By Brad Ziemer
KELOWNA — Robby Shelton mistakenly thought he was going to a playoff. It was about the only error the Alabama native made all week at Gallagher’s Canyon Golf & Country Club.
Shelton poured in a seven-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole late Sunday afternoon to win the $175,000 GolfBC Championship. It took him a few seconds to realize what had happened.
“When I got over the putt I thought I had to make it to get into a playoff,” said the 22-year-old. “Somebody told me when I was walking off the green that I won. Then it hit me. It was a little late, but that’s okay.”
Shelton fired a two-under 69 in Sunday’s final round to finish at 19-under par, one shot better than Johnny Ruiz of Camarillo, Calif., Cody Blick of Alamo, Calif., and Adam Webb of Ridgeway, Va.
Shelton went wire to wire to win the third event of the season on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada circuit. Sunday was the toughest day of the four for the former three-time first-team all-American from the University of Alabama.
He began the day with a three-shot lead, but lost it on the back nine to Ruiz before sealing the win with that clutch birdie on No. 18.
That three on the 348-yard par 4 18th didn’t come easy. Knowing he likely needed a birdie, Shelton decided to hit driver off the tee. He pulled it and his ball ended up in the weeds left of the fairway.
“Luckily it didn’t catch the cart path and go out of bounds,” Shelton said. “My lie wasn’t great.”
He hit a terrific pitch to within seven feet of the hole and made the putt.
Shelton was not aware of the bad luck that had struck Ruiz moments earlier on 18. His tee shot ended up right beside a large tree that sits in the left side of the fairway. Ruiz’s only shot was to punch the ball out playing left-handed. He then could not get it up and down for par and fell to 18-under.
“I hit two-iron yesterday from a little farther forward, and I didn’t think I could get to the tree, but it ended up right next to the tree and I had to go left-handed,” Ruiz said. “I hit it okay, but just couldn’t make the putt on 18.”
Blick, playing in the same group as Ruiz, also had a great opportunity to get it to 19-under. He missed a birdie putt from about four feet.
“Four feet is pretty automatic for us out here,” said a disappointed Blick. “I hit a good little wedge shot in there. The putt was above the hole, broke a couple of inches, but what are you going to do. It didn’t go in.”
Shelton earned $31,500 for the win, which moved him to the top of the Mackenzie Tour money list. He has a lead of $323 on Lee McCoy of Tampa, Fla., who won the season-opener at Point Grey Golf & Country Club in Vancouver.
“I am going to call my Dad,” Shelton said. “I need to wish him a happy Father’s Day. I have not done that yet and I need to do that right now.”
Seann Harlingten of West Vancouver was the low Canadian, which earned him a $2,500 bonus from Freedom 55 Financial. Harlingten closed with a one-under 70 Sunday to finish tied for seventh place at 13-under par.
“I got it going early, I eagled six again today,” said Harlingten. “Then I parred every hole until 16. I bogeyed 16, bogeyed 17 and made a long putt for birdie on 18. I finally put four pretty good rounds together and we’ll take that going to Winnipeg.”
The Mackenzie Tour resumes in the Manitoba capital July 6-9.
A nice-sized crowd attended Sunday’s final round and Kimberley’s Jared du Toit had the largest gallery. Du Toit had scorched Gallagher’s with a course record round of 10-under 61 on Saturday, but could only manage a one-under 70 on Sunday that left him tied for ninth place at 12-under par.
Du Toit had it going early. He was three-under for his day at the turn, but his round was derailed when he bogeyed a stretch of three of four holes on the back nine.
He finished nicely, however, nearly holing his approach on No. 18 from 122 yards. He was left with a tap-in for birdie.
“To finish with a birdie is always good,” said du Toit, who was playing just his second pro event. “It took a bit of the sting away from that struggle on the back nine. There were lots of positives this week and we’ll take it down the road.”