By BRAD ZIEMER
KELOWNA — JD Tomlinson has shot a 63 before, but not quite like this.
“I broke a club, I had a hole-in-one and I had another hole-out for eagle,” Tomlinson said after he matched the course record at the Okanagan Golf Club’s Bear Course with a nine-under 63 in Monday’s qualifier for this week’s GolfBC Championship.
Let’s start with the hole-in-one because it came first. Tomlinson, a 25-year-old native of Gainesville, Fla., aced the par 3 14th hole — his fifth hole of the day — with a 7-iron from 178 yards.
“It flew about four feet short and just trickled in,” Tomlinson said. “I went crazy.”
Things got even crazier later in his round.
On the par 5 7th hole — his 16th of the day — Tomlinson drove it into trouble. His ball ended up in deep rough a few inches right of a tree.
“I am right-handed and I couldn’t hit left-handed because I am in deep rough and I couldn’t get a stance on it,” he said. “I knew right at impact the club was going to fold around the tree, so I just hacked it out, broke the club and holed the next shot out.”
That’s right, after wrapping his 6-iron around the tree, Tomlinson grabbed his 8-iron and holed his third shot from 155 yards for eagle.
“It was just one of those days,” he said with a smile.
Tomlinson deserved some good fortune considering how last year finished for him on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada circuit, where the top 60 on the money list retain their exempt status for the following year. Tomlinson finished 61st.
“I was $165 Canadian short of a full card this year,” he said. “That’s golf, though.”
This was the third straight week of Monday qualifying for Tomlinson, who lost in a playoff at the Freedom 55 Financial Open qualifier in Vancouver and then won in a playoff to earn a spot in last week’s Bayview Place DCBank Open in Victoria.
“I should be able to make it through without a playoff today,” he said. “If I don’t, I quit.”
It took a score of 67 or better to earn one of the 10 spots up for grabs Monday into the $200,000 GolfBC Championship, which begins Thursday at Gallagher’s Canyon Golf & Country Club.
Three players — Patrick Fishburn of Ogden, Utah, Ben Hargis of Emerald, Tex., and Cory Churchman of Abilene, Tex.,– shot eight-under 64s.
Fishburn graduated last month from Brigham Young University in Utah and is just beginning his pro career.
“I got off to a really good start,” Fishburn said. “I made three birdies in the first four holes. I just hit a lot of mid-iron shots close to the hole today.”
Fishburn, who made 10 birdies on the Bear’s 6,885-yard layout, has conditional status from qualifying school this spring. He is hoping some solid play this week at Gallagher’s Canyon will help when the tour reshuffles following next week’s event in Lethbridge, Alta.
“That’s the goal,” he said. “It’s all about getting a chance to play. Hopefully this holds up and gives me an opportunity to play this weekend.
Hargis has played a lot of mini-tour golf in recent years and played in a U.S. Open sectional qualifier last week in Memphis, where he was paired with Aaron Wise, who two years ago played the Mackenzie Tour and last month won on the PGA Tour.
“That gave me a lot of confidence,” Hargis said. “I was four-under through six holes today. I had a lot of putts inside eight or 10 feet, so it was pretty easy.”
Hargis, 28, is married to a Canadian.
“She has family here in Kelowna so it has been real nice spending time with them,” he said.
Three players fired six-under 66s to earns spots. They included PJ Samiere of Hawaii, Brett Kennedy of Waterloo, Ont., and Olin Browne Jr., of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Browne, the son of three-time PGA Tour winner Olin Browne, takes a more positive view of Monday qualifying than many of his peers.
“I am an optimist at heart so I look at it as a great opportunity,” Brown said. “Everyone I do is a spectacular opportunity, so I get pretty amped up for them. It is easy for me. You go out there and shoot a good score and typically the courses are not set up that hard. It comes down to keeping your ball in play, hitting reasonable iron shots and really just making putts. And beat up the par-5s.”
Despite a solid score, Brown wasn’t that happy with the way he played Monday.
“I actually did not hit it very well today,” he said. “I did some silly stuff. I holed a bunker shot when I should have made a bogey, then made a 60-footer. I did not play very well today, but I scored very well so I am very pleased.”
“There was a six-man playoff among the players who shot 67 for the final three spots. Steven Lecuyer of Edmonton, Troy Beaver of Salisbury, N.C., and John Jonas of Jacksonville, Fla. emerged from the playoff that lasted five holes and ended just as darkness fell.
As with all Monday qualifiers, most of the players in the 140-man field went home with nothing to show for their efforts. Langley’s James Allenby, who has dominated the Vancouver Golf Tour the past year or so, shot a one-under 71 and joked that he is starting to develop a complex about Monday qualifiers.
“I think I am now something like 0-for-11,” Allenby said before heading to his car for the long drive home.