Gunn’s ablazin’

Scotsman beats out the local to win Navajo Trail

By the time a rainbow appeared above the ridge Sunday evening, the Navajo Trail Open had the race to the finish tournament directors drool over.

In one corner, the local hero. In the other, the long-driving Scotsman. With several others nipping at their heels.

And it was good to the last putt.

Tied heading to the 18th hole, Jimmy Gunn’s par bested Devin Schreiner’s bogey to give the Scotland-born Gunn a one-stroke victory at 7-under par 206 at the 52nd Navajo Trail Open on Sunday at Hillcrest Golf Club.

The day started with Ryan Hogue a shot up on Gunn and Blayne Hobbs, with Devin Schreiner and Jeff Berkshire two shots back. The other three stayed within one or two shots most of the way along the back nine, but it was Gunn and Schreiner, playing in different groups, that refused to come back to the pack.

Schreiner finally pulled ahead in the see-saw struggle on the par-5 17th hole, chipping to within 10 feet, then burying the birdie putt to move to 7-under.

But Gunn, who had come agonizingly close to burying numerous earlier birdie opportunities, finally landed a big one, matching Schreiner with a birdie of his own on the 17th moments later.

“That was probably the hardest putt I made. Just a nasty slider, fast, but luckily I made it,” Gunn said.

Schreiner was in position on the 18th to finish off a nice up-and-down for par after a strong chip from just off the front of the green. But it wasn’t to be for the Durango native, as the tricky greens at Hillcrest claimed another victim, and his putt rimmed out before he tapped in for bogey.

“It was a slippery putt. It’s probably one of the toughest putts to make when you’re trying to win a tournament,” Schreiner said. “Downhill, left-to-right for a right-hander that is, anyways. I hit a good putt; I just hit it through the break.

Gunn, in the following and final group, wasn’t out of the woods yet, however. His approach on the 18th hole landed on the fringe above the hole, leaving him with a speedy downhill putt that if he hit it just a bit too hard could’ve rolled down the hill and made his own par putt a stomach-churner.

But that didn’t come to pass either as Gunn cooly putted to within two feet, leaving him the best shot in golf – a tap-in for the win.

“It was fast,” Gunn said. “I knew it was fast. I actually hit that putt in the practice round, so I knew that green was really fast left-to-right, so I kind of coaxed it down there.”

A bogey-free final round of 68 was the key for Gunn, who now resides in Phoenix and plays on the All-American Gateway Tour. He was frustrated by the lack of birdies early, but it didn’t translate into any mistakes. Gunn finally built a little bit of momentum with consecutive birdies on the 10th and 11th holes, thrusting himself to the top of the leaderboard after Hobbs and Hogue reached the top earlier in the round.

The main reason for his steady play? His work off the tee. Gunn’s long drives often left him with chips or wedge shots to reach the green in regulation on a short Hillcrest course.

“I hit it well over 300 (yards) up here,” Gunn said. “Driving’s just the best part of my game. I hit it so far and so long and straight, you would think I’d be 20 under the way I drive it down here.”

Schreiner also fired a 68 in the final round, getting to 6 under for the tournament on the eighth hole before a string of pars. But the final hole proved to be his nemesis, including Sunday. He had a double bogey on 18 on Friday and consecutive bogeys to finish Saturday.

“Honestly, I just didn’t finish well all three days,” he said. “If I would’ve finished well all three days, I would’ve won by four or five.”

Gavin Lyons finished as the low amateur after his round of 66 on Sunday allowed him to finish at 3-under 210.

Hogue, who got as low as 7 under on the front nine, fired a 72 to tie with Hobbs, Berkshire and Jeff Roth for fourth place at 4-under 209. Tom Kalinowski and Zahkai Brown tied for seventh at 3-under 210.