From Brian Decker, Cantour Communications
Edmonton, AB (ISN) – The CANTOUR’s mini ‘Alberta Swing,’ an exciting time for fans and players alike, gets underway with the ATB Financial Classic presented by TELUS this week. This week’s event in Edmonton represents the largest purse of the season at $175,000, with $150,000 up for grabs next week in Fort McMurray at the Syncrude Boreal Open presented by AECON.
A pair of big name sponsor’s exemptions will also be on hand: former world amateur no. 1 and Jack Nicklaus Award (awarded to the top player in NCAA college golf) winner Matt Hill will tee it up in Edmonton, while two-time RE/MAX World Long Drive Champion Jamie Sadlowski, who added a made cut on the Nationwide Tour last year to his growing playing resume, will be in the field in Fort McMurray.
HOME COURSE ADVANTAGE
Could Barrett Jarosch, Steven Lecuyer or Danny Sahl become part of a growing trend the last four tournaments on the Canadian Tour? Dating back to the Canadian Tour Championship in 2011 a number of players have risen to the occasion at tournaments in their hometowns: Richard Scott of Kingsville, just outside of Windsor, was in the final group on Saturday and Sunday before losing in a playoff to Stu Anderson, while at the final event of the 2011 season in Palm Desert, CA former Canadian Tour member Byron Smith eked out a narrow victory in his hometown. More recently, Cory Renfrew of Victoria played in the final group in Victoria two weeks ago, while Roger Sloan won the unofficial Sun Rivers Pro Am last week in Kamloops a mere 20 minutes from where he grew up. Sloan also won the Western Championship in Kamloops last season.
In addition to Jarosch, Lecuyer and Sahl, other Edmonton players in the field this week include 18-year old rookie Wilson Bateman, who plays at nearby Blackhawk Golf Club, as well Brock Crosson, Jeff Murdoch, Neil Thomas and Cole Chelle.
ROQUE NOT PLAYING LIKE A ROOKIE
Canadian Tour rookie Andrew Roque has had a dream start to his maiden Canadian Tour season. The Monterey Park, CA native took home medalist honours at the California Q-School and then went on to capture the first event of the season at the Times Colonist Island Savings Open with seven consecutive closing birdies and a final round 61. He joined notable alumni Steve Stricker and Spencer Levin who won their first event as rookies on the Canadian Tour.
RENFREW LEADS THE WAY IN CANADIAN ROOKIE RACE
The inaugural race for the Canadian Rookie of the Year sponsored by the Great Waterway Tourism Region is underway, with the top Canadian rookie on the Order of Merit earning a cash bonus and a stay and play package in the Great Waterway Region. But topping this list won’t be easy; Victoria’s Cory Renfrew used a T-2 finish and $11,700 in earnings at the Times Colonist Island Savings Open to lead the competition, while Abbotsford’s Nick Taylor also posted a top-10 and $4,800 to sit in second.
In all, 15 Canadian born rookies will be competing in a season-long race for the title, determined by their position on the Order of Merit at the completion of The Great Waterway Classic (September 3-9, 2012). This year’s crop includes Big Break Indian Wells winner David Byrne, former world amateur no. 1 Nick Taylor, two past Canadian University champions in Mark Hoffman and Cory Renfrew as well as Wilson Bateman, Dan Bowling, Brett Cairns, Ryan Corbin, Adrian Cord, Mitch Evanecz, Thomas Hay, Billy Houle, Steven Lecuyer and Scott Stiles.
2011 Order of Merit leader Jose de Jesus Rodriguez will make his Canadian Tour season debut this week, and while he’ll be looking to improve on the his second-place finish from last year’s ATB Financial Classic, he’ll be hard pressed to have a much better season than last year. Rodriguez won twice early last year, then nearly captured his third title in four events before finishing second to Hugo Leon by a shot in Calgary. He ended up winning $80,227.88 in 10 events, good enough to lead the tour. Rodriguez is certainly a player to watch this week, and if he’s going to repeat last year’s superb performance, look for him to get off to a hot start here this week.
Some other notable players will also be making their CANTOUR season debuts this week. Angel Cabrera Jr., son of two-time major champion Angel Cabrera, is playing his first CANTOUR event, while James Love, the 2009 Tour Championship winner who has spent the year on the Nationwide Tour and was an alternate for last week’s US Open in San Francisco, makes his season debut. Other notable players playing their first CANTOUR event of the year include 2011 Fall Q-School medalist Michael Gligic, two-time winner Kent Eger as well as Dan Buchner, Nico Geyger and Chan Song.
Any players looking to repeat Andrew Roque‘s feat of seven straight birdies to win in Victoria are in for a tough reality check. The closing stretch at Windermere is a challenging test, highlighted by the 602-yard par-5 13th and the 446-yard 18th.
“Our finishing holes are very challenging. The closing stretch requires a lot of solid shots, with not a lot of room for misses, and the greens get more and more challenging as you go on,” said Windermere Head Professional Matt Johnson.
One thing’s for sure: solid golf shots will be an absolute necessity to negotiate the closing stretch.
Joilette, Quebec’s Billy Houle is doing double duty this week, playing the PGA Championship of Canada in Calgary before the ATB Financial Classic presented by TELUS kicks off. The PGA Championship of Canada is a match play tournament, with Houle facing off against Brad Clapp in Tuesday’s first round. If Houle makes it past Clapp and wins his second round match, he’ll have to withdraw from the tournament here in Edmonton – albeit with a very, very good excuse.
This week’s field includes 48 Canadians, 81 Americans and players from 12 other countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Brazil, Chile South Korea, Thailand, Mexico and more.
The only two past champions of the ATB Financial Classic are Hugo Leon and two-time winner Dustin Risdon, whose three Canadian Tour wins have all come in Alberta.
Matt Williams, a 16-year old amateur from Calgary, will be teeing it up this week after earning an exemption via his victory at the Canadian Junior Golf Association’s ATB Financial Classic qualifier.