One might say the 2022 men’s club championship at the Logan Golf & Country Club was electrifying.
At least it certainly ended with some electricity from the sky Saturday afternoon.
After a highly entertaining back and forth match between Bob Underwood and Nate Stokes, it was halted for nearly an hour after the golfers had hit their second shots on the par-5 17th hole — the 35th hole of the scheduled 36-hole match. That’s because a lightning strike occurred near the 17th tee box, rattling everyone that was watching and the two players.
“Oh my gosh that was scary,” Underwood said. “We were headed up to look at my ball and it (lightning) popped. Vinny (Lamarra, Underwood’s caddie) just hit the floor and said, ‘we are going to the house.’ I said, ‘hell yes we are.’ We could smell it. It was very intense. It shook the cart.”
Golfers on the 16th green were knocked to the ground. A large gallery watching the championship match talked of feeling, seeing, hearing the loud crack and smelling the strike. Golf pro Dean Johansen quickly ordered everyone off the course and to the clubhouse. As everyone made their way down the 18th fairway the horn blew warning people to take shelter.
“It was really close, I felt it big, it was crazy,” Stokes said. “All the hairs on my body raised. My daughter thought it was a bomb.”
The golfers went into the delay with Underwood 2-up. Stokes had won 16 to force play to continue.
After the delay, the pair returned to 17 where each was just shy of the green. Underwood chipped to within a foot of the hole from 60 yards out. After Stokes hit his chip shot close as well, he conceded the hole and the match as he needed to win it. It was the second championship for Underwood, who was also victorious in his only other appearance in the finale 10 years ago.
“I’m undefeated in the championship match,” Underwood said. “I’ve only played two, but won them both. All I’ve got to do is get to the championship match.”
Underwood said that last comment with a laugh. He won it on the 36th hole in his last championship.
Stokes was playing in his first club championship. While he didn’t come out on top, he enjoyed the experience.
“It was well played,” Stokes said. “... Thirty-six hole matches are different. It’s a lot of golf. Maybe I got a little too emotional during that five-hole stretch where I won a bunch of holes. You need to keep everything in check a little more.”
It is believed Underwood may be the oldest champion. The Logan resident is 68 and has been playing at the course since he was 11. Pete Randall may have the age record, but it was not clear how old he was when he won his last title.
“I played good today; we both played good which is more fun,” Underwood said. “It’s not as satisfying if one guy isn’t playing well. Nate played well. I just played a little bit better.”
Playing good golf is nothing new for Underwood, who is the first alternate for the USGA Senior Amateur Championship. He is also playing in the UGA Super Senior Championship this week at Mountain Dell Golf Course.
Where does he rank this win?
“This one is pretty cool because I’m 10 years older,” Underwood said. “... I beat four good guys. Everybody I played is a good player. It was a really strong bracket this year, everyone was good.”
To get to the championship match Underwood had to defeat one opponent in 20 holes and another in 19.
The first two holes of the match proved to be a preview of how the day was going to go. Stokes won the par-5 first hole, while Underwood took the par-3 second hole. Both enjoyed stretches of gaining some momentum only to see the competitor swing the tide back their way.
“I just tried to play steady,” Underwood said. “... This was the only match that really was back and forth for me the whole way. It was fun.”
Johansen said it was the most competitive match he has seen in some time. Perhaps they wanted to go out with a bang, waiting for the storm to roll in from the east.
After the back-and-forth start, Underwood built a three-hole lead after winning 15 on the first trip around the course. They halved 16 with pars.
Stokes made a charge before they took a break after 18 holes. The 45-year-old Providence resident made an 8-foot birdie putt on 17, then a 6-foot putt on 18 for another birdie to win both holes and get within one.
After halving No. 1. Stokes chipped in for birdie on No. 2 after missing the green to the right on the par-3 hole. He birdied three and pared four to go 2-up. Stokes had won five of the last six holes.
“I felt I had it going my way,” Stokes said. “... I made some shots and had some momentum there.”
Then disaster struck for Stokes. On the tricky par-4 fifth, he lost two balls trying to drive the gulch between the tee box and the green.
“You can’t hit two balls out of bounds on five,” Stokes said. “I had the steam going and needed to keep it going. You can’t hit two in the dam.”
Stokes got in trouble again on No. 6, but recovered and rolled in a long putt to halve the hole. But Underwood won No. 7 to make the match all square.
“I had to hit some good shots when Bob got his second wind, and I just didn’t,” Stokes said.
Underwood would seize the momentum and win 10, 11 and 12 to go 3-up. Stokes won 13 and 16 to stay alive.
“Really, the only shot I missed all day was that pitch shot on 16,” Underwood said. “I didn’t make any putts, but I hardly missed any shots. ... The driver was pretty steady all day.”