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  • Former caddie Vincent takes early lead at California Q-School

  • Jake Vincent leads Hunter Epson by a shot and the trio of Americans Hayden Hui and Philip Barbaree and Finland’s Otto Vanhatalo by two strokes. (Media/PGA TOUR)
    Jake Vincent leads Hunter Epson by a shot and the trio of Americans Hayden Hui and Philip Barbaree and Finland’s Otto Vanhatalo by two strokes. (Media/PGA TOUR)
  • In This Article
  • SAN JACINTO, California—Back in January, Jake Vincent was walking the fairways during three PGA TOUR events—The American Express, the Farmers Insurance Open and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, carrying the bag for TOUR player Brett Drewitt. A little more than two months later, Vincent was showing he has a little game himself, firing a 6-under 66 to take the opening-round lead in PGA TOUR Canada’s fifth of seven Qualifying Tournaments. The former Southern Utah University golfer, who lives in Palm Springs, leads Hunter Epson by a shot and the trio of Americans Hayden Hui and Philip Barbaree and Finland’s Otto Vanhatalo by two strokes.

    It was a one-eagle, five-birdie, one-bogey performance by Vincent who is more than familiar with Soboba Springs Golf Course. “I played a Golden Stater (Tour) here a couple of days ago. I felt like I had a little better read on the greens today,” Vincent explained. “I’m still struggling to read them.”

    Looking at his scorecard and the way he navigated his way around the course, you couldn’t tell. His eagle came at No. 7, where he made a putt after hitting his 6-iron approach to 15 feet.

    “I was lucky it went in because I hit it a little hard,” he said of the putt.

    “I still text Brett, and he helps me on things like bunkers and other parts of my game,” said Vincent of the new friendship. One of Drewitt’s friends knows Vincent’s roommate, Casey Scott, who is caddying for him this week, and they put Drewitt together with Vincent. While the three weeks was a great learning experience, Vincent’s goal is to one day join Drewitt on the PGA TOUR. Vincent is taking his first steps trying to get on PGA TOUR Canada.

    Eight years ago, Drewitt was in a similar position, leaving his native Australia to play on PGA TOUR Series-China. Drewitt made every cut that season (12) and moved to the Korn Ferry Tour and eventually to the top level of golf.

    Epson is also looking for a place to play since graduating from Long Beach State. “I accomplished my goal,” Epson said of his first-round play. “I said to myself before the round, Keep it easy out there. I didn’t really put myself in any trouble. I only missed one green, and that was off the back edge.”

    His bogey-free morning under ideal conditions did appear effortless. Epson started off No. 10, and birdied his second hole of the day, what he called a 15-foot swinger. “That settled me for the day,” he said after that putt dropped. Four pars followed, with birdies on Nos. 16 and 18. He made the turn at 3-under and added birdies on his 15th and the 17th, rolling in a 12-footer.

    Even with Forme Tour status last year, he didn’t get into any tournaments, and he tried to Monday qualify into those 2021 events, to no avail, as well. “I just want to get some status somewhere where I can move up,” he continued.

    Hui’s highlight of his first round was a “ridiculous 30-foot putt” he made for birdie on No. 11. The putt had 10 feet of break to it, one he wasn’t thinking of making. But with five feet to go, Hui thought, Hey, that’s on a good line there, “and it went straight in the hole.” It was one of five birdies against one bogey on his opening round.

    Did you know in June 2021, Hunter Epson won a Golden State Tour tournament at Soboba Springs. He fired opening and closing 68s, with a 6-under 66 in the middle of the 54-hole event, to finish two strokes ahead of Austin Bautista. Epson won $7,500 in his first professional start, but said for his career path, the victory was more meaningful. “Both are definitely important, and the cash is nice. But it’s definitely the win. I feel like if you play good golf, the money will come,” he said.

    Key Information 

    How the Tournament Works 

    There are 106 players in this field. Below is a breakdown of the various PGA TOUR Canada membership statuses available this week.   

    Finish Position

    Status

    Medalist

    Exempt membership for the 2022 season

    2nd through 9th (no ties)

     

    Exempt through the reshuffle, which will occur approximately halfway through the season

    10th through 30th (plus ties)

    Conditional membership

    • There are 21 amateurs playing this week. Leading the way is James Song, tied for sixth after shooting a 3-under 69. Song plays for the University of California and is No. 130 in the latest PGA TOUR University rankings. Here is how all 21 amateurs fared in the first round.

     

    Player

    Score

    T6

    James Song (U.S.)

    69

    T14

    Cameron Sisk (U.S.)

    70

    T20

    Jack Avrit (U.S.)

    71

    T20

    Mason Glinski (U.S.)

    71

    T20

    Lingkun Kong (China)

    71

    T20

    Calvin Green (U.S.)

    71

    T29

    Camden Price (U.S.)

    72

    T29

    Berchman Harvey (U.S.)

    72

    T29

    Josh Wilson (U.S.)

    72

    T39

    Kyle Suppa (U.S.)

    73

    T39

    Eddy Lai (U.S.)

    73

    T62

    Noah Goodwin (U.S.)

    75

    T73

    Grant Engle (U.S.)

    76

    T73

    Winston Wang (China)

    76

    T73

    Tailin Song (China)

    76

    T73

    Hugo Amsallem (France)

    76

    T88

    Joey Herrera (U.S.)

    78

    T88

    Michael Ordona (U.S.)

    78

    T88

    Christopher Goin (Sweden)

    78

    T102

    Arthur Thompson II (U.S.)

    83

    104

    Jeong In Park (Australia)

    84

    • Players in this week’s field come from 15 different countries and territories. There are three Canadians playing this week: Kaleb Gorbahn (69), Samuel Diamond (76) and Tristan Renaud (77). The leading non-American, non-Canadian player through 18 holes, is Finland’s Otto Vanhatalo. He opened with a 4-under 68 and is tied for third.

    • Last year while still an amateur, Hunter Epson earned 2021 PGA TOUR Canada status that became Forme Tour membership, tying for 20th at Soboba Springs. He opened and closed with 2-under 70s that week but struggled in the second and third rounds (74-75).

    • Philip Barbaree had a nice finish to his opening round, even though he finished par-par-par. On No. 16, he had to get up and down after missing the green in regulation, draining a seven-foot par putt. On the closing par-5 18th, his third-shot, pitching-wedge approach went long. After chipping, he faced a 15-footer for par that he rolled in. Barbaree recorded a 3-under 69 and is tied for third through 18 holes.

    • Last week, Philip Barbaree, a former LSU golfer, played in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Lake Charles Championship in Louisiana. He received a sponsor’s exemption but missed the cut. After not playing on the weekend, he traveled to Dallas before coming to California. While in Texas, he visited with his dentist and made an appointment for wisdom-teeth extraction following this event.

    • At 1-over through 11 holes, American Sarosh Adi was looking for a spark, and he got it with a streak of four birdies in a row, starting at No. 3 (his 12th hole of the day). Following his run, he parred out for a 3-under 69 that left him tied for sixth.

    • Anthony Truong is looking to become the first player from Vietnam to hold PGA TOUR Canada status. The native of Ho Chi Minh City and a Vietnam national team member for seven years, began his college career at Arizona State before transferring to the Cal-Irvine. Truong is among a group of eight players tied for sixth, at 3-under.

    • A year ago, Norman Xiong, the former University of Oregon All-American, had one bad round at Soboba Springs at the 2021 Qualifying Tournament. His third-round 78 dropped him from contention, but a 72-67 start, followed by a closing 69 left him tied for eighth a year ago. He ended up playing on the 2021 Forme Tour. Xiong got off to a better start than a year ago with his opening 69 Tuesday, good for a tie for sixth.

    • After an errant drive on No. 12 and a punch out to just short of the green, Hayden Hui, of Chinese and Indonesian descent, couldn’t get up and down for par. It was his only bogey of the day for the former University of San Diego golfer, who attended the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Qualifying Tournament in Florida last year but didn’t earn any status.

    • Jacob Bridgeman, the medalist at the Alabama PGA TOUR qualifier, and Parker Gillam, who earned PGA TOUR Canada status at the Florida Qualifying Tournament, both played well this week at The Calusa Cup college tournament in Naples, Florida. Bridgeman tied for fourth, while Gillam finished alone in eighth. Steve Sugimoto of San Diego State, who earned conditional PGA TOUR Canada status last week in Arizona, tied for second at the Wyoming Cowboy Classic in Chandler, Arizona. He finished a stroke behind winner Isaac Rodea of Long Beach State.

    Quotable

    “I’m getting ready for my moment.” –Jake Vincent

    “I’m just trying to get better. I’ll put a peg in in the morning and see what I can shoot.” –Jake Vincent on taking the lead into the second round

    “It wasn’t like I was going to help him read putts. It was the first time I had ever seen those greens.” –Jake Vincent on caddying for Brett Drewitt on the PGA TOUR

    “I really think spending three weeks with Brett helped me the most. When I was caddying, I was focused on Brett, but I watched the other players. I just watched how Brett went about his work, how he made a peanut-butter-and-jelly (sandwich) before his round and how he got ready for golf tournaments vs. just playing golf. I think I learned a lot.” –Jake Vincent on his three weeks earlier this year caddying on the PGA TOUR

    “So far, so good. I’m stoked right now.” –Hayden Hui on his opening 68

    “I was hitting the ball really well and giving myself a lot of good birdie chances.” –Hayden Hui

    “I really got off to a good start. I hit a lot of shots really good toward the middle of the green and was able to hole some putts early.” –Philip Barbaree

    “It’s always nice when you start well. It frees you up for the rest of the round.” –Philip Barbaree

    First-Round Weather: Sunny and cool in the morning warming as the day progressed. High of 84. Wind SSW at 1-3 mph.