in a championship flight final is perfect," he said.

The crazy conclusion on Sunday capped off three days of entertainment for those following the tournament. In the preliminary round of 16, Peter Balon not only became the oldest golfer ever to advance to the quarter-finals (to the best of anyone's knowledge), he also managed to play "giant killer", derailing NCAA freshman Josh Whelan, who sizzled the course with a tournament best 67 on Friday.

Nick Quesnel found the game that escaped him earlier in the week at the Ontario Juniors, eliminating Miquel Larocque, while Ryan Willoughby ousted Vince Palladino in a battle of former champions.

Following is a complete breakdown of the four rounds of championship flight play:

Round of 16
Peter Balon beats Josh Whelan (2 up)
Nick Quesnel beats Miquel Larocque (2 and 1)
Bob Chaperone beats Ryan Hagger (1 up)
Kyle Rank beats Shawn Stevens (5 and 4)
Jay Jewett beats Matt Dumontelle (6 and 4)
Ryan Willoughby beats Vince Palladino (3 and 2)
Jason Aucoin beats Cory Vaillancourt (1 up)
Ian MacDonald beats Jordan Bilodeau (2 up)

Nick Quesnel beats Peter Balon (4 and 3)
Kyle Rank beats Bob Chaperone (1 up)
Jay Jewett beats Ryan Willoughby (2 and 1)
Jason Aucoin beats Ian MacDonald (2 and 1)

Kyle Rank beats Nick Quesnel (5 and 4)
Jay Jewett beats Jason Aucoin (2 and 1)

Fun Facts:

- The victory of Kyle Rank, combined with the 2008 crown that was garnered by Garrett Rank, marks the third brother combination in Idylwylde Invitational history, joining Dave Morland and Bill Morland (1948 and 1949) as well as Fred Silver and Mike Silver (1970 and 1971).

- The championship final playoff is the first since 2006, when Bruce Helbig went to a third playoff hole before disposing of Palladino.

- Though Rank and Jewett were both looking for their first Idylwylde win, they also rank among the golfers who had come closest without tasting victory. Rank had previously lost in the final (2013), semi-final (2006), quarter-final (2012) and round of 16 (2011). Jewett can match with losses in the final (2009) and quarter-finals (2007/2008), while also qualifying for championship flight play in seven of the past nine years.

- The remaining flight champions included Pat Laferriere (first flight over Alex Watier), Jay Quesnel (second flight over Greg Vance) and Jude Johnson (third flight over Kyle Jones).