With some last-minute luck — and an eagle on the 18th hole — a team of local golfers have won their way into the PGA Scramble National Final this fall.
Jason Branton of Edmonton; Scott Lancaster of Morinville; and Clarke Ball, Daniel Requa, and Dan Stephen, of St. Albert, punched their ticket to the final in Cape Breton, N.S., this October by winning the Alberta North PGA Scramble Regional Final in Ponoka on Aug 16, and before that, the PGA Scramble Local Qualifier held at the Cardiff Golf and Country Club on July 30.
The team clinched their victory in Ponoka with a two-metre putt for eagle on the last hole after Requa drove the green.
"Once we saw where the ball had ended up, we started getting excited because we kind of figured a birdie would [win] it," Requa said. "Once that went in it was the biggest celebration of the day for sure.
"I don’t think any of us could sleep that night, up to 3 or 4 a.m. just texting each other,” Requa said.
Requa has been trying to win his way to the National Scramble Final since 2017, and in 2020, he and his team did win the regional qualifier in Jasper, but the corresponding national tournament was cancelled due to the pandemic. In 2021, Requa said the team "didn’t have the gut to play anymore” after finally qualifying for nationals only to have a pandemic crush the dream.
"It’s been so crazy close so many times," he said.
This summer, Requa managed to throw together a team at the last minute, as many of his teammates from previous years couldn't make it.
"I knew the three other guys, but they never met each other," Requa said of this year's crew. "They all got introduced on the first tee [in Cardiff]."
Requa knew Ball and Stephen through their shared profession: education.
Requa is the principal of Four Winds Public School in Morinville; Stephen is the principal of Camilla School in Riviere Qui Barre; and Ball is a teacher at Lilian Schick School in Bon Accord, where Requa began his teaching career.
Branton and Requa are childhood friends.
"We didn’t have high expectations, we just wanted to go for a fun round of golf,” Requa said. “We’re not great golfers, it was just one good shot every time."
The scramble format for team golf can be thought of as "best ball." Each player shoots from the same position, but the team chooses only one of the shots to count towards the team's score. Essentially, a team four gets four chances to hit a good shot.
After the group of four won July's qualifier, Scott Lancaster, the resident golf pro at the Cardiff course, joined the team per the PGA Scramble Regional Final rules.
For the national finals the team will play three rounds at Cabot Cape Breton, a resort with two courses listed on Golf Digest's 100 best courses in the world.
“I’m just giddy to walk on it and look at it and feel what it feels like,” Requa said. “We’ve watched every fly-over of the course [and] every review of the course on YouTube.”
The team won't have much time to get any practice in before the trip as Ball, Requa, and Stephen will be settling in to the school year.
“Now that we’re back in school my practice time is going to be limited," Stephen said, adding he will "try to get out as much as I can in the couple weeks leading up to it and hopefully we get some good weather that cooperates.”
Win or lose, Stephen said going to Nova Scotia to play at Cabot will be a trip of a lifetime.
“We’ll have some stories to share after that’s for sure,” he said.
Requa can hardly wait.
“I love playing scramble golf, I love playing team golf, I think it’s so fun," Requa said. "I’m almost as excited for three days of doing that with friends.
“I wish it was tomorrow I’m so excited.”