10 spots into GolfBC Championship were up for grabs at Okanagan Golf Club’s Quail course

BY BRAD ZIEMER

KELOWNA — It was part golf, part endurance test.

A field of 132 players teed it up Monday at the Okanagan Golf Club’s Quail Course, trying to earn one of 10 spots into this week’s inaugural GolfBC Championship on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada circuit. They battled more than a demanding golf course. It was hot Monday. Really hot.

“This course is a tough walk, for one, and then add the heat to it and it’s really tough,” said Langley’s James Allenby. “I like to think I am in shape, but I’m not anymore. Not for a walk like this in this heat. I think only a handful of guys can go out there and feel good on a day like this on a course like this. You are drinking as much water as you can and that’s the smartest thing you can do.”

Allenby was one of the not so lucky ones Monday. He shot a two-over 74 and missed by four shots. It took a score of 70 or better to gain a spot in the $175,000 GolfBC Championship, which begins Thursday at Gallagher’s Canyon Golf & Country Club.

Allenby, of course, had lots of company. The fact is Monday qualifiers are something of a crapshoot, with the odds stacked against players. There’s always a big field chasing a handful of spots. You fire a hot round or you go home. It’s as simple as that. And for that privilege you pay a $260 entry fee ($100 if you are a Mackenzie Tour member).

This was Allenby’s second Monday qualifier in the past week. He missed by a shot last Monday at the qualifier for the Bayview Place Island Savings Open at Uplands in Victoria.

“Apparently I don’t have the right mindset yet because I haven’t managed to qualify for any of them that I have been in,” Allenby said after his round. “What I feel like is you have to be confident. That’s the biggest thing. If you don’t come with confidence, there’s no point.”

Monday qualifiers draw their share of dreamers, too, guys who hope they may catch lightning in a bottle and get a chance to tee it up in a major pro event.

Amateur Hudson Stremmel travelled all the way from Reno, Nev., with his mom to play in Monday’s qualifier. Even after shooting a seven-over 79, he wasn’t sorry about making the trip.

“I have heard nothing but great things about the Mackenzie Tour and this is a great spot,” Stremmel said after his round. “You get to spend a couple of days in Kelowna with a chance for a week.”

Stremmel said you can’t dwell on the long odds of qualifying.

“If you are that one guy the reward is pretty good,” he said. “If you don’t believe in yourself, who else will?”

Scores weren’t as low as some expected, which is testament to the fact the Quail is a tough test and, of course, the heat. The temperature maxed out about 36 degrees late in the afternoon.

“We had about 750 bottles of water out on the course,” said Okanagan Golf Club general manager Dan Matheson. “That is about five or six bottles per player and we are closely monitoring things to make sure that is enough.”

There were only five scores in the 60s Monday. Jake Knapp, a 22-year-old from Costa Mesa, Calif., posted a four-under 68 midway through the day that had him on top of the leaderboard until early in the evening. Knapp, who played his collegiate golf at UCLA and qualified to play in last summer’s U.S. Open, was making what he said was going to be his third and final attempt to Monday qualify his way into a Mackenzie Tour event. He failed at previous attempts to qualify for the first two events of the Mackenzie Tour season in Vancouver and Victoria.

“This was going to be my last Monday and my last try and I figured my game was good enough and wanted to give this last one a go,” Knapp said. 

Now that he is in this week, Knapp is determined to make the most of the opportunity.

“This is what I have been looking for. I feel this all I needed, to get myself into a tournament. This is the hard part. Now it’s a matter of letting this confidence roll over into the actual tournament.”

Knapp’s score was bettered by James Seymour of Aurora, Ont., who posted a five-under 67 to top the field. Seymour’s round included six birdies, an eagle and a double-bogey.

“It was a long round and I just tried to stay patient the whole way,” Seymour said. “I made that double on No. 14 but I knew I was still in it. I just told myself to stay strong and I finished with two birdies and hit it to a foot on 18.”

Calgary’s James Love, who was playing in the final group and finished his round as the sun was setting, fired a 68 to tie Knapp for second place

Chris Malec of Webster, N.Y., Kyle Peterman of Savannah, Ga., and Preston Stanley of Katy, Tex., all shot 69 and tied for fourth place.

There was a seven-man playoff for the final four spots among the players who shot 70. Ryan Linton of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Sean Bozuk of Burlington, Ont., Preston Valder of Yorba Linda, Calif., and Cody Martin of Fort Mitchell, Ken., emerged from that playoff to earn spots in the field.