By Brad Ziemer
KELOWNA — It didn’t last quite as long as he would have liked, but Matt Hopley still had the time of his life. The 15-year-old Kelowna resident, who this week became the youngest player to tee it up in a Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada event, finished his GolfBC Championship with a nice up-and-down par from behind the 18th green at Gallagher’s Canyon Golf & Country Club.
“Way to go, Matt,” greenside supporters shouted as he picked his ball out of the hole and walked off the green to considerable applause.
Hopley shot his second straight four-over 75 Friday and missed the cut. He was disappointed about that, but appreciative of the opportunity to tee it up with some of the world’s best young pros. “It was very cool, it was such a great experience,” said Hopley, who is just finishing Grade 9 at Immaculata high school in Kelowna. “I was hoping to come out today and shave a few off yesterday. I didn’t play as well as I can, but it was a lot of fun and I learned so much.”
Hopley said his score both days could have been at least a stroke or two lower. “The putts just weren’t dropping for me this week,” he said. “I missed a four-footer on No. 8 today for birdie and I was greenside in two on the (par 5) sixth and didn’t get it up and down.”
Hopley did avoid the big numbers. He had nothing worse than a bogey on his card over the two days. “That was nice, I didn’t lose a ball, didn’t make more than a bogey, but the putts just weren’t falling.” Hopley, who is off to play in a U.S. Junior Boys qualifier Tuesday in Idaho, said he learned lots in his 36 holes of playing with the pros. “I learned so much about course management, like hitting irons off tees and where to place it, reading greens, composure, so much. It was so great.”
And he was appreciative of the support he received from many of his Gallagher’s Canyon neighbours. “It was so nice to have those people out there,” he said. “I had a good little gallery both days. It was pretty cool to have people watching.”
CLUTCH BIRDIE: Hopley’s coach, Christopher Trunzer, made the cut on the number (one-under par) after birdieing his last hole (the par 5 ninth) early Friday night. Trunzer, who hails from Germany, is director of instruction at Gallagher’s Canyon.
“It feels great to be in on the weekend,” he said. “It has been exactly a year since my last competition and longer than that since my last paycheque playing professional golf. “But I was pretty relaxed because I saw my pay cheque come in this morning from teaching and it was a good month so it relaxed me. We are going to be celebrating in a local restaurant pretty hard this weekend.”
TRIPLE TROUBLE: Kimberley’s Jared du Toit overcame a pair of triple-bogeys — one in Thursday’s opening round and another on Friday — and also made the cut on the number.
Du Toit, playing his second pro event after turning pro following the end of his collegiate career at Arizona State University, birdied three of his final six holes, including his final one, to make the cut. “It feels very good,” du Toit said. “To kind of deliver and go birdie-birdie on those final two par 5s was very nice. Now I can play tomorrow with nothing weighing me down and hopefully shoot a good one.”
PLAYING IT SAFE: Big-hitting Taylor Pendrith isn’t using his driver much at Gallagher’s Canyon. The Richmond Hill, Ont., native is one of the game’s longest hitters, but has used his driver only twice each day in the first two rounds of the GolfBC Championship.
“I hit driver on six and nine,” Pendrith said of the two par 5s on Gallagher’s front nine. He birdied No. 6 and eagled the ninth hole. “It is definitely an advantage for me to hit driver on those holes because I hit a wedge into six and a nine-iron into nine. If I can get it in play it’s good.
“But the other holes here, it is almost too tight for me to try and squeeze a driver out there, so it’s a lot of position shots which is fine with me. I have been hitting a bunch of four-irons and three-irons.”
Pendrith shot his second straight 68 Friday and sits at six-under par heading into the weekend.
NEW DIRECTION: Victoria’s Cory Renfrew, who tied for fifth at last year’s inaugural GolfBC Championship, missed the cut by two strokes Friday and is now going to focus on his new life as a club and teaching pro at Cordova Bay Golf Course in Victoria.
“It wasn’t that difficult a decision,” Renfrew said Friday. “It was probably after Web.com Q school last fall that it started to cross my mind. I have had some body issues, back issues. . .I just kind of thought, is this what I want to do, spending all that money and not playing well.”
Renfrew had several solid seasons on the Mackenzie Tour and its predecessor, the Canadian Tour, most notably in 2012 when he won an event in Fort McMurray. He played his collegiate golf for the University of B.C., leading the Thunderbirds to a NAIA national team title in 2008.
CHIP SHOTS: German Max Rottluff, who won last week’s Mackenzie Tour event in Victoria, made the cut on the number after firing rounds of 73 and 68. . .Daniel Mazziotta of Fort Myers, Fla., aced the 175-yard par 3 third hole Friday with a seven-iron. . .The leaders will tee off at about 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Sunday’s winner receives $31,500.