By Brad Ziemer, Event Journalist
KELOWNA — As Mackenzie Tour debuts go, Ilirian Zalli made his an impressive one at the GolfBC Championship.
All the 19-year-old former B.C. Junior Boys Champion from Vancouver did was shoot four straight rounds in the 60s at Gallagher’s Canyon Golf Club and finish tied for fourth.
For a time, it looked like Zalli could make a serious run at the tournament title, but after making the turn at 10-under, he could only manage nine straight pars on the back nine.
“The putter got a little bit cold,” he said. “I had some good looks. The whole week the back nine was not as good as the front, but I think it was that way for most of the field.
“It is a little frustrating, especially considering I was 10-under after nine and I thought maybe I’d have outside look if I played the back nine well.”
But Zalli was delighted to make such a strong showing in what was his biggest start as a young professional.
“It was my debut week, I haven’t played in any of these before, so I am pretty happy with how it went,” he said. “I shot every round in the 60s and that is always a good takeaway even if it doesn’t end up in a win.”
RIGHT AT HOME: Two young Kelowna players had positive weeks. Cole Wilson tied for 23rd at two-under par after closing with an even-par 71 on Saturday.
The 20-year-old Wilson has played the entire Mackenzie Tour this season and feels like he has learned a lot and still has a lot to learn.
“You know what, and I mean this in the best way possible, I am learning in my first year as a pro I am just not good enough yet.
“Ultimately my biggest key is to take positives out of both my good and bad play and just to learn to get that much better.”
Cooper Humphreys, the 16-year-old Kelowna resident who won this summer’s Canadian Juvenile Boys Championship, tied for 37th at three-over par after closing with a one-under 70.
Humphreys was playing his second GolfBC Championship. He missed the cut as a 14-year-old in 2019 but shot an impressive 30 on the back nine in second round that year.
“It was still a good experience but it wasn’t quite as good as two years ago,” he said. “But it was fun and I played better.”
ON TO VICTORIA: Vancouver Open champion Steven Lecuyer closed with a one-under 70 and tied for 20th at three-under par.
Lecuyer is looking forward to the Mackenzie Tour’s season-ending event this week in Victoria, where he lived for several years before relocating recently to Vancouver.
“I learned a lot this week,” said Lecuyer, who now teaches at the new Vancouver Golf Academy in Coquitlam. “I have got a few things to work on before next week but it’s nice to get one of these under my belt.”
Lecuyer should feel quite at home at Uplands Golf Club, site of the Reliance Properties DCBank Open presented by Times Colonist in Victoria.
“I played in the tournament there a number of times in the past,” he said.
POINT LEADERS: The 500 points Duncan’s Callum Davison collected for his GolfBC Championship win moved him into No. 1 on the Mackenzie Tour points list with 1,164. Noah Steele of Kingston. Ont., is second with 926, Brendan Leonard of Cambridge, Ont. is third with 910, Michael Blair of Ancaster, Ont. is fourth with 732 and Raoul Menard of Quebec City is fifth with 557.
The top player after next week’s event in Victoria earns fully exempt status on the 2022 Mackenzie Tour, while those second through fifth are exempt through the Tour’s first reshuffle.