By Brad Ziemer
KELOWNA — Robby Shelton knew he had a share of the lead on the 18th tee early Friday evening, but decided he wanted it all to himself.
So the 22-year-old rookie on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada circuit took out his driver on the 348-yard par 4 finishing hole at Gallagher’s Canyon Golf & Country Club and busted a tee shot that came up only a few yards short of the green. He then finessed a lob wedge to within seven feet of a tough back-left pin location before calmly rolling in the birdie putt.
Shelton got his wish. He will sleep on the lead at the GolfBC Championship for the second straight night.
Playing in blustery late-afternoon winds, the Wilmer, Ala., native carded a three-under par 68 that included an eagle on the par 4 fifth hole that left him at 11-under par at the halfway point of the $175,000 event. He is one shot ahead of Kevin Lucas of Folsom, Calif., and Jake Knapp of Costa Mesa, Calif.
“I really wanted the lead going into tomorrow so I hit driver off the tee,” Shelton said. “I was being a little aggressive, but I think that is the play on that hole. . .I finally got a putt to fall and it will be really nice just to sleep on the lead.”
Shelton said the stiff wind that blew throughout his round made it much tougher than on Thursday, when he opened with an eight-under 63. “It was a huge factor, it was a lot harder than yesterday,” he said. “Just to post under par today was huge. But compared to last week in Victoria, it was nothing. The first day I was out in the afternoon and it was blowing 40 to 50. This is a breeze compared to that.”
Shelton seems to trending in the right direction. He tied for 20th in the season-opener at Point Grey Golf & Country Club and tied for 14th last week at Uplands Golf Club in Victoria.
“I really wasn’t hitting it that great in those two and finished top 20 in both of them, which was nice, and finally my ball-striking is coming around.” Shelton sounded confident about his chances this weekend. “I am hitting it well and if I keep hitting fairways and greens it is going to happen. Just hopefully the putts fall eventually this weekend.”
Lucas is also a Mackenzie Tour rookie and likes what he has seen of Canada so far.
“I am loving it,” Lucas said. “Vancouver was okay, Victoria was better and Kelowna is my favourite so far.”
Lucas fired a seven-under 64 that included nine birdies. He made five straight birdies on his back nine, Gallagher’s front side. “It started out with a 30-footer down the hill on two and then I started making some short ones on the next four.”
Lucas said he is focused on keeping the ball in play off the tee on a tight Gallagher’s Canyon layout.
“It seems with my game right now if I am in play off the tee I am going to make some birdies,” he said. “If not, I am going to struggle. Last week I made the cut but didn’t put anything in play all weekend. That was kind of my goal this week, put it in play and hopefully get the birdie putts and make them.”
The top Canadian through two rounds is West Vancouver’s Seann Harlingten, who fired his second straight 67 on Friday to sit at eight-under par and tied for sixth place. Harlingten also played his round in the late afternoon when the wind was howling.
“It was definitely a little tougher today,” Harlingten said. “The wind was pretty strong all day. I struck the ball a lot better today and made some putts.”
Taylor Pendrith of Richmond Hill, Ont., shot his second straight three-under 68 Friday and sits tied for 14th at six-under.
Other Canadians to make the cut, which fell at one-under par, included Aaron Cockerill of Tuelon, Man., Jamie Sadlowski of St. Albert, Alta., Ryan Williams of Vancouver, James Love of Calgary, Max Gilbert of Saint-Georges, Que., and Kimberley’s Jared du Toit.