By Brad Ziemer, Event Journalist
KELOWNA — Cooper Humphreys had a great summer and his fall golf season hasn’t started badly either.
The 16-year-old Kelowna resident opened the GolfBC Championship at Gallagher’s Canyon Golf Club with a solid two-under 69 that has him inside the top 15 of the Mackenzie Tour event.
“I’m pretty happy because I didn’t have the best start,” said Humphreys, who bogeyed his opening hole. “I just managed my misses today. I didn’t make any huge mistakes and just made some good putts coming down the stretch.”
Humphreys, who finished off his round nicely with birdies on three of his final five holes, capped his summer by winning last month’s Canadian Juvenile Boys Championship in Quebec and came within one shot of forcing a playoff for the Junior Boys’ title.
He recently committed to play his collegiate golf at Oregon State University. That phase of his golfing life won’t begin until the fall of 2023 as Humphreys is just starting Grade 11.
“I’ve got a little while to wait,” Humphreys said. “I am excited about that. Both the coaches there are awesome.”
This is the second GolfBC Championship for Humphreys, who played in the 2019 event as a 14-year-old. He shot rounds of 76 and 71 and missed the cut, but had a memorable end to his second round when he fired a six-under 30 on the back nine at Gallagher’s Canyon.
“The first three nines of that tournament weren’t the greatest, but the last nine was good,” he said. “The back nine was a lot of fun that day.”
Although he still has some growing to do, Humphreys feels like he is now much better equipped to play in a professional event than he was two years ago.
“I hit the ball a lot farther and that helps,” he said. “And I can hit it a lot higher, so it helps hitting into firm greens. And I just know more about the game now.”
FAST START: Another Kelowna resident, 20-year-old Cole Wilson, fired a three-under 68 and is tied for sixth place.
Wilson is a rookie pro who says he is learning lots as he travels the country on the Mackenzie Tour.
“To play a full season on the Mackenzie Tour in my first year as a pro has been great,” he said. “It’s definitely a little lonely travelling alone, but am I meeting a lot of great people along the way and seeing parts of Canada I never thought I’d see.”
Wilson played most of his golf growing up at Okanagan Golf Club and hadn’t played a tournament round at Gallagher’s since the Zone 2 Junior Championships in 2016.
“The biggest benefit to me this week being a Kelowna kid is sleeping in my own bed,” he said.
Wilson feels no extra pressure playing at home.
“Not at all. I feel very, very calm. The biggest key when it comes to performance is just attitude and positivity. I have my best friend on the bag and we’re just having a lot of fun. And I have some spectators out here who are friends of the family. It’s been a great time.”
TIMELY ACE: To say Sadiq Jiwa needed the hole-in-one he recorded in Wednesday’s first round on the par 3 13th at Gallagher’s Canyon would be something of an understatement.
Jiwa had just played the previous four holes in five-over par, so the Vancouver resident wasn’t exactly feeling great about his day when he stepped up the 13th tee.
“I needed it to turn my round around because it was going south pretty quickly,” Jiwa said of his 7-iron that found the hole on the 166-yard 13th.
“It was playing about 10 yards up hill,” he said. “It landed about seven or eight feet short. We actually didn’t see it go in. We got up there and couldn’t find the ball and someone said check the hole and there it was, right in there.”
It was the fifth hole-in-one for Jiwa, a member at Marine Drive Golf Club who works as marketing manager for the Maple Leaf Junior Tour.
“I have had two in practice rounds of tournaments and then two at my home course,” he said. “So this would be my first official hole-in-one in a tournament.”
Jiwa made five straight pars after his ace to shoot a four-over 75.
LOVE STORY: He played golf at San Jose State University, where she was on the gymnastics team. They fell in love and that is how Australian Will Barnett ended up in Coquitlam.
The story is a little more complicated than that. Barnett and his then girlfriend, Taylor Chan, didn’t see one another for six months after Chan graduated last spring and returned home to British Columbia. Barnett couldn’t follow her as the Canadian government demanded proof of a relationship.
“I wasn’t able to get into the country until November of last year so we went six months without seeing each other,” Barnett said after firing a five-under 66 in Wednesday’s first round. “It was upsetting, but I kind of used that time in the San Jose area to practise my game a little bit.”
Barnett and Chan were married this past April.
“We’d been married for two months when I decided I’d better go on the road for 10 weeks and play some golf.”