Brian Decker – PGA Tour Canada
July 1, 2013, Dakota Dunes Open (ISN) – Following the cancellation of the ATB Financial Classic presented by TELUS due to torrential rains and flooding in the Calgary area, PGA TOUR Canada’s inaugural season resumes at the sixth playing of the Dakota Dunes Open presented by SaskTel.
There’s plenty on the line as players begin a stretch of three tournaments in three weeks, after which the top three players on the Order of Merit will be exempt into the RBC Canadian Open. Two years ago, Adam Hadwin got in the field through the Order of Merit and went on to claim the Rivermead Cup as low Canadian, while last year Order of Merit leader Matt Hill went on to finish T-73.
Tale of the Tape
Dakota Dunes Golf Links
Par 72 – 36/36 – 7,301 yards
Designed: Graham Cooke – 2004
Course Record: 61 – Cody Slover (2010)
Chase for The Five heats up
With one event in the books, the race for the top five spots on the Order of Merit is underway. Times Colonist Island Savings Open winner Stephen Gangluff leads the way after opening week victory, putting himself in solid position to contend for one of the five Web.com Tour cards in 2014. The current standings are as follows:
1. Stephen Gangluff – $27,000
2. Tyler Aldridge – $16,500
3. Riley Wheeldon – $9,000
T-4. Nick Taylor – $5,906.25
T-4. Devin Carrey – $5,906.25
T-4. Matt Marshall – $5,906.25
T-4. David Skinns – $5,906.25
Begay returns to PGA TOUR Canada
Four-time PGA TOUR winner and PGA TOUR Canada alumnus Notah Begay III will tee it up this week at the Dakota Dunes Open presented by SaskTel, returning to compete on PGA TOUR Canada for the first time since the 2011 Desert Dunes Classic and for only the second time since 1997. Begay, who first earned PGA TOUR Canada status in 1996, will also be speaking and performing a clinic for 24 First Nations youth from the Whitecap Dakota First Nation.
Other Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority sponsor’s exemptions for the week include Tyler Frank, Ian Ford, Dean Browl, Arden Knoll, Jerry Christiansen, Mackenzie Hughes and Justin Shin.
Tough test and exciting finish at Dakota Dunes
At over 7,300 yards, Dakota Dunes Golf Links is the longest course PGA TOUR Canada players will face all season. The course includes several risk-reward opportunities, including two reachable par-5s in the last three holes, meaning this week’s champion will need to make plenty of birdies down the stretch in order to win. Last year, Matt Hill and Will Strickler both birdied the 16th and 18th holes before going into a playoff, which Hill won with a birdie on the fourth extra hole.
Past champions on their way up
Since the Dakota Dunes Open presented by SaskTel’s first playing in 2008, three of its five winners have moved on to the PGA TOUR or Web.com Tour. 2009 winner Andres Gonzales went on to win the Soboba Golf Classic on the Web.com Tour last season and is playing the PGA TOUR this year, while 2010 champ Will Wilcox earned his first Web.com Tour win this season at the South Georgia Classic. Last year’s winner Matt Hill went on to win Order of Merit honours, then played his way to the Web.com Tour, where his best finish this season is a tie for 15th at the Air Capital Classic.
‘Jorgito’ arrives in Canada
After sorting out some Visa issues, PGA TOUR Latinamérica star Jorge Fernandez-Valdes will make his PGA TOUR Canada debut this week. Currently second on Latinoamérica’s Order of Merit and its youngest-ever winner at age 20, the smooth-swinging Argentine comes to Canada looking to lock up his place in The Five on both Tours.
Other Latinoamérica standouts in the field include Order of Merit leader Jose de Jesus Rodriguez, who finished tied for third in Saskatoon last year, along with Adam Cornelson, Derek Gillespie, Maximilliano Godoy, Sebastian Saavedra, Brad Tilley, Jose Toledo, Hugo Leon, Martin Ureta and Alan Wagner.
Former Golf Canada stars lead sponsor’s exemptions
As part of PGA TOUR Canada’s ongoing relationship with Golf Canada to develop elite-level players, two members or recent graduates of Golf Canada’s National Amateur Team will tee it up in each of the first seven PGA TOUR Canada events. 2011 and 2012 Canadian Amateur champ Mackenzie Hughes will follow up his US Open appearance at Country Hills this week along with 2010 Ontario Amateur champion and Kent State star Corey Conners.
Albin Choi finished in the top-20 at the Times Colonist Island Savings Open under one of the Golf Canada exemptions, allowing him to play his way into this week’s event.
* = PGA TOUR Canada member
Bold denotes Canadian
1. Josh Creel – 63*
2. Derek Berg – 64*
T-3. Mark Baldwin – 66
T-3. Brett McNallie – 66
T-3. Bobby Kalinowski – 66*
T-3. Nick Travers – 66
7. Scott Stiles – 67
T-8. Clint Schiller – 68
T-8. Matt Johnston – 68
T-8. Conrad Shindler* – 68
Graham DeLaet and James Driscoll led the list of PGA TOUR Canada alumni at last week’s AT&T National on the PGA TOUR, finishing tied for eighth. The field at this week’s Greenbrier Classic features 26 PGA TOUR Canada alumni, including 2009 Dakota Dunes Open champion Andres Gonzales.
This week’s field includes 55 Canadians, 71 Americans and players from 17 countries including Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Guatemala, England, Scotland, Switzerland, Germany, Thailand, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.