This year will likely be remembered for the crippling recession that gripped Central Oregon.
And the economy certainly affected this region’s once-booming golf industry.
But 2009 might also elicit memories of some great performances.
Mike Reid’s harrowing playoff win against John Cook capped off the most exciting Jeld-Wen Tradition since the Champions Tour tournament moved in 2007 from the Portland area to Sunriver Resort’s Crosswater Club.
And former Bend High School golfer Andrew Vijarro this year became the player to beat in Oregon amateur circles.
Add it up, and for Central Oregon golf fans, 2009 might not have been such a bad year after all.
Here is a look at some of the highlights:
In a star-studded field that included the likes of Tom Watson, Greg Norman and Gary Player, it was lesser-known golfers who stole the show in August’s Tradition.
Norman pulled out with back spasms shortly before his first-round tee time. And Brad Bryant snatched the limelight by firing a 10-under-par 62 in the first round to set a Crosswater competitive course record.
But the final round belonged to John Cook and Mike Reid.
Gorgeous Central Oregon weather, with temperatures in the 80s and barely a breeze present, greeted the golfers throughout the tournament. And a relatively large, raucous crowd swarmed Crosswater to help the golfers home in the final round.
Reid, a journeyman who had last won at the 2005 Senior PGA Championship, and Cook battled down the stretch. And Cook, an 11-time winner on the PGA Tour, appeared to be heading to his first major championship victory on either the PGA or Champions tours after taking a one-stroke lead with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole.
But Cook bogeyed the 18th hole and Reid capitalized with a par, sending the tournament into a sudden-death playoff.
Reid drilled a 12-footer for birdie on the first playoff hole, the par-4 18th, to earn the unlikely win.
“Playing with John, and seeing Brad get off to such a great start this week, I just don’t feel deserving,” an emotional Reid said as he choked backed tears in the aftermath of his victory. “But I am so grateful.”
Andrew Vijarro really came into his own in 2009.
Vijarro, a 2008 Bend High School graduate and currently a sophomore at the University of Oregon, was one of four freshmen to start for the Ducks at the NCAA Division I National Championships in May.
And he blitzed his way in June through the 111-golfer field at the 100th Oregon Amateur Championship at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on the southern Oregon Coast. Vijarro fought fatigue and brutal coastal winds to edge Eugene’s Chris Polski, 1-up, in the 36-hole championship match.
“Put the target on me, definitely, for sure,” Vijarro said after winning the tournament and becoming the player to beat in Oregon amateur golf. “I love it. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I have looked up to all these people for so long, and I feel that all my hard work is starting to pay off.”
Vijarro nearly won again in August at the Oregon Men’s Stroke Play Championship, losing a playoff to Oregon State senior Paul Peterson at Creswell’s Emerald Valley Golf Club.
But Vijarro was not the only Central Oregon golfer to play well in 2009.
Brian Miller, a 29-year-old professional golfer from Madras, advanced to the second of three stages at the PGA Tour’s National Qualifying School.
Miller played well at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas, one of six sites for the 72-hole second stage, finishing in a nine-player tie for 33rd place at 1 under par. But that was three shots shy of advancing to Q-School’s final stage.
Taya Battistella, a 29-year-old pro from Bend, won a developmental Canadian Tour tournament in May to earn a berth in the LPGA Tour’s CN Canadian Women’s Open at Priddis Greens, Alberta.
At the Canadian Women’s Open in September, Battistella took on the best women’s golfers in the world, including Michelle Wie and Lorena Ochoa. But Battistella missed the cut by two strokes.
Bend’s Chadd Cocco, playing his first full season of professional golf, qualified for June’s Knoxville Open, a regular stop on the PGA Tour’s developmental Nationwide Tour. But Cocco missed the cut after finishing 36 holes at 1 over par.
And Scott Barton qualified for the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Jimmie Austin/University of Oklahoma Golf Club in Norman, Okla.
The 20-year-old amateur from Bend finished in a tie for 73rd place, one stroke short of advancing to match play.
It was a tough year for Central Oregon’s 30 golf courses, as the economic recession took its toll on much of the golf industry.
Area courses, public and private, offered specials not offered to golfers in the region in years.
That kept golfers coming to the course, for the most part. Through November, the region had hosted 453,347 golf rounds this year, down only slightly from the 455,626 in 2008, according to a Central Oregon Visitors Association survey.
“I think it’s a great sign,” Grant Cyrus, general manager of Aspen Lakes Golf Course in Sisters, said of the survey. “People were still trying to get out there to play, they were just being a little more price-sensitive.”
Golfers did seem to cut back on nearly everything else, from clubhouse purchases to the amount of money they were willing to pay for a single round.
Juniper Golf Course in Redmond was the first to show signs of strain. Earlier this month, the city of Redmond hired an outside agency to help cut costs after the municipal course defaulted on its monthly payment to the city on the course’s $5.9 million construction loan.
A light schedule of regionally significant tournaments in Central Oregon started with June’s Oregon Open at the Club at Brasada Ranch in Powell Butte.
It marked the first major regional tournament for Brasada, and the Pacific Northwest PGA members took advantage of the High Desert course.
Brian Nosler, a teaching pro from Vancouver, Wash., fired a 6-under-par 66 for the final round to finish at 18 under par, an Oregon Open record, and win the annual Pacific Northwest Section PGA tournament and its $4,000 first prize.
Tetherow Golf Club in Bend was not as kind to the 25-and-older amateurs at July’s Oregon Mid-Amateur Championship.
Randy Mahar, a 53-year-old financial adviser from Portland, shot a final-round 3-over 75 in breezy and drizzly conditions to come from five strokes back and win the tournament.
More than 650 amateur golfers came from near and far in late September to play in the Northwest Dodge Dealers Pacific Amateur Golf Classic, an annual net tournament played at eight Central Oregon courses. Though the field was smaller than the more than 700 golfers at the 2008 Pac Am, organizers considered the turnout solid in light of the severe recession that took hold in 2009.
In the end, it was Bill Bienapfl, a 28.6 handicap from Meridian, Idaho, who won the championship round played at Crosswater.