Jensen remembers late friends with county title
KANKAKEE — Damon Jensen could hear his late friends, Pat Albey and Phil Cernick, calling him a “candya--” every time he came up short on a putt during the weekend.
Those light-humored memories of his late golf buddies helped Jensen win his second career Kankakee County Men’s Amateur Golf Championship on Sunday at Kankakee Elks Country Club.
“I really felt, more than anything today, that they were walking the course with me,” said Jensen, a 50-year-old golf coach at Trinity Christian College. “They would call me something whenever I left a birdie putt short. I really heard that voice in my head today. I had some putts fall short, and I felt their presence.”
Jensen shot a 76 on Saturday and a 71 on Sunday for a two-day total of 144.
Jensen struggled off the tee on the first day of the tournament but managed to stay within two strokes of the leader, Brad Dulin, going into Sunday’s action. In the final 18 holes, he simplified his game by focusing on hitting the fairways and greens and letting the putts take their course.
“I felt a little calmer,” Jensen said. “Sometimes, it’s easier being the chaser rather than the chasee. I was just trying to get off to a good start and put a little pressure on Brad. Fortunately, I was able to do that.”
However, fellow Elks member Rick Deany didn’t give it to Jensen easily. Deany surged in the final 18 holes, shooting par to finish three strokes behind Jensen. Jensen finished one stroke under par on the final 18 holes.
“I knew I had a chance, but I didn’t know how close it was,” Deany said. “I figured it had to be close because someone kept taking our picture. But Damon is a great player. I’ve played with him a few times out here. It was good to see him win.”
Deany’s climb on the leader board placed some added pressure on Jensen going into the back nine Sunday.
“When I reached the turn and saw he shot 36, I really felt like I had to step it up on the back,” Jensen said. “The back is my least favorite of the two nines. Fortunately, I played one of the best rounds I’ve played in years, and it happened to fall on the right day.
“To do it here with everything that has happened in the past year makes this county title mean a lot more to me than the first.”