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Strong finish

Nord birdies late to win Jim Riggs Memorial Champions

Conewango Valley Country Club’s Ryan Nord, left, won the 34th annual Jim Riggs Memorial Champions golf tournament with a 71 and Pinehurst Golf Club’s Darien Swanson, right, was the runner up with a 74 at Cable Hollow Golf Course in Russell on Sunday. Times Observer Photo by Christian Storms

RUSSELL — Ryan Nord had the worst start through two holes of any golfer in the 34th annual Jim Riggs Memorial Champions golf tournament on Sunday at Cable Hollow Golf Course.

However, the reigning Conewango Valley Country Club champion showed that it was more about how you finish. Nord birdied both No. 17 and No. 18 for the only even finish on the par-71 course to take home his first Jim Riggs Memorial Champions trophy.

“I had the double bogey start which sucked,” Nord said. “I knew I was in the mix and just wanted to see if I could make a couple coming in and just let the chips fall where they do, and they ended up going in.”

Birdies on the par 3 No. 17 and par 5 No. 18 solidified Nord’s position on top of the leaderboard, mirroring his finish on the front 9 when he made up for the difficult start. Nord finished with a birdie on all of the par 5s, shot a 1-over 37 on the front and a 34 on the back for his 71.

Playing out of Conewango Valley Country Club, this was not Nord’s first time playing at Cable Hollow GC, but this was his first trip this season and he managed to reach par on all of the new holes as well as his birdie on the new finish at No. 6.

Ryan Nord hits his driver on No. 3 in his championship-winning performance. Times Observer Photo by Christian Storms

“I have played here. This was the first time I have come to play the new holes this year,” Nord said. “They’ve got some good holes out here and it’s different and it’s fun. It was nice that they had us out.”

While it was Nord’s first time on the course this season, Pinehurst Golf Club champion Darien Swanson made his first visit to Cable Hollow GC in the tournament. The Division I golfer at Mercyhurst University had no trouble his first time through as his 74 grabbed him the runner-up bowl.

“I play a lot of tournaments throughout college and it’s nice to be home and compete with some well-known golfers that are obviously really good,” Swanson stated. “It was tough out here today and I’m just glad to put up a good score.”

Every approach to the tee box was a first for Swanson, but it was the course’s new holes that gave him trouble with three bogeys added to his scorecard on Nos. 5, 11 and 13. He made up for that with three birdies on Nos. 6, 9 and 14, then mistake free golf the rest of the way kept him ahead of defending Riggs Memorial Champion and Cable Hollow Golf Course champion Nicholas Giambrone, who took third with a 75.

“Just birdies on par 5s. I had good looks on the other two, those are big,” Swanson said about his performance. “I only hit a few bad shots. Any round where I hit less than five or six bad shots I know I’m going to be playing pretty solid. I putted fine, I chipped OK. I kind of knew when I made one birdie putt in the end and I felt driver was going well that I would have a chance.”

Darien Swanson hits from the No. 2 tee box in his runner-up performance. Times Observer Photo by Christian Storms

Coming out of the first tee time were Swanson and Maplehurst Country Club champion Chad Swan, and the pair wasted no time on the course getting far ahead of the pack. That distance put them out of earshot when weather forced the tournament into a delay for 15 minutes, but they did take their time when the rain was too difficult to bear.

“We play through everything in college, unless there is lightning, so I just get used to it,” Swanson said. “Honestly, even in high school, I liked playing in the rain. So when it started raining, it’s goofy, but I enjoy it and it doesn’t bother me at all.”

Toughing it out on the front 9 allowed Swanson and Swan to have the brightest finish before the dreadful weather returned. With his final four pars, Swanson took the top score until Nord overtook him, but he still remained ahead of his father and tournament director, Nolan Swanson.

“We talk a lot of smack to each other, pretty much 24/7,” Darien Swanson said about finishing ahead of his dad. “I’m always giving him crap, he’s always giving me crap, so to get one early on him in the summer considering we’ve only played a few together, it’s awesome. Now he can’t come at me anymore. I got into the (New York State Amateur). Before that, he was chirping at me because he got an exemption, so it’s nice to get one on him early, but I know he still gets me a lot so I can’t talk too much.”

Nolan Swanson matched his son’s birdie total, hitting them on Nos. 8, 14 and 17, and took fifth place with a score of 77.

Nicholas Giambrone chips onto the green at No. 2 in his third-place performance. Times Observer Photo by Christian Storms

While Darien Swanson and Swan had the most favorable weather ending the back 9, Giambrone and Moon Brook Country Club champion Jason Stronz battled the elements playing in the final group. Giambrone made the turn as the leader, coming into No. 10 at 1-under thanks to birdies on No. 6 and 8, while Stronz turned at 1-over with a birdie on No. 6.

The duo was unable to replicate that on the back, but Giambrone still managed third with a 75 and Stronz was fourth at 76. Giambrone had trouble with the par 3s on the back 9, collecting a pair of double bogeys and only managing one birdie at No. 12. Stronz also doubled No. 11 and he had bogeys at No. 13 and 16, which put him in fourth place.

The par 3 at No. 11 was the source of a lot of misery for the field as more than half the golfers hit bogey or worse.

The newly constructed finish at No. 6 was greatly received by the golfers as there were seven birdies. There were four birdies on No. 8, and three birdies on No. 9, 12 and 17.

However, the most important birdies belonged to Swan, PJ Gronquist, Jordan Marsh and Josh Harrington as they took home the skins. Swan birdied on No. 3, Gronquist at No. 1, Marsh on No. 10 and Harrington had the best look at No. 5, which is mapped after the No. 16 Redbud at Augusta National Golf Club.

Jason Stronz drives off the No. 9 tee box in his fourth-place performance. Times Observer Photo by Christian Storms

But at the end of the day it was Nord taking home the biggest prize, putting him in an elite group of golfers and giving him the opportunity to come back every year for the title.

“It’s fun,” Nord added about the tournament. “It’s nice to have good scratch tournaments that you can come up and just bang it around without giving up strokes. I’m glad they set it up and all the champs get together and see who can take it.”

It marks another year the first-place bowl stays with a Pennsylvania club champion, heading to Conewango Valley Country Club. Finishing three strokes behind Nord, runner-up Darien Swanson is eager to get back for another shot, but he will have to go through the process of winning his club championship again.

“I’ve been around the last four or five years,” Darien Swanson said about the tournament. “Helping my dad or coming to watch him finish rounds, so I’ve been really into it. I love the tournament. I wanted to play last year, but didn’t get in. Obviously, next year I hope to get a win at our club championship again. We’ve got some good golfers there, but if I do, I would love to come back.”

Ryan Nord 37 34 71

Nicholas Giambrone putts on No. 18 at Cable Hollow Golf Course in the Jim Riggs Memorial Champions on Sunday. Times Observer Photo by Christian Storms

Darien Swanson 38 36 74

Nicholas Giambrone 35 40 75

Jason Stronz 37 39 76

Nolan Swanson 40 37 77

Dan Smith 42 36 78

Josh Harrington 39 39 78

PJ Gronquist 39 39 78

Brenton Wilcox 40 38 78

Nolan Ditcher 38 41 79

Jordan Marsh 41 38 79

Chad Swan 41 39 80

Josh Lindquist 40 40 80

Jeff Eaton 40 42 82

Cable Hollow Golf Course Director of Golf Jacob McCollough stands at the far left of the practice green with the competitors in the Jim Riggs Memorial Champions on Sunday. Times Observer Photo by Christian Storms

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