Michael Combs, one of only three two-time winners of the Rosauers Open Invitational, will be back to defend his 2003 title on Friday, when the tournament proper of the richest PGA section event in the nation kicks off its three-day run at Indian Canyon Golf Course.
Combs, a teaching pro from Canyon Lakes Golf Course in Kennewick, used a routine par on the first playoff hole to beat Tom Sovay and pick up last year’s $11,000 first-place check.
This year’s tournament, which will be preceded by the two-day Bank of America Pro-Am, will feature a $120,000 purse and a full field of 136 professionals and 32 amateurs.
Combs, who won his first Rosauers title in 1996, is coming off a second-place finish in last month’s Oregon Open.
He also finished second in the Al C. Guisti Memorial in late April and, in the opinion of host professional Gary Lindeblad, should be considered as one of the pre-tournament favorites.
“There are certain people who really fit this kind of course,” Lindeblad said, referring to Indian Canyon’s tree-lined 6,255-yard layout that will play to a par of 71 during the tournament. “It lends itself to those who do things well – hit it straight and think.
“And Michael has proven he can do both.”
Lindeblad said he also like the chances of past champion Jeff Coston, who tied for third last year, and Bob Rannow, who currently ranks No. 1 on the Pacific Northwest Section’s Player of the Year and Hudson Cup Points lists.
It was Coston, a teaching pro from Semiahmoo Golf & Country Club in Blaine, who withstood Combs’ closing-round 64 to win this year’s Oregon Open. Coston won the 1997 Rosauers and has finished as runner-up four times.
Rannow, from Sandpines (Ore.) Golf Resort, has finished in the top 10 in all three of PNWPGA’s major events that have been played this year.
Among the other leading Rosauers contenders, according to Lindeblad, are former PGA Tour veteran Lon Hinkle, from Eagle Bend Golf Club in Bigfork, Mont., and Sovay, from Harbour Pointe Golf Club in Everett.
Lindeblad, who won the 1990 Rosauers, said he, too, has been playing well of late.
“Who knows?” he said. “If the stars line up just right, my own personal episode of Touched By An Angel might be ready to air.”
But he went on to add that Manito Country Club’s Steve Prugh, the Creek at Qualchan’s Mark Gardner, Indian Canyon assistant Trevor Fox and Matt Bunn, an assistant at The Highlands Golf & Country Club, are the local pros with the best chance of being in the final threesome come Sunday.
Lindeblad said the Canyon’s tight, hilly layout is “as perfect as we can get it.”
The greens have been double-cut and rolled, and the rough was last cut late last week.
“We’ve been watering it heavily,” he said of the rough. “It won’t be as long as last year, but it will be a lot thicker – and every bit as hard to move a ball out of as it has been in the past.”
The Bank of America Pro-Am, which starts today, will feature a full field of 64 five-player teams competing for $20,000 in prizes.
The pro-am event and tournament proper are open to the public free of charge and will once again benefit The Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery.
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