( Victoria, B.C.) – Toronto, Ontario’s Albin Choi carded a 5-under 65 on Friday at Uplands Golf Club to take the solo 36-hole lead at the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada’s Bayview Place Island Savings Open.
The 23-year old carded six birdies and a bogey to reach 11-under par and build a three shot lead over North Vancouver, British Columbia’s Eugene Wong after three rounds in Victoria.
“To get off to such a good start today got the ball rolling early, and I just felt great out there,” said Choi, who birdied four of his first five holes and led by as many as five shots on Friday. “I had no clue to be honest. I was just trying to stay in my bubble out there. I knew I was in a good spot, but I had no idea I was separating myself from some of the players.”
For the second straight Saturday, Choi will play in the final group after holding solo second place through 36 holes at last week’s PC Financial Open. Though he fell to a 1-over 73 at Point Grey Golf and Country Club in that round, Choi said the experience would be helpful heading into the weekend in Victoria.
“It was nice being in the final group on Saturday at Point Grey. There was a great crowd, it was a nice atmosphere and I’m kind of hoping for and expecting the same thing here,” said Choi, who went on to finish T10 for his first Mackenzie Tour top-10 finish. “Last week doing it once, I’m glad to put myself back in contention again and it’s great to be in the mix.”
The 2010 Canadian Amateur Champion and a member of Golf Canada’s Young Pro Squad, Choi played on the Web.com Tour in 2014 but finished outside the top-100 on the money list to lose status. This spring has been a strong one for Choi, however, with medalist honours at this year’s Florida Qualifying Tournament to go along with two wins on the SwingThought.com Tour.
“Apparently what I’ve been doing has been working pretty good,” Choi joked while saying he wouldn’t try to get ahead of himself on the tricky Uplands layout. “I’m just going to make aggressive swings to smart targets. You really don’t need to try and overpower this golf course. You just need to take what it gives you and play smart.”
Wong, who has posted three top-10 finishes in four starts on the PGA TOUR China Series this spring, carded four birdies and one bogey to hold solo second at 8-under. The two-time Mackenzie Tour winner said playing several events heading into his season debut in Canada would be helpful in the heat of battle this weekend.
“It’s definitely a good thing having a few starts under my belt. I know that I’ve competed very well over the past few weeks, and I know that my game can stack up to most players now,” said Wong.
Seven players, including Victoria native Cory Renfrew, were five back of Choi in a tie for third at 6-under par through 54 holes.
NUMBERS YOU NEED TO KNOW
60: Players to make the 36-hole cut at 1-under, the smallest number of players to do so since the cut size was changed to 60 from 55 in 2014. Monday
Qualifier Aaron Cockerill of Gunton, Manitoba, moved the cut from even par to 1-under with a birdie on his final hole of the day, knocking out 18 players.
3: Albin Choi’s lead through 36 holes, tied for the largest of the PGA TOUR era on the Mackenzie Tour with Joel Dahmen at last year’s Syncrude Boreal Open presented by AECON.
4: Canadians T3 or better heading into the weekend: Albin Choi (1), Eugene Wong (2), Cory Renfrew (T3) and Adam Cornelson (T3).
“Last year on the Web.com Tour, I saw some of my friends – Justin Thomas was one – just playing as consistent as could be. You don’t have to win every event, but dad gum you better make every cut and you better play well. Whether I win, come in second or 45th, there’s not going to be one shot of ‘quit’ the whole year.” – Mackenzie Tour rookie Jared Wolfe, who fired the round of the week with a 7-under 63 to share third spot.
“Last year taught me a lot – that I could stay in the heat of the battle and play, and that changed my goals a little bit. Obviously I didn’t have a great Sunday last week [at the PC Financial Open, where he shot 77 on Sunday to finish T49], but I think that was just a little bump and I feel like I can compete out here and win, and I hope to do that this year.” – Langley, B.C.’s Adam Cornelson, who finished with two top-five finishes in his last three starts in 2014.
- Weather: 18 degrees Celsius. Sunny. Winds 18 km/h.
- First round co-leaders Taylor Pendrith (T41) and Dan Buchner (T15) fell to rounds of 75 and 72, respectively.
- Aaron Cockerill turned pro this week after open qualifying for the event on Monday.
- The last 36-hole winner to go on to win on the Mackenzie Tour is Ryan Williams at the 2014 Freedom 55 Financial Championship.
- Four of 12 36-hole leaders went on to win on the Mackenzie Tour in 2014.
- Click here for agate scores.
- Click here for online scores.
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