(Kingston, Ontario) – After a weekend that included a Field Day and rounds of match play, four golfers were left on Monday, June 18 to contend for the title at the 2019 Empire Life Eastern Provinces Championship and Ontario Women’s Match Play Championship.
This year was the first time the events were being run concurrently at the Cataraqui Golf & Country Club, with the Golf Ontario championship coming on board.
The Monday semi-final matches saw 14 year-old Brooke Rivers (Brampton, Ontario) advance to the final by defeating Haley Yerxa of Ottawa.
In the other semi-final, Tiana Cruz of Richmond Hill, Ontario took down home club player and past champion Patti Hogeboom of Kingston.
That set up a highly anticipated matchup between two of Canada’s rising teen golf talents. Cruz just completed her freshman season at the University of New Mexico where she plays for the Lobos golf team while Rivers’ last tournament coming into the Kingston matches was a resounding sixteen-stroke victory at the Future Links, driven by Acura Quebec Championship.
In the finals Rivers was all business, jumping out to a three-up lead after she made a birdie on the short par 4, 6th hole at Stanley Thompson-designed layout.
The Brampton Golf Club member, just 14 years of age, was looking like a player well beyond her years. Her first sign of any trouble came on the 8th hole where a poor bunker shot cost her a hole.
Starting the back nine, River was still up two, a situation that remained the same after twelve holes after the pair exchanged wins on the previous holes.
It was at that point when the tide began to turn for Cruz who said she relied heavily on her caddy for the week, her father Christian. She says he gave her a little pep talk after she got behind early.
“I was getting a little frustrated, to be honest,” said the Psychology major. “I was in that position practically almost every round, every match starting this tournament. My dad, my caddy, reminded me to stay in the moment and just rely on my practice and just know that I’m prepared for this.”
Rivers’ drive on the 13th hole clipped some encroaching trees on the right side of the par four, leaving a long approach shot where she missed the green, leading to a Cruz win.
The momentum stayed in the older teen’s favor as she also picked up a win on hole #14 to square the match, then jumped ahead with a winning par on the difficult par 3, 15th.
With just a few holes remaining Rivers could not turn things around and a ten foot par putt on the 17th hole by Cruz closed out the victory by a score of 2 and 1.
“It’s been a while since I’ve won an event,” said Cruz as processed her accomplishment just before receiving her rewards. She admitted she had not looked at the trophies and the names of the winners but was eagerly anticipating the opportunity. “I’ve heard whose names are on it so I’m kind of exciting to go and see.”
As she did, as she realized she was now a champion with a name on trophies won previously by the likes of Canadian Hall of Fame members Marlene Streit, Jocelyn Bourassa, Mary Ann Haward, and 9-time LPGA Champion Brooke Henderson, a big smile ensued for Cruz. Then she shared what it meant to her.
“It’s awesome. You know I put in all this hard work; we’ll just see what happens next. It’s an honour, honestly.”