Steady Koprivica rallies for win
Steady Koprivica rallies for win

Don Barnett Memorial

There was just one thing steadier than the light rain falling at the Missoula Country Club on Monday: Gary Koprivica's golf game.

Koprivica fashioned a 2-over par 73 that was good enough for his second title in three years in the 65th Don Barnett Memorial Golf Tournament.

His even-par 213 total for three rounds was two strokes better than Bill Dunn, a fellow Country Club member, and kept the title in the MCC family for the eighth consecutive time. Livingston's Reid Lende, who plays collegiately at Wyoming, took a three-stroke lead into the final round, but shot a 42 on the back nine to finish at 216, along with Missoula's Brian Sheridan.

It was another two strokes back to Rick Kloepfer of Boise and Missoula's Dave Lawston, last year's runner-up. Defending champion Mark Nedrud of Missoula was 15th, 15 strokes behind.

Koprivica, a general manager for Bob Ward's Sporting Goods, won the 1997 title with the exact same score and went on to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open later that year. Could the Barnett title be an omen?

"I'm going to try," said Koprivica, who was paired with Gary Player in the first round of the '97 Open. "The qualifying is in the latter part of June in Salt Lake City."

This year's title didn't appear to be in the cards when Koprivica fell five shots behind Lende after just four holes. Lende, long and straight off the tee, was even par through seven holes before faltering with his irons. He hit his approach to No. 8 thin, then three-putted for a bogey. His approach on No. 9 was short right and he failed to get up and down.

"I just didn't play my game," Lende said. "I let too many things affect me early, starting with that three-putt on No. 8."

Things got worse. Lende three-putted for bogey on No. 11, bogeyed No. 12 after his tee shot was buried in the front left bunker, then double-bogeyed No. 13 after finding the trees off the tee. Koprivica, meanwhile, parred the first four holes on the back and assumed the lead after Lende's double on No. 13.

"I was just playing my game, getting pars and hoping for a few birdies along the way," said Koprivica, who said he dedicated his win to a couple of friends - Topper and Ramsey - who are in the hospital. "Anything can happen on a day like today. When the day started, I thought I would have to shoot a 67 or 68 to be in contention. When the weather turned, I said to my wife on No. 10 that one under would have a chance."

Lende double -bogeyed the long par-4 14th hole to fall out of contention. Koprivica slammed the door on Dunn with a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th, giving him a three-stroke lead heading to the final hole.

Rain and a stiff wind Monday made playing conditions tough. Just two players - Kloepfer with a 68 and Lawston with a 69 - broke par in the final round.

Tuesday - 6/1/99

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