By Brad Ziemer
KELOWNA — Jordan Hahn did something in Thursday’s first round of the GolfBC Championship he had never done as a professional golfer. He left his driver in the bag for an entire competitive round. Didn’t even take the head cover off of it.
“That’s a first,” the 25-year-old Wisconsin native said of going driverless at Gallagher’s Canyon Golf & Country Club. “Not in a competitive round, maybe I’ve done it on a par 3 course or something like that.”
Hahn’s strategy seemed to work as he fired a seven-under 64 to share the lead with Georgian Luke Schniederjans and Cole Madey of Portland, Ore.
With a tight Gallagher’s Canyon layout playing firm and fast and the ball travelling a mile, the majority of the field at the PGA Tour Canada circuit’s final full-field event of the season aren’t hitting many drivers. However, most are at least using driver on the sixth and ninth holes, the two par 5s on the front side,.
Hahn instead relied on his three-iron off the tee. He said one of the reasons for not pulling out the big stick on the sixth and ninth holes was that he started his round on the back nine.
“Playing the practice round I thought I was going to hit it on six and nine, but going off the back nine it’s hard to get into a rhythm and I didn’t feel comfortable not hitting a driver until I got to my 15th hole. I could still get there in two on both of those par 5s just hitting three-iron off the tee. I figured I might as well just keep it in front of me and instead of having a shorter iron I hit a six- or seven-iron in there and I was still able to take advantage of them.”
Hahn birdied all three of Gallagher’s par 5s. He added four other birdies in his bogey-free round.
Schniederjans also had a seven-birdie, no-bogey round.
“I made two 10-footers and had a long par save on 17, other than that it was just pretty good iron play,” said the 24-year-old Alpharetta, Ga. resident. “Pretty stress-free day.”
Schniederjans almost grabbed the lead on the par 4 18th hole when his sand wedge from 107 yards spun back and just missed the hole. He had less that two feet for his birdie.
“I like the course, it’s fun,” he said of Gallagher’s Canyon. “Not a lot of drivers, but the views are nice. I like a course that challenges your mid-irons, so it is fun to play.”
If Schniederjans’s name sounds familiar it’s probably because his older brother Ollie Schniederjans spent considerable time on the PGA Tour.
Luke said his older brother, who is five years his senior, was a big inspiration to him.
“I wouldn’t play golf probably if it wasn’t for him and just watching him play,” he said. “We are very close and still live together. At home we’re always talking and hanging out. We kind of do our thing when we play tournaments, but I know he’s just a phone call away.”
Madey posted his 64 late in the day and had nine birdies. He’s playing his first PGA Tour Canada event after spending most of the year playing the PGA Tour Latinoamerica circuit.
He started his round by chipping in for birdie on the tough par 4 10th hole.
“That kind of set the tone for the rest of the day,” he said.
There was no shortage of low scores at Gallagher’s on Thursday. Four players, including Calgary’s Brendan MacDougall, are just a shot back after firing six-under 65s.
More than 30 players shot rounds of four-under or better.
It took 20-under to win the event the last time it was staged in 2019. This year’s winner may have to go even lower.
CHIP SHOTS: Edmonton’s Wil Bateman, who leads the Fortinet Cup points race, opened with a five-under 66. So did Max Sekulic of Rycroft, Alta., the 2021 Canadian Men’s Amateur champion.