Kamloops golfer survives tough back nine to win on Sunday

Karen Mair-Valin from the Eagle Point Golf Club in Kamloops shot a 36-hole score of 154 on the weekend to win her fourth consecutive Ladies Coquihalla Open at the Merritt Golf & Country Club. A total of 80 golfers took part in the annual two-day event.

Although her margin of victory in the end was six shots over runner-up Maggie Oland from Lake Country, Mair-Valin’s win didn’t come without its poignant moments down the stretch.

After a terrific two-over-par 74 on Saturday, and an equally impressive tour of the front nine in 37 on Sunday, things took an interesting turn coming home on the last day. Bogeys on 10 and 15, a double bogey on 13 and a ‘quad’ (four over) on the par-three 16th resulted in a back-nine score of 43 and a total for the day of 80.

“The nerves definitely got a hold of me on the back,” Mair-Valin, a six-handicapper, said. “It is always tough defending your title as your expectations of yourself are always so high.

“The final nine holes were a reality check,” Mair-Valin went on to add. “Golf is a game where you have to stay focused and play one shot at a time. I think that I got ahead of myself. It was a good lesson, and thankfully didn’t cost me the tournament.”

While Mair-Valin’s opening 74 held up as the best round of the weekend, Sunday’s top score went to Oland, as the 13-handicapper shot a stunning three-over-par 75 that included a front-nine score of 36.

“This was my first time at the Merritt tournament, and everything was great,” Oland said. “The food was amazing.”

Oland used the Merritt event as an opportunity to visit her sister, Lorna Shuter, who makes her home in the Nicola Valley. One week ago, Oland was in Duncan on Vancouver Island, competing in the B.C. Senior Women’s Open.

Asked what golf course in the Okanagan she calls home, Oland amusingly stated, “None. I’m a happily married kind of girl, but I like to play around.”

Also pleased with her Sunday round was Anita Bilkey from Kamloops. The 15-handicapper fired a 79 — her first ever sub-80 score. She finished in the low net runner-up position with a 138 total.

Top local golfers were Diana Lorenz at 165 (second low gross in flight one) and Lynne Price with a 144 (second low net in flight one).