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  • More than just a shirt folder

    Club pro Branson Ferrier’s PGA TOUR Canada debut has been a rousing success

  • Branson Ferrier is at 6-under and is tied for third with Justin Doeden through 36 holes, four shots behind leader Noah Goodwin.
    Branson Ferrier is at 6-under and is tied for third with Justin Doeden through 36 holes, four shots behind leader Noah Goodwin.
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  • TOTTENHAM, Ontario—Let the record show that Branson Ferrier’s absence from his job at nearby Vespra Hills Golf Club is an excused one. His initial plan was to miss work on Thursday and Friday. Now, the vacation is running into the weekend.

    Ferrier has notified his employer.

    This all came about as the assistant professional at Vespra Hills Golf Club in Barrie, about 40 miles down the road from Woodington Lake Golf Club, ran into a snag—an extremely good one, incidentally—when he performed well over the last two days at his freelance job. Ferrier is playing in the Sotheby’s International Realty Canada Ontario Open, competing in his first PGA TOUR Canada event after qualifying Monday into the tournament. The 28-year-old Barrie native has put together rounds of 69-67, is at 6-under and is tied for third with Justin Doeden through 36 holes, four shots behind leader Noah Goodwin.

    It’s pretty heady stuff for a player who isn’t exactly steeped in competitive reps these days. Ferrier plays golf when he can, most of his tournament action coming at PGA section events in the area that are typically no more than 36-hole affairs. Such is the life of a club pro.

    “I’m pretty much a shirt folder,” Ferrier joked about one of his Vespra Hills responsibilities in the pro shop.

    While he may very well fold a mean shirt, Ferrier can clearly play. He planned on playing in the Monday qualifier last week for the Osprey Valley Open presented by Votorantim Cimentos - CBM Aggregates, but it didn’t work out when Vespra Hills’ men’s and women’s member-guest tournament conflicted with his club responsibilities.

    The winner of the PGA Assistants’ Championship of Canada last November played three years of mini tour golf after his collegiate career at Alabama State ended, which means he knows his way around both a pro shop and a golf course. Ferrier also has the backing of his boss, head pro Chris McNair, and the entire Vespra Hills staff and membership as he takes this breather from his day job.

    “Thankfully, I have a really good group of staff—pro shop and back shop—and they’re pretty self-sufficient at this point. They won’t miss me much this weekend,” Ferrier explained. “The whole club, the membership and everybody, from Chris to the GM to the owner, have been very supportive of me still pursuing golf professionally, so taking time off to play golf when these opportunities happen, they’ve been super supportive and cheering me on this week.”

    They’ve had plenty to root about, starting on Ferrier’s first hole of Thursday’s opening round. From 40 feet, he calmly rolled in a birdie putt, getting rid of any butterflies he may have been experiencing. He followed that with an adventurous double bogey on his second hole and then countered with another birdie on his third. At even-par through three holes, Ferrier made the turn in 2-over but recovered to shoot a 2-under 69, with four birdies over his final nine.

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    With Vespra Hills’ head teaching pro Ben Groome serving as Ferrier’s caddie—another guy cashing in some vacation time—Ferrier made his move Friday, with his 67 that came via six birdies and two bogeys. Oddly enough, most of his damage came on the back nine at Woodington Lake, the tougher of the two nines this week. He rattled off four consecutive birdies, starting at 14, making birdie putts of six feet, 15 feet, eight inches and 10 feet during the stretch.

    “I just got really hot in the middle of the back nine,” he added. “There are some holes where you just have to hit a good shot. There is no strategic way to get around the danger on some of those greens. You have to step up, pick a target and hit a good shot.”

    When he made that turn at 1-under and 3-under overall Friday, Ferrier was still concerned he was around the score that he anticipated would force him to take off more time. “That cutline was still lingering in my head. Getting through the first nine holes at 1-under par felt really good,” he continued.

    With that back-nine rally, making the cut never became much of an issue. He’s onto the weekend, two more days of work awaiting, and he’s excited.

    Continued Ferrier, “At this point I’m just happy to be in the position that I’m in, and we’ll try to stick to the same game plan I had the first two rounds. There are definitely some holes I’ve understood I could play a little differently. Part of it is just being comfortable playing under the gun.

    “The front nine here is a lot more scorable than the back nine,” Ferrier added. “Getting through the back nine around even-par or 1- or 2-under and then attacking the other side is the game plan I’m going to have the rest of the weekend and see what happens.”

    A PGA TOUR Canada perk is that it rewards players who play well. Finish high one week and you’re invited to play in the next tournament. A top-20 finish secures that bonus.

    Ferrier is planning on heading back down the road to Vespra Hills once this week is over. “I love my job, and I love being at the golf course and seeing the members. I’m excited to get back and see everyone there.”

    Still, come Sunday, might he have to make another vacation request?