UNION — It was, perhaps, fitting the first “Battle at the Peak” on Saturday wasn’t determined until the final hole.
At the very least, it was exactly what the competitors wanted.
“I’m glad it came down to the last couple of holes like it did,” said Dana Londin, golf pro at Buffalo Peak Golf Course and one of the competitors and organizers. “You don’t want one team just running away with it. If we would have laid it out on paper, that’s how we would have laid it out.”
The memorial golf match to raise funds for the new Doug Leon Trice Memorial Scholarship was up for grabs going into the 18th and final hole before a set of clutch shots by Londin helped him and teammate Carlito Labarda Jr., the head coach for the Eastern Oregon University men’s basketball team, win 1-up and fend off a late comeback attempt by Kyle Dodds and teammate Caleb Sampson of La Grande.
“It couldn’t have been better, said Dodds, producer of the Johnny Ballgame Show, which was one of the event organizers. “(We were) one down with one to go.”
Labarda added, “As far as the cause, we couldn’t be supporting a better character guy in Trice and what he did for the community.”
On the 18th tee, with his team clinging to a one-hole lead, Londin placed his drive down the middle of the fairway and followed with a second shot just off the edge of the green, which all but sealed the win after the other tee shots found the rough or went out of bounds. Dodds’ third shot reached the green and gave his team an outside opportunity to win the hole and force a playoff, but two par putt attempts missed, and Londin’s birdie putt to within 5 feet led to a mutual call to half, or tie, the hole.
The teams, who played a scramble format, were even through nine holes, perhaps a bit of a shock after Londin and Labarda won two of the first four. Birdies by Dodds — who Labarda called the MVP of the match — on 8 and 9 pulled his team even, but Londin and Labarda won the next two to take control and go 2-up with seven to play.
Dodds and Sampson missed a chance to draw even on the 13th, but recovered on the 14th to get back in the match.
“I’m glad that every time we got down we were able to come back a little bit,” Sampson said. “At first it looked like we were in trouble.”
Sampson’s tee shot right and short of the green set up Dodds’ for a second shot that hit within 10 feet. He finished off the hole by sinking the putt for birdie to pull his team back within one.
Labarda, who said he was playing for the first time in about 10 years, had what proved to be the best tee shot on the short par-3 15th — one that went into, but skipped out of, a greenside bunker — then rolled a birdie putt to 4 feet away, which Londin finished for par to win the hole.
The late back-and-forth action saw the underdogs again take their turn in the limelight. On the long par-5 16th both teams left their third shots short, but Dodds recovered to play his uphill fourth shot from 25 yards to within 5 feet of the pin. Sampson rolled in the putt to make it a one-hole match and keep the pressure on.
Both Labarda’s and Londin’s birdie attempts to win the match on 17 went awry before the golf pro stepped up and put it away from the outset on the 18th tee.
“I tried to just keep it in play,” Londin said of the key drive on 18.
Though the total has not been finalized, both Londin and Dodds said that between sponsorships and donations, the event brought in around $3,000 for the scholarship, which will be enough to fund at least the first year’s finances.
“The reality of it is we got to have fun while really bringing out the essence of what Doug Trice believed in — having fun, athletics and treating other people good,” Dodds said. “It was an honor to raise money in his name. It really was.”
Labarda said he met Trice only once, but knew of his impact from others in the community.
“I admire people like that. I want to be like that,” he said. “I think everyone wants to be like that. He was all about humanity and helping the underprivileged. You can’t do better as a person.”
Sampson said the entire event — and the lead-up to it — was all positive.
“There was no negative to anything I saw out there,” he said. “People (were) willing to jump in and help and sponsor.... And Buffalo Peak and Doddsy, they had some passion behind putting it on.”
Londin, who said there are already plans to make the event bigger next year, said being a part of it gave him a boost.
“It was a blast. We had a lot of fun. It was uplifting too for me, especially with all the stuff we got going on in our world,” he said. “To be involved in something positive was definitely uplifting.”