Nicola Valley golfers can be forgiven for feeling pretty good about themselves these days after taking the top four placings at the annual Coyote Collision Men’s Open tournament at the Merritt Golf and Country Club on the weekend.

Leading the pack in the 68-player field was MGCC men’s club captain Brent Bowden, who went four-under on Saturday en route to a two-round winning score of 141. That was three strokes better than runner-up and fellow Merrittonian Steve Doubinin, who closed with a one-under 71 on Sunday to make things interesting.

Bowden’s 68 on Saturday was his best-ever score on the Merritt course.

“I’ve shot 69 two or three times, but never 68. It was pretty satisfying,” he said.

The Merritt Secondary School counselor conceded that his long game on Saturday was nothing to write home about, but that his approach shots and greens-play made all the difference. He scored a pair of deuces on day one, and added a third on Sunday to go along with an eagle three on the 492-yard 10th hole.

“Both my wedge and putter were working for me,” Bowden said.

After Bowden and Doubinin, the next three places in the standings were very much a family affair. Perennial contender Adrian Reynoldson charged hard on Sunday with the day’s best score of 70 to finish in third at 147, followed by brother Jack in fourth at 149. The triumvirate was completed by Adrian’s son, Aaron, in fifth with a finishing score of 150. Aaron currently lives in Kelowna.

Playing in the final foursome on Sunday with Bowden, Doubinin and Jack Reynoldson was 2013 Coyote Collision winner Luke Ghostkeeper, who now calls Kamloops home. The personable scratch golfer, who wound up sixth at 151, wowed his playing partners more than a few times on the weekend with his big hits.

“He can really drive the ball,” Bowden said.

Two of Ghost-keeper’s tee shots on Sunday, and the subsequent recoveries, will be the subject of much table-talk at the 19th hole for years to come.

On the sixth hole, the left-handed Ghostkeeper shanked his tee shot mightily and put his ball on the other side of the river on the fourth fairway. A beautiful iron shot over the water and the trees miraculously got him back to the fourth green, where he two-putted for par.

Even more improbable was Ghostkeeper’s play to close out the front nine on Sunday. Another errant drive had his ball clear the pump house beside the fifth tee box, roll under the show car on display and hit the portable outhouse close by.

Unfazed, Ghost-keeper again hit a brilliant approach shot over brush and water to salvage par.

The Coyote Collision low net winner was Gord Rudd of Kamloops at 131. The 20-handicapper shot impressive rounds of 83-88 to edge Merritt’s Dan Hildebrand by a stroke.