BY BRAD ZIEMER
KELOWNA — Matt Hopley is now going to learn how to drive. Not a golf ball — he is already very good at that — but a car.
Hopley celebrated his 16th birthday Thursday and as any teenager can tell you, that means he is now able to write the exam for his learner’s licence.
So after missing the cut in Friday’s second round of the GolfBC Championship at Gallagher’s Canyon Golf & Country Club, Hopley was planning to get in his parents’ ears and ask them to take him to the nearest driver licensing office.
“I am very anxious to get it, but I haven’t been studying the book as much as I should,” he said with a laugh. “But I am going to go to that test with the same confidence I had today and hopefully I will pass it.”
Hopley, sadly, wasn’t able to pass the test at the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada event at his home course, which he estimates he has played more than 1,000 times.
After opening with a two-over 73 on Thursday, Hopley shot a 76 on Friday to finish at seven-over.
Hopley, who also played in the event last year, earned a sponsor’s exemption by winning the Zone 2 Junior Order of Merit. He said in hindsight, he may have tried to play too aggressively on Friday, knowing he had to go low to have any chance of making the cut.
“I think I went out trying to go pretty low,” he said. “And I know that can kind of backfire. I had a 66 or 67 in mind, which probably wasn’t the best strategy looking back.”
Hopley started his round on the 10th hole and made his first bogey on No. 11 and added another on 14.
“Right off the bat I was a couple over par after five holes and I had makeable birdie putts on 12 and 13. They were probably both six-footers that I should have made and I missed both of them. If I make those I am one-under. I am not going to say I go four-under but it might have changed things.
“That is something I need to work on, the mental part of it and just accepting it and staying patient which I could have done much better today.”
The par 3 16th hole was Hopley’s nemesis. He double-bogeyed it both days.
“So there’s four shots that kind of gets me right around even par for the tournament,” he said. “But that’s just the way it goes.”
Still, Hopley had a blast and was followed around the course both days by supportive friends and family, including his dad, Peter, who is the longtime general manager at Gallagher’s Canyon.
“It was fun, I learned a ton as always,” Hopley said. “It was just another great experience.”
Although he only finished one stroke better than he did at last year’s tournament, Hopley felt like he played much better.
“I felt more confident. I did play well, I didn’t score very well. But I am very happy with how I hit the ball this week and where my game is at. Especially when I compare it to last year and how far it has come.”
A busy golfing summer is now starting for Hopley, who is off to a U.S. Junior qualifier Tuesday in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Who knows, maybe he’ll be able to drive part way.
Three other Okanagan-area golfers also failed to make Friday’s cut.
Conner Kozak, an assistant pro at the Okanagan Golf Club in Kelowna, finished at two-over par after shooting a four-over 75 on Friday. Kozak, who had opened with a two-under 69 on Thursday and moved to three-under with an early birdie Friday, said he paid the price for a couple of bad swings.
“The experience was really cool this time around, I felt like I belong,” Kozak said. “But looking back, I had it to three-under at one point and there’s probably three swings I’d like to have back.”
Finlay Young, a Scotland native who is a teaching pro at The Harvest Golf Club in Kelowna, fired rounds of 78-77 to finish at 13-over. Garrett Kucher, a playing ambassador for Predator Ridge Resort in Vernon, shot 81 and 77 and finished at 16-over.