Late eagle lifts Sear to lead in B.C.
April 26, 2022
By PGA TOUR Canada Staff , PGATOURCANADA.COM
- April 26, 2022
- Mar Sear carded a 6-under 66 to grab the opening round lead at Crowne Isle Resort and Golf. (Media/PGA TOUR)
COURTENAY, British Columbia—Max Sear’s opening round of PGA TOUR Canada’s final Qualifying Tournament, at Crowne Isle Resort and Golf on Tuesday was going along quite well. He birdied the 14th hole to get to 4-under, but he hadn’t done anything spectacular. He decided to make something happen. Sear poured in a 25-foot eagle putt on that hole, and that 3-under stretch moved him to 6-under overall. That’s where the Markham, Ontario, native who lives in Victoria, finished, and that was good for a one-stroke lead over Canada’s Riley Wheeldon. A quartet of players—Canadians Jimmy Jones, Brendan MacDougall and Jared du Toit and Australian Will Barnett—are two strokes back with 54 holes still to play.
As he walked to the 15th tee, Sear noticed something. Officials had moved the tees quite a bit forward to where he played his practice rounds. Hmmmm.
“They had the tee up, and I thought they probably won’t be up every day, so I might as well hit driver and see if I could get something going,” the former West Virginia University golfer said. After sending his drive down the fairway, he had a 220-yard second shot on the par-5, and he pulled a 4-iron. “I hit it to 25 feet and made the putt,” he said.
A year ago, playing in the series of tournaments designed for players in Canada, Sear was a hard-luck runner-up finisher to Michael Blair at the Prince Edward Island Open. The duo finished regulation tied, with Blair winning with a birdie on the first extra hole. He’s already put himself in position for a win with his stellar first-round play.
In his career, Sear has only played in three events that offer Official World Golf Ranking Points: two 2019 PGA TOUR Canada events and the 2022 Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA TOUR, an event Sear played via Monday qualifying. He missed the cut in all three.
Wheeldon made a last-minute decision to enter this week’s tournament. Wheeldon learned the game at Crowne Isle, and his local knowledge showed in the opening round as he birdied the first two holes, parred No. 3 then almost made a hole-in-one on No 4. He finished the stretch by adding another birdie, on No. 5. That blistering beginning left Wheeldon near the top of the leaderboard, which came as something of a surprise to him.
“I’m obviously happy with my round. I came into today without a whole lot of expectations despite knowing this place pretty well. I haven’t been playing a whole lot,” Wheeldon explained. “I got off to a dream start, that shook off the nerves a little bit and gave me some breathing room.”
Did you know Australia’s Will Barnett, playing for the College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California, won the SoCal Intercollegiate and the Tim Tierney Pioneer Shootout two weeks apart in March 2019?
There were 95 players in this week’s field. Below is a breakdown of the various PGA TOUR Canada membership statuses available this week.
There are seven amateurs playing at Crowne Isle Resort. Leading the way is Jeevan Sihota, tied for ninth after shooting a 2-under 70. Here is the rundown on the amateurs:
AMATEURS IN THE FIELD
Jeevan Sihota (Canada)
Zachary Stanger (U.S.)
Kamyar Yamini (Canada)
Hyunkook Jung (South Korea)
Cole Ruelling (Canada)
Andrew Widjaja (Canada)
Kirk Chen (Canada)
Twenty players broke par in the opening round. Another 10 finished at even-par.
Fifty-eight of the 95 players in the field are Canadians (61 percent). The top-four Canadians are also the top four on the leaderboard (Max Sear, Riley Wheeldon and Jared du Toit, Brendan MacDougall and Jimmy Jones—tied for third with Australia’s Will Barnett).
Riley Wheeldon’s tee shot on the par-3 fourth looked like it might go in the hole before just missing, giving him a no-sweat birdie. “Any time you can just kick it in is nice,” he said.
The only two bogeys Riley Wheeldon made Tuesday came back-to-back holes, starting at No. 7, but he closed his opening nine with a birdie at the ninth. His clean, back-nine scorecard yielded seven pars and two bogeys.
In his only other PGA TOUR Canada Qualifying Tournament appearances, Riley Wheeldon has made both starts at Crowne Isle, finishing sixth in 2017 and tying for seventh in 2018—earning status both years.
Jared du Toit has become quite proficient at Qualifying Tournaments. A year after finishing second at the PGA TOUR Canada Q-School in DuPont, Washington, du Toit opened this week’s event with a 4-under 68 that leaves him tied for third. But his Q-School mastery is not simply reserved for Canada. Playing on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, at that circuit’s 2020 Qualifying Tournament in Mexico, du Toit shot rounds of 67-68-64-67 to win the event. He was also fourth at Q-School in 2018 (68-73-66-65) and added a tie for 22nd in 2019 and a tie for 23rd six months ago, also in Mexico. Counting Tuesday’s 4-under 68, du Toit is a combined 70-under in 21 Q-School rounds split between Canada and Latin America.
Making the turn to the back nine in 3-under, Jimmy Jones wasn’t able to birdie the par-5 10th hole and then bogeyed the 11th. He was again in trouble but ended up making a par save on the 12th after missing the green with his approach. “I think that up and down on 12, I rode the sails, and instead of a couple of bogeys in a row it kept me on a good track for the rest of the day,” Jones said.
In his career, Jared du Toit has appeared in 43 PGA TOUR Canada tournaments, making 30 cuts and finishing inside the top 10 five times.
Riley Wheeldon’s PGA TOUR Canada career dates to the Tour’s first season—2013. That was the same year he won his lone title, the Syncrude Boreal Open in Fort McMurray, Alberta, where he defeated Lucas Lee by a shot. Wheeldon also spent time on the Canadian Tour prior to the creation of PGA TOUR Canada.
China’s Yi Cao, scheduled to play in the RBC Canadian Open in mid-June by virtue of his Points List title in the four-event series of tournaments in 2020, opened with a 2-under 70 that featured eight pars and a bogey (on No. 9) followed by three birdies on the back nine—on Nos. 10, 15 and 17. The former PGA TOUR Series-China star is tied for ninth.
“It was cold and a little rainy on the front (nine), and I settled in when I two-putted for birdie on No. 5. I started hitting a lot of greens and really not getting myself into any trouble.” –Max Sear
“I don’t really see myself grinding too hard after my rounds or getting here too early. It’s more like I’m trying to recover as quickly as I can so I can go for the next round.” –Max Sear
“On the back nine, the wind died down and I took advantage of the scoring conditions.” –Max Sear
“I played smart from there and knew it would be a long week, that the weather would be off and on. I kept the ball in front of me and posted a pretty good score.” –Riley Wheeldon
“I’m enjoying being back in my hometown. I’m trying to keep a strong attitude the whole time and whatever happens happens. The weather is going to be unpredictable, so you really can’t plan for anything.” –Riley Wheeldon
“There are lots of good memories on this course that I can draw from, but there are also lots of changes. I haven’t played here in probably four years. Things are different. It’s not exactly the course I grew up on, but there are enough similarities and a lot that has stayed the same. Playing here since I was seven years onward means there’s a lot of familiarity.” –Riley Wheeldon
“I got off to a good start, and I had good looks on my first five holes. I made three of them (for birdie). I think the middle of the golf course is the harder part. I played it around even(-par) and didn’t do anything crazy, just keeping my ball in play.” –Jared du Toit
“I was in a bit of trouble on 9 and made a great par. Sometimes in rounds like this, in tough conditions, those pars as just as big as the birdies.” – Jared du Toit
“It’s all about staying in good shape and trying to stay warm out there. It’s a bit of a juggle, tossing on three, four or five layers sometimes and juggling that. Walking that, you forget to drink, you forget to eat.” –Jared du Toit
“This course has a pretty gettable stretch to it. This is a course where you have to stay patient because you’re going to get opportunities out here.” –Jimmy Jones
“We’re in a place where [the weather] can switch so drastically. This morning we were expecting to get a lot (of rain) to some sun, you know it’s going to change how far the ball’s flying. It’s going to be wet for the week, so you’ll have to deal with the wet and adapt to the greens speed.” –Jimmy Jones
Second-Round Weather: Off and on rain in the morning and cool. High of 50. Wind ESE at 5-9 mph.