By Brad Ziemer
KELOWNA — It was a dream start followed by a nightmarish finish for Kimberley’s Jared du Toit in Thursday’s first round of the GolfBC Championship.
Du Toit, playing in just his second pro event after finishing his collegiate career at Arizona State University, looked to have it on cruise control on the front nine at Gallagher’s Canyon Golf & Country Club. After birdieing three of his first six holes, du Toit then closed out his front side with an eagle three on the par 5 ninth for a five-under 31.
Most of that good play was undone two holes later on the 414-yard par 11th hole when du Toit’s approach shot flew the green and went out of bounds. He went on to make a triple-bogey seven. He ended up shooting a one-under 70.
“I tried to get too greedy on my second shot,” du Toit said. “I did a really bad job of keeping the big numbers off my card. As well as that seven, I made a really stupid five on No. 15.
“It really puts a bitter taste in your mouth. Today I felt like I hit it well and I putted well. Based on how everything was, I would have loved a round in the mid-60s and signing for a 70 is very disappointing. I have to clean it up for tomorrow, that’s for sure.”
DOUBLE, DOUBLE: Seann Harlingten’s GolfBC Championship started the way last year’s ended. With a double-bogey.
“That’s the way I finished here last year,” the West Vancouver native said after his round Thursday.
Happily, things got better for Harlingten, who rebounded to card a four-under 67 in the first round of the $175,000 event at Gallagher’s Canyon Golf & Country Club.
His round began with a double after pushing his drive on Gallagher’s tough 434-yard par 4 first hole.
“I caught the cart path on the right with my driver,” Harlingten said. “I guess I am going to hit two-iron for the rest of the week there.”
Harlingten made his birdies in bunches Thursday. He rolled in birdie putts on holes six, eight and nine and then made three straight birdies starting on No. 12 on the back nine. “I played pretty good for the most part today,” he said. “I left a couple out there, but I am pretty happy with the bounce-back.”
Harlingten finished tied for 21st at last year’s inaugural GolfBC Championship despite that double on the 72nd hole. He likes the golf course.
“I love the course,” he said. “It’s fun and in really good shape.”
LUCKY NO. 7: Former B.C. Junior champion Riley Wheeldon of Courtenay aced the 174-yard par 3 13th hole with a six-iron. It was the seventh career hole-in-one for Wheeldon, who shot a two-under 69 on Thursday.
HOME ON THE RANGE: The GolfBC Championship is one of a select number of tournaments being used by the PGA Tour to test the use of distance-measuring devices in competition. Some players are for their use, others not so much.
“I really like it actually,” said Evan Bowser of Dearborn, Mich., who used his rangefinder throughout his round on Thursday. “It helps me trust my (yardage) number a lot more. But we’ll see what they decide PGA Tour-wise. I think it helps speed it up, too. You don’t have to walk it off, you can just gun it, you’ve got it and you can do your adjustments (for wind and slope) right there.”
West Vancouver’s Seann Harlingten said he only used his distance device a couple of times during his round and isn’t sure he likes the idea. “I barely used mine today,” he said. “I just did my normal thing with the book and checked a couple numbers just to make sure.”
“I know they tried it out in a Web.com Tour event recently and my buddies said it just slowed up play because guys were doing both. They will get their number and then they will double-check it. And if it’s off by four or five yards now you are kind of confused about which one is right. You like confidence before you hit a golf shot.”
CHIP SHOTS: Christopher Trunzer, the director of instruction at Gallagher’s Canyon, described his round of even-par 71 Thursday as a roller-coaster. “Lots of birdies, lots of bogeys,” he said. Trunzer had six birdies which were offset by six bogeys. The other six holes were all pars. . .Gallagher’s Canyon junior Matt Hopley, who at age 15 became the youngest player to tee it up in a Mackenzie Tour event, opened with a four-over 75.