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Five to Watch at PGA TOUR Canada Q-School at Mission Inn

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Five to Watch at PGA TOUR Canada Q-School at Mission Inn

    Written by PGA TOUR Canada Staff @PGATOURCanada

    HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Florida—Following the conclusion of the first Qualifying Tournament of the 2023 season in Weston, Florida, last week, PGA TOUR Canada heads north to central Florida and the Mission Inn Resort and Club for the second Q-School. Mission Inn’s El Campeon Course is a well-known site for both PGA TOUR Canada and PGA TOUR Latinoamérica qualifiers. It has previously hosted three PGA TOUR Canada qualifiers and a Forme Tour qualifier—for PGA TOUR Canada players. Austin Hitt (2022), Isaiah Salinda (2020) and John Coultas (2019) emerged as medalists from this location and played in Canada, while Luis Gagne (2021) played on the Forme Tour. This year, the 72-hole, Tuesday-to-Friday, no-cut qualifier begins with a completely full field of 132 players competing. Here are five to keep an eye on.

    Griffin Barela

    As the No. 1-ranked junior golfer in Colorado in 2017, Barela graduated from Lakewood High School and headed off to the Badger State, where he signed to play college golf at the University of Wisconsin. He spent four years playing for the Badgers, but it was a win back in his home state, the 2021 Colorado Amateur that stood out as one of his biggest accomplishments of his amateur career. He captured that tournament at the Country Club of Colorado in Colorado Springs by five shots.

    “It was probably one of the, if not the, main highlights of my amateur career,” Barela said. “It was fun to get that checked off my list. I played really well that week, but going into that event, I had had such a bad year or so in golf, that it was a huge turning point for me. I carried that into my senior season.”

    “It’s nerve-wracking playing in Q-School, especially when you don’t have membership anywhere. You are essentially playing for your job, so it’s definitely stressful,” he added. “But, that’s why I chose Mission Inn. I’ve already played it, and the course is very distinctive. It has a difficult stretch, and once you weather that, you can take some momentum into the easier stretches.”

    Barela has also played in one event this season in Latin America, the Scotia Wealth Management Chile Open presented by Volvo, in mid-December. His pair of 70s on the weekend at Hacienda Chicureo Club in Santiago allowed him to finish with a top-10 in his first Tour start.

    “That was big,” Barela continued. “I was just going into that week looking for solid event. To end tied for eighth was a big confidence boost, and I’m looking to carry that through the rest of the season. I’ve taken a bit of time off since then, spending my winter in Tampa and getting more comfortable on Bermuda grass. I hadn’t had very much exposure to it in the north, and there are a lot of Q-Schools down here, so it’s nice to get more familiar with how it plays on and around the greens. I’m definitely looking forward to this week. To get status on PGA TOUR Canada and to test my game against the players in those fields would be huge.”

    Zack Gordon

    Raised in Gaffney, South Carolina, Gordon didn’t start playing golf until he was 13. He went on to play in high school and was named the 2017-18 National Coaches Association Male Senior High School Golfer of the Year. He was the first golfer from South Carolina to win the award, with past winners including Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Brian Harman. Gordon also won the 5A South Carolina State Golf Championship in 2018 after shooting a 128 for 36 holes, breaking the previous 5A 36-hole record of 136 set by current PGA TOUR player Bill Haas. Gordon had rounds of 66-62 to win the state title, shooting 30 on the back side when he shot the 62, with 10 birdies overall in the round. His Gaffney High team won the tournament by 28 shots.

    That same year, Gordon qualified for the 2018 U.S. Amateur, at Pebble Beach, by earning co-medalist honors at his U.S. Amateur qualifying site. He also was recruited to play golf at Clemson and will always be remembered for making the winning 25-foot putt on the 21st hole in his match against Florida State’s Greyson Porter that gave Clemson the 2021 ACC Championship title in Atlanta. As an amateur, he has been ranked as high as No. 126 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

    David Nyfjäll

    Nyfjäll was raised in Sweden and won his first international title, the 2013 Finnish Junior International Championship, at the age of 14. In 2018, he became the first male player to win both the Swedish Junior Matchplay Championship and the Swedish Junior Strokeplay Championship in the same year. (PGA TOUR veteran Jonas Blixt had previously won both tournaments, but not in the same season.) That same year, Nyfjäll accepted a golf scholarship to Northwestern University. He earned Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Year after two individual titles and a 71.72 stroke, the lowest average for any first-year Wildcat in program history.

    In 2021, Nyfjäll advanced to the round of 16 at the 2021 U.S. Amateur at Oakmont Country Club, after triumphing in a 12-man playoff for the last match-play spot. In 2022, he won the Big Ten Championship by firing a 1-under 215 at the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort. He was the only golfer in the 72-man field to finish the weekend under par, becoming Northwestern’s first medalist at the event since David Lipsky in 2010. Nyfjäll, who’s still at Northwestern playing his fifth and final year, has been ranked as high as No. 94 in the WAGR.

    John Pak

    Pak was raised in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, attending Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School for one year before moving to Orlando, Florida, for golf. Prior to college, he earned Rolex Junior first-team All-American honors by the American Junior Golf Association. In 2017, he began playing collegiate golf for Florida State. During his four years at FSU, Pak won eight individual tournament titles.

    As a Seminole senior in 2021, Pak picked up three NCAA Division I national Player of the Year awards—the Jack Nicklaus Award, the Ben Hogan Award and Fred Haskins Award–becoming only the sixth player in history to sweep the three major honors. Also, as the nation’s top college golfer, he was the No. 1 player in the PGA TOUR University Class of 2021 and earned immediate Korn Ferry Tour status. He played only PGA TOUR events in 2021, making one cut, at the Barracuda Championship, where he tied for 39th. He was able to retain membership through Q-School for the 2022 Korn Ferry Tour season. Last year, he played in 16 Korn Ferry Tour events, making eight cuts and recording one top-25.

    Ben Sigel

    Raised in Deephaven, Minnesota, Sigel led his high school to the 2016 Minnesota Class 3A State Championship, and he was the individual medalist, winning the title by six strokes. He finished state runner-up individually in 2017 and was named Mr. Golf in 2017 by the Minnesota Golf Association as the year’s best high school golfer.

    Sigel then went on to the University of Kansas, where he played for four years and was teammates with brothers Charlie and Harry Hillier, who are now playing on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica. In late, 2022, Sigel also qualified for the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, tying for 20th at Qualifying Tournament in Ocala, Florida, earning conditional PGA TOUR Latinoamérica status. He has yet to see action on that circuit.

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