Ziemer's B.C. Golf Notes: Attitude adjustment propels Wheeldon to Q-school win; T-Birds advance to NAIA Championships; Another honour for A.J. Ewart; Victoria Liu wins Ivy League championship; Sagebrush opens its season

Riley Wheeldon Has Fully Exempt Status This Year On The PGA TOUR Canada - PGA TOUR Canada Image

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

Riley Wheeldon will tell you it was a lot more than home course advantage that propelled him to his impressive performance at last week’s PGA Tour Canada qualifying school at Crown Isle Golf Resort. 

Sure, his intimate familiarity with the Crown Isle layout that is located not far from his childhood home in Comox came in handy, but Wheeldon credits an attitude adjustment with his solid play. 

“My game has always been there,” Wheeldon said. “My attitude hasn’t. That was one thing I said to myself last summer, that if I was going to keep doing this, my attitude has to change. Having a little refresh this winter, I was able to come out and focus on attitude and let everything else fall into place and behold, this game is pretty fun.”

The former B.C. Junior champion ran away from the rest of the field as he posted a 72-hole score of 20-under par to win by five shots. The win makes Wheeldon fully exempt for the upcoming PGA Tour Canada season and may force the 31-year-old to make some tough decisions. He has a job at Desert Forest Golf Club in Carefree, Ariz.

“Coming into this week, I wasn’t planning on playing a full schedule,” Wheeldon said. “I was going to see how this went. I saw a lot of good things this week and was able to get full status. We’ll see. I’ll have to have a couple of conversations my my bosses, the first boss being my wife, and then the bosses at the club where I’ve been working.”

The Crown Isle Q-school added some much-needed Canadian content to this season’s PGA Tour Canada schedule. All but one of the nine players who earned status in Courtenay are Canadians and the one who isn’t -- second-place finisher Yi Cao of China -- resides full-time in Delta. 

Kimberley’s Jared du Toit finished solo third at 13-under par. Ontario native Max Sear, who now plays out of Royal Colwood in Victoria, was fourth. Former UBC Thunderbird Andrew Harrison was fifth and Brendan MacDougall of Calgary was sixth. Rounding out the top nine were Jimmy Jones, a dual citizen who is the son of the late Dawn Coe-Jones, Austin Ryan of Waterloo, Ont., and Marc Bourgeois of Cheticamp, N.B..

The players finishing second through ninth are exempt through the first reshuffle, likely the first six events of the season. Players finishing 10th through 30th at Crown Isle received conditional status. Jeevan Sihota, an 18-year-old from Victoria, finished tied for ninth but lost in a three-man playoff for that last exempt spot.

Sihota will have good conditional status, however, and should draw into some events. Sihota, who now plans to turn pro, already has an exemption into the season-opening Royal Beach Victoria Open presented by Times Colonist, which goes June 2-5 at Uplands golf Club in Victoria.

Other British Columbians earning conditional status by finishing 10th through 30th at Crown Isle include Zach Anderson of Nanaimo (T15) and Bryce Barker of Vernon and Trevor Yu of Vancouver (both T19).

BIRDS SOAR: The University of B.C. men’s and women’s golf teams have both earned spots in their respective NAIA national championship tournament. Both teams won Cascade Conference Championships last week in Eagle Point, Ore. It was the 10th straight tournament victory for the UBC women. They were led by Elizabeth Labbe, who closed with a four-under 68 and claimed medalist honours.

UBC won the team title over Oregon Tech by 45 shots. The NAIA Women’s Championships go May 24-27 in Oklahoma City. The UBC men beat Lewis-Clark State by four shots. Russell Howlett led the way for UBC. Howlett lost a playoff for the individual title on the third extra hole. The NAIA Men’s Championship goes May 17-20 in Silvis, Ill.

CLIMBING IVY: Vancouver’s Victoria Liu won the individual title and led Princeton University to the Ivy League Championship in Ringoes, N.J. Liu, who is completing her first year at Princeton, finished the 54-hole event at even par to win by five shots. Princeton beat Columbia by three strokes to earn its seventh Ivy league Championship. Vancouver’s Tiffany Kong, a junior at Princeton, tied for 20th at 16-over par. The win earned Princeton a spot in the NCAA Regionals, to be held May 9-11.

ADIOS AMIGOS: It wasn’t a great week for the B.C. boys at the PGA TOUR’s Mexico Open in Puerto Vallarta. Abbotsford’s Nick Taylor, Adam Svensson of Surrey and Roger Sloan of Merritt all missed the cut. All three will be in Potomac, Md. for this week’s Wells Fargo Championship, where Rory McIlroy is the defending champion. Abbotsford’s Adam Hadwin is taking another week off.

STORM CHASER: Hadwin and his wife Jessica have a home in her hometown of Wichita, Kan., and they had to retreat to their basement when a tornado last week came a little too close for comfort. Hadwin shot this video of the twister and posted it to his Twitter account. Jessica followed up his post with a funny one of her own.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Coquitlam’s A.J. Ewart has been named All-Sunshine State Conference player of the year. Ewart, a junior at Barry University in south Florida, has four wins, two playoff losses and nine top-five finishes this year for Barry. He is ranked as the top player in NCAA Division II. Through 10 tournaments and 30 rounds this year, Ewart has recorded a scoring average of 69.40.

OFF TO REGIONALS: Reigning B.C. Women’s Amateur champion Leah John of Vancouver has been awarded an individual berth into the NCAA Stanford Regional tournament May 9-11. John, a junior at the University of Nevada, won her first collegiate event earlier this year and has set a school record with 84 birdies this season.

OPEN SEASON: 100 is the magic number for a RBC Canadian Open regional qualifier which goes May 17 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows. If at least 100 players are registered for the event, the winner will receive a spot in the RBC Canadian Open, which goes June 9-12 at St. George’s Golf & Country Club in Toronto. If fewer than 100 players tee it up, then the top 10 per cent will get a spot in the final Monday qualifier. As of April 30, 69 players were registered for the Meadow Gardens qualifier. The registration deadline is May 10.

ON TO ECUADOR: Coquitlam’s Henry Lee tied for 43rd at the Diners Club Peru Open in Lima. The PGA Tour Latinoamerica circuit is in Ecuador this week for the Quito Open. Lee and Richmond’s Ziggy Nathu, who missed the cut at the Peru Open, are both in the field.

SAGEBRUSH OPENS: Sagebrush Golf Club opened its season April 30 and general manager Mark Strong says the Quilchena course is seeing strong demand for play. Despite an unseasonably cool start to our spring, Strong said course superintendent Neil Pilon and his staff have Sagebrush in great shape. “The golf course is looking awesome,” Strong says. “Neil has done an amazing job. It is looking top notch.”