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U.S. golfer Stephen Gangluff wins Times Colonist Island Savings Open; Riley Wheeldon of Comox third

Clutch birdie putts at the 16th and 18th holes allowed Stephen Gangluff to walk away with the top prize at the Times Colonist Island Savings Open on Sunday, the inaugural event for PGA Tour Canada (formerly the Canadian Tour).

Clutch birdie putts at the 16th and 18th holes allowed Stephen Gangluff to walk away with the top prize at the Times Colonist Island Savings Open on Sunday, the inaugural event for PGA Tour Canada (formerly the Canadian Tour).

The Marysville, Ohio, native rolled in about a five-footer on the 430-yard, par-4 finishing hole to clinch the title, playing in the second-to-last group at Uplands Golf Club.

“Four or five feet, I don’t know. How tall am I? It wasn’t that long,” said a relieved Gangluff, who hit sand wedge from 98 yards to within that distance for the clinching putt. “It was a pretty simple putt, other than getting the nerves out of the way. Just go through your routine — and that’s what I did.”

He made it look anything but routine with his final-round 4-under 66 that allowed him to defeat Tyler Aldridge of Nampa, Idaho, by two strokes. But they were tied with the last hole to play.

Gangluff — who made six cuts on the PGA Tour in 2012, but ultimately lost his playing status — was the 2006 Canadian Tour Order of Merit winner and no stranger to victories, having won twice that year.

“I felt that 16, 17 and 18 were all birdie holes and that was my goal,” he said of coming down the stretch, almost neck-and-neck with Aldridge, who birdied No. 17 to tie Gangluff, but took a bogey on the 18th when he three-putted from 30 feet.

“Unfortunately I came up a couple short,” said Aldridge, who was playing in the final group. “I made a great birdie on 17, which got us even. He birdied 18 and I wish I would have known that in the fairway.

“I tried making the putt, I didn’t want to leave it short,” Aldridge said of his effort on the 18th. “I just made too many bogeys [four to go with five birdies] today. I hit it plenty fine, I just made too many errors.”

Riley Wheeldon of Comox finished third with a solid 3-under 67 (273 total) to grab top Canadian honours, one stroke up on Abbotsford’s Nick Taylor and Devin Carrey of Surrey.

“I figured I needed to get to about 10 [under], so on the back nine I pushed the issue a couple of times,” Wheeldon said. “It cost me a bogey on 12, but I wanted to play to win.”

He narrowly missed birdie on the 15th hole and gave his putt a run on 18, which left himself a tough par-saving putt.

“I figured if I wanted to have an outside chance I needed to get to eight [under], so I gave that one a run. I gave myself a little bit more than I wanted, but luckily I made it,” Wheeldon said.

Taylor and Carrey finished tied for fourth with American Matt Marshall (who led after the first two rounds) and David Skinns of England, who had a two-stroke lead heading into the last round, but ballooned to a 4-over 74.

Victoria’s Cory Renfrew also finished off strong, with a 4-under 66 that left him tied for eighth.

Renfrew’s putt lipped out on the 18th or he would have been eighth alone.

“That would have been nice if that fell. It wasn’t the best of wedge shots. I tried to roll it in for the last one, but it just lipped out,” said Renfrew, who turned at 3-under after his front nine.

It was a delightful round in windy conditions as Renfrew and Wheeldon (who played with Nanaimo’s Darren Griff) played in front of the largest crowds.

“Like I said on Friday afternoon, I would be excited to get into the weekend and I was, for sure. Today was one of those days. I just kind of went at everything, trying to make every single putt, and it worked out,” Renfrew said with a smile.

“I knew going into today a mid-60s round would move me up. It’s windy out there and I’m happy I held it together and played well.”

Gangluff earned $27,000 for the victory — his biggest cheque on Canadian soil. The tournament carried a $150,000 total purse on a track that was in superb condition.

“The greens were firm and fast. They had this golf course in great shape. I heard a lot of guys. We were laughing, saying, ‘We thought the U.S. Open was next week.’ It was tough,” Gangluff said. “Firm and fast and it played difficult no matter what you were hitting off the tees.”

CHIP SHOTS: Gorge Vale assistant pro Edd Boudreau finished at 3-over 283, tied for 42nd with Eugene Wong of Vancouver. Griff finished tied for 16th at 2-under 278.

mannicchiarico@timescolonist.com

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