City golf champion Noah Yano finishes the job
Excitement was par for the course down the stretch Sunday at Eastmoreland Golf Course.
The overall winner of the 100th Portland City Championships made a clutch par to fulfill a dream and win for his late mother.
The Senior Division champion emerged after seven extra holes.
Noah Yano captured the city title, and Matt Jacoby won a three-man playoff for the Senior title (ages 50 and up).
Yano finished the 36-hole tournament at 3-over-par 147. He edged playing partner Derek Lee, of Snoqualmie, Washington, by one shot.
Riley Elmes, the 2015 city champion who competes for Loyola Marymount and also was in Sunday's featured threesome, tied for third. He and Jarred Gomez, a recent graduate from the Concordia University golf team, shot 149.
Yano, 37, was thrilled to claim a piece of Portland golfing history.
"I wanted to get this one so bad," said the 37-year-old former Franklin High golfer who is in the men's club at Rose City and has a membership at Persimmon. "To win the 100th is extra special."
And it was especially so because Yano had come up just short a couple of times in recent years.
On July 5, 2013, and at the time of the 96th city championships, Yano's mother died of pancreatic cancer.
"I almost withdrew, but I felt like my mom would have wanted me to play," he said.
Yano wound up in the lead by five shots that year with eight holes to play, but he bogeyed the 17th and double-bogeyed the 18th and lost by three to Trevor Harding, who fired a 5-under-par 31 on the back nine.
"I felt like I was supposed to win that one for my mom," Yano said.
Two years later, Yano led after the first round, but shot 42 on the front nine the second day and wound up losing by two.
"I lost this tournament twice. It was really disappointing. I didn't finish," he said. "This time, I finished."
It wasn't easy, though.
Yano, who shot 4-over 76 on Sunday, hit the ball better than he had in his Saturday 71, but he made four bogeys, all on 3-putts. His back-nine bogeys came on the 11th, 12th and 17th holes. But Lee, who was tied with Yano for the lead standing on the tee at the par-3 17th, pulled his iron shot left and eventually missed a bogey putt from 18 inches.
So, Yano had a one-shot lead going into the par-4 18th. But while Lee hit a solid drive, Yano's ball hit a tree and left him with 217 yards to the green.
It was there, on the fairway, that Yano said he "channeled" the advice of a friend, Randy Gross, an Eastmoreland men's club player. "He'd been telling me that at times like that you've just got to stand up and be a man," Yano said.
Yano took out a 6-iron and hit the shot he needed. It landed short and ran up, as anticipated, onto the green. The ball stopped 15 feet from the hole.
Yano two-putted for par, and Lee's otherwise perfect birdie try from 10 feet stopped a half-inch short of the cup.
Yano was the champion.
"This really means a lot," he said. "It feels like I finally got this one for my mom."
Yano first played golf at age 10, when a friend invited him to tee it up at Rose City with his grandfather one summer day.
"I absolutely fell in love with the game," Yano said.
As soon as he got his driver's license, Yano would go play nine holes in the morning before making it to school at Franklin. He worked odd jobs at Rose City.
Today, he rans a Portland-area real estate appraisal company, Harper Appraisal with his brothers, Jeff and Marshall, but continues to play golf regularly.
"It's a spiritual thing for me," he says.
The Senior Division title at the centennial city tournament wasn't decided until the par-4 seventh, where Jacoby's bogey prevailed over Mark Bowler.
The other playoff participant, Jim Shindler, bowed out with a bogey on the first extra hole.
Jacoby, Bowler and Shindler all totaled 8-over 152, one better than Gay Davis, the co-founder of Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club who grew up in the area and was a two-time Portland Interscholastic League champion for Cleveland High.
Jacoby, who lives about a mile from the 101-year-old course, bounced back from an opening 80 with a par-72 on Sunday.
"I was thinking, 'I have to shoot 75 today,' and even that probably wasn't going to win it," he said.
Jacoby, a 55-year-old professional painter, had some experience with second-day success, though. The four-handicapper won the Eastmoreland club championship two years ago with rounds of 75-69.
"But I've never been in a playoff situation like today," he said.
And what a playoff it was. Jacoby stayed alive by making a 12-foot par putt on the par-4 second hole. On the par-4 third, Jacoby's second shot hit the pin and stopped two feet from the cup, but Bowler rolled in a 20-footer for birdie to stay alive. Bowler got up and down at the par-4 fourth, making a par putt from nine feet to extend the match again.
The pressure was mounting.
"By then, I was having to calm myself down over every shot," Jacoby said.
On the difficult seventh, both hit poor drives to the right and had to pitch back onto the fairway. Bowler's ball wound up in a divot, and his third went well right, onto the eighth tee. He pitched to inside 10 feet but couldn't get the putt to drop..
Bowler had shot 74 on Sunday, while Shindler had his second 76.
A big key for Jacoby was his eagle on the par-5 13th in the second round.
"Three-wood, three-wood, 31-foot breaking putt," he said. "That jump-started me."
Jacoby said he has played in the city tournament "at least 20 times." His first taste of golf came on the driving range when, at age 6, he got to hit balls with his father, Walter, a former professional baseball umpire.
"This is such a neat event," Jacoby said, "and you knew par was going to be a really good score today. I was really excited when I got the chance to go into the playoff."