WGA Open "Memorable Moments"
The Historic Events at the WGA Open
The Western Golf Alliance Open has had a rich and wonderful history. Events, achievements, and moments both on and off the course have added to the luster and allure that is this grand golfing tradition. We commemorate those notable memories here, for future generations to ponder.
2002 - The (blind) eagle has landed: Playing in fog so dense visibility is down to 50 yards, Brian Gray hits a perfect drive on the par 5 14th hole, and decides to take a shot at the green from 215 yards out despite no knowledge of where it is. His blind shot hits the green, and he sinks the subsequent 40 foot eagle putt, effectively securing the championship.
2002 - Sssssssnnnnnnnake: While winning the inaugural WGA Open, Brian Gray loses the "snake" side bet in all three rounds, paying out a total of $54 on just that wager alone.
2004 - How low can you go: After shooting NET 4-under in the opening round, and NET 7-under in the second round, Peter McGarry stands at NET 11-under-par, at the time a scoring plateau record for lowest cumulative NET score at any moment in a WGA Open.
2004 - King-Jack is the second worst starting hand: On three successive hands of Texas Hold Em, Matt Wakefield wins the pot against an opponent who is dealt King-Jack and loses. On the very next hand, Matt is dealt King-Jack ... and wins against an opponent who is dealt pocket aces.
2004 - Parking lot tiebreaker: On the 72nd hole - a par 5 played to an island green - Brian Gray and Peter McGarry are tied at NET 3-under, and with the championship at stake both achieve NET birdies on the hole. In the parking lot, after cross-checking all scores, the club's "defending champs must yield" tiebreaker rule is created by Brian, who magnanimously yields the championship to Peter.
2006 - Club meeting = boot factor four: After the biennial club meeting, the group continues a night of beer and poker. The fateful combination ultimately leads to a very unfortunate incident whereby Mike Mittelsteadt introduces what had once been his dinner to the bathroom floor at the Marriot.
2006 - "The Charge": Playing 36 holes in 110 degree heat during 'day 2', Brian Gray shoots an inhuman NET 11-under-par. No one else in the field even shoots even par for the day. The resulting margin is too much for anyone to overcome, and eventually Gray cruises to a 19 stroke margin of victory, a WGA Open record.
2006 - Oh Billy Billy Billy Billy Billy: During the final round, with second place hanging in the balance, Robert Gibson lips out an astonishing seven birdie putts, including a five footer on the island par 3 17th at PGA West TPC Stadium. Gibson still survived to hold onto second place, and reportedly the putter also survived.
2008 - Where ARE those guys?: On the night of the biennial club meeting, four members making their way to Bandon from California get stranded on Portland, Oregon, due to a broken airplane. The ensuing problems result in the loss of Mark Herms' clubs - the first time in WGA Open history that someone's clubs have been lost in transit - resulting in a difficult handicap for Herms to overcome.
2008 - An inconceivable streak: In the opening round, Trever Esko shoots a NET 13-under par. He does this by shooting NET 1-under on the front, followed by an astounding NET 12-under on the back, which includes a string of eight straight pars. While he would come back to the field, ending the tournament NET 1-over par, his "59" is the best NET round in WGA Open history to-date.
2008 - She's gonna blow, cap'n: During the final round, once again Peter McGarry and Brian Gray fight it out for the title. Worn down by McGarry's consistency, Gray attempts to drive the green on the par 4 16th hole. He succeeds, placing his drive just left of the green, but then chips his short approach into a pot bunker, effectively ending his run and sealing the victory for McGarry.
2010 - One tough wolf: In the second round, the Wolf Creek course was amazing, beautiful, and brutal. As an example, the most famous hole is #8 - a par 3 played from a butte to a deep ravine that is 220 yards from the blue tees (248 from the tips!). Despite a club rule that meant the maximum score anyone could post on this hole was a 6, the average score for the field on this hole was 5.4.
2010 - And one windy wolf: The Wolf Course at Paiute Resort was blowing hard on day 3 with a 40+ yard wind! This made the 15th hole especially tough, as players were required to hit long irons into this island green par 3 that is only 135 yards on paper. While everyone played the round NET over par, surprisingly everyone played within a reasonable margin from their handicaps.
2010 - On concerts and board games: As the weekend wound down, Saturday night in Vegas was dominated by two non-golf activities. The first was a Scrabble tournament between Peter McGarry, Doug Atchison, and Peter's brother who came out just for the game. The second was the B52s/Blondie concert at the Mandalay Bay pool. These two events could NEVER have any connection to each other under any other context.
2012 - A man's got to know his limitations: The members of the Western Golf Alliance have sometimes been known for their "duty to the cause" when it comes to consuming during golf trips. At Pebble Beach, multiple members of the party found themselves incapacitated over the course of the weekend (Dan Atkinson, Trever Esko, Brian Gray, Peter McGarry, and Tony Rossi), but none like Henry Gonzalez, who was the life of the biennial meeting the first night, and had to withdraw from play during the final round due to perpetual challenges with the laws of physics.
2012 - The surprise eagle at Pebble: For years, Peter McGarry had sought to make his first eagle. During the third round, playing the oceanside hole #4 (par 4) at Pebble Beach, Peter had an uphill 8 iron to a blind green for his second shot. After striking a good approach, he reached the green to discover a ball only six feet from the hole ... but then discovered that ball actually belonged to Brian Gray. As he started to look for where his ball had gone, he first glanced in the cup ... EAGLE!!!!
2012 - #7 is WAY too easy: At Pebble Beach, the most famous three hole stretch is the 6th, 7th, and 8th. The 7th is a short par 3 played to the very tip of the penninsula, and the wind and elevation change make it tricky just to hit the green. Playing that hole twice, Trever Esko birdied it both times, making putts of 6 feet then 2 1/2 feet. In NET play, since he was getting a stroke on the hole, Trever therefore went NET 4-under on the 7th hole alone - back-to-back NET Aces - on his way to a one stroke NET 4-over victory.
2014 - What kind of green is THIS?: Of all the courses ever played, the 16th green at the Sunriver Crosswater course was ... unique. At the end of a long par 5, it is a tabletop green with false fronts and multiple runoff areas. In the first round, the pin was in the middle and thus the green surprised everyone only on the approach. However, in the final round, the pin was near the front edge, and multiple players either putted their ball completely off the green, or chose to lag 7 feet short of the hole.
2014 - A truly historic stretch: According to course officials, no one had ever played the first 4 holes at Pronghorn Nicklaus at 5-under par. Until Brian Gray did it. Starting hot in the second round, Brian went birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle, an amazing start that saw him jump from 5th to tied for 1st place over the course of 11 total strokes.
2014 - The traditional bad-beat story: During Friday's poker night, late in the Texas Hold em challenge, Brian Gray had a commanding advantage over Mike Nadon. After the flop, Brian was all-in with the nut-flush. Mike had just a pair of aces, and his second pocket card was a seven. The ONLY chance he had was for the last two cards to come runner-runner sevens. So of COURSE you know what happened next ...
2016 - Insane pin placements: Every green has that "sucker" position ... the one you can't fire at because it's 12 feet from a bunker or on the edge of a false front. However, in the 2nd round, Grayhawk Raptor was set up to host a weekend junior national championship. Every pin was tucked, on the edge of a ridge, or both. It was easy for players to putt off the green, and several did, and between that and a 25 yard wind the "field" averaged NET 9 over par.
2016 - Tin Cup: At the TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course par 5 15th, Brian Gray hooked his drive into the water, hit his mulligan, and hooked it into the water too. So he went to the margin of the hazard, dropped, and 250 out from the island green he went for it with a 3 wood and ... duck hooked it into the water. So he held out a hand, says "again," Trever threw him another ball, he dropped it, and ... duck hooked into the water. "Again" and ... another duck hook into the water. "Again" and ... another duck hook into the water. "Again" and ... a CRUSHED shot that flies 270 yards, lands on the back of the green straight over the pin, and one-bouces off the back of the green into the water. Unforgetable.
2016 - Shooting ALL the numbers: In the final round of the tournament, Doug Brunton shot the round of the event. Doug shot a one over par 37 on the front nine, finished with a 79, producing a NET score of 8-under 64. This catipulted Doug from last place into 3rd. And why was he in last? Because he shot a 104 in round 2. Oh, and he shot a 97 in round 1. However, his 86 in round 3 was a NET even score. And that means ... Brunton shot in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 100s, in the span of four rounds.
2018 - One Messed Up Hole: Okay ... our lead threesome during round 2 at St Eugene's played ... slow. But everything ground to a halt for EVERYONE on hole #12, one of the hardest holes we've ever seen. After an average driving hole, the second shot is up a 50 foot rise, to a tiered green with a false front and multiple bunkers. Basically, everyone comes up short, then can't chip, then three putts (or worse). It was ... brutal.
2018 - Passing the Hat: In the history of the WGA Open, only three people have EVER led the event ... the three founders, Trever, Peter, and Brian. However, at the end of the second round, Canadian and event host Mike Nadon had posted two stellar rounds, and held the 36 hole lead. This was the clear achievement of a personal goal, and a highlight of the event ... for a Candian to wear the Goldent Hat of Honor in Canada!
2020 - Fireball!: Someone had the briliant idea to bring Fireball Whisky to the course, and everyone take a shot for any birdie. Normally, this may mean 1-2 shots per round. However, during the opening round a Sand Hollow, the players carded five birdies between the 5th and 14th holes. This was excliting, but changed some outcomes for players affected by liquor late in the round.
2020 - Rob Loves Everybody: To be clear ... Rob Hughes effectively took up golf 4 months before the WGA Open simply to make this trip. Arriving at the open, he had one gross PAR and a handicap that exceeded the club's max by 6 strokes. At Sand Hollow, he actually shot NET one under that FORCED max handicap, and got TWO birdies! As the first round LEADER ... he celebrated, rightly declaring the WGA Open as the greatest event of all time.
2020 - Gravity is Cruel: Despite a lack of practice and advancing age, Brian Gray can still shoot low scores. The had rounds of 77, 78, and 73 in Utah. But he also had a round of ... 87, caused by a terrible hangover in round 3. During the round, he topped shots, sliced balls into hazards, and almost fell over after hitting a drive. While he would go on to win the event, it was refreshing to see him as mortal.