Ziemer's B.C. Golf Notes: Surrey teen off to Augusta National; Motomochi cashes on NEXT Tour; du Toit third on Asher Tour; Hadwin surprises wife with made cut

BC's Ha Young Chang Won A Regional Drive, Chip & Putt Competition At Pebble Beach - Image Courtesy Minku Chang

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

Surrey teenager Ha Young Chang is counting the days until she visits Augusta National Golf Club for the finals of the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship. She figures to be spending a lot of those days at the driving range and practice green.

“I am really excited,” says Chang, a Grade 9 student at Elgin Park Secondary. “I have always watched it on TV. I know I’ll be a little nervous.”

Chang battled her nerves quite successfully to advance to the national finals, which is no easy task. She first competed in one of 342 local qualifiers last summer at Meadow Park Golf Course in Tacoma, Wash., where she advanced to a sub-regional qualifier at The Home Course in Dupont, Wash. She then advanced to a regional qualifier at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California.

“The top two players advanced to regionals and only one person goes to finals,” said her proud dad Minku Chang. “Ha Young won all three of those events. There’s lots of pressure because you make one mistake and you’re gone.”

The nationally televised finals go Sunday, April 2 at Augusta National. “I think my strengths are my driver and my putting,” says Ha Young. “I have been practising a lot at Morgan Creek and Hazelmere. I have been spending a lot of time on the putting green working on my putting and chipping.”

Chang, who turns 15 in March, will compete in the oldest age group (14-and 15-year-olds) at Augusta. Ten finalists (80 in total) compete in each age group. Competitors each get two drives that must land in a 40-yard wide fairway and points are awarded on length, with the longest drive getting 10 points, the second longest receiving nine points, all the way down to one point.

Each player will chip twice with the cumulative distance from the hole determining points awarded, again from 10 to 1. Players will each get two putts, one from 30 feet and another from 15 feet with points awarded on cumulative distance from the hole. Scores are then added up from all three disciplines and a winner declared.

Chang has been driving, chipping and putting very well in recent years. She finished third at last summer’s B.C. Women’s Amateur Championship at Pitt Meadows Golf Club and this past November won the Maple Leaf Junior Tour’s National Championship by six shots at Orange County National in Florida.

Chang is one of five Canadians who have advanced to the Drive, Chip and Putt finals. The other four are from Ontario. Chang’s parents plan to make the trip with her to Georgia and they will all receive complimentary tickets to Monday’s practice round for the Masters tournament.

NOT SO FAST: Abbotsford’s Adam Hadwin birdied his final hole to make the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif. And that seemed to surprise his wife, Jessica, who shared on Twitter a couple of texts she sent to her husband late in his second round. “Are we able to get out of here tonight or will it have to wait until tomorrow,” she said in her first text, then followed minutes later with this one: “Oh Nevermind. Nice birdie finish lol.”

Jessica’s tweets drew the attention of Golf Digest, which posted an item on the exchange. Hadwin went on to tie for 44th at Torrey Pines. He had a rough back nine in the final round to shoot a four-over 76 which left him at two-over par for the tournament, 15 shots behind winner Max Homa. Hadwin earned $25,578 and now stands 52nd on the FedEx Cup points list.

Surrey’s Adam Svensson missed the cut by two shots at Torrey Pines and dropped to 11th on the points list. While Hadwin and Svensson are taking the week off, Abbotsford’s Nick Taylor — currently 51st on the points list — is in the field for this week’s AT&T Pebble Peach Pro-Am on California’s Monterey Peninsula. Taylor has a great history at the event. He won the AT&T in 2020, tied for 14th last year and tied for 10th in 2017.

ON TO PANAMA: Merritt’s Roger Sloan tied for 58th at the Korn Ferry Tour’s The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic. Sloan closed with a two-over 74 to finish at two-over par. That was 17 shots behind the winner, fellow Canadian Ben Silverman of Thornhill, Ont. Through the first two events of the new Korn Ferry Tour season, Sloan stands 54th on the points list. The KFT’s next event, the Panama Championship, goes this week.

BACK IN ACTION: Kimberley’s Jared du Toit returned to action following a lengthy absence due to injury with a tie for third at the Asher Tour’s McCormick Open in Scottsdale, Ariz. Du Toit completed the 54-hole event at 11-under par. That was three shots behind winner Charlie Beljan, a former PGA Tour regular. Du Toit, who had been out three months with a shoulder injury, earned $6,450.

Vancouver’s Trevor Yu tied for eighth at eight-under and made $2,265. Du Toit, Yu and several other B.C. pros are scheduled to play in pre-qualifiers this week in an attempt to get in the Monday qualifier for the upcoming WM Phoenix Open, which this year features a $20-million purse.

DATE NIGHT PAYDAY: Another British Columbian has cashed a nice cheque on the NEXT Golf Tour, a virtual professional tour open to players with access to TrackMan’s indoor golf simulators. Jonnie Motomochi’s five-under 67 was good for a six-way tie for fifth place in NEXT’s second event of its 2023 tour and earned him more than $4,000 US. Motomochi, a Morgan Creek teaching pro who played collegiate golf at Oregon State University, said he’s worked with the TrackMan system for several years in his teaching.

And he joked that his virtual round, which was played at Rome’s Marco Simone Golf & Country Club — the site of this fall’s Ryder Cup — was a much different experience than a typical tournament round. “It was pretty much a date night for me and my wife (Lala),” he said. “We had dinner at Morgan and brought the food down to the Performance Academy and we were eating dinner and I was hitting shots. I felt a little bit of the tournament nerves, but it was so different. I didn’t take a practice swing. I just chose my club and hit it.”

Motomochi missed the first NEXT event, where Vernon’s Bryce Barker tied for third. The NEXT Golf Tour was created to give elite players an opportunity to earn money and develop their brands as professional golfers. In addition to the tournament purse, bonuses are paid for longest drive, social media exposure, greens in regulation and closest to the pin. Thirty per cent of the field earns a paycheque and the field is open to men and women, who play from a different tee box. Three more events are scheduled before the season ends with a Tour Championship.

CHIP SHOTS: Dain Mikulic, associate superintendent at Marine Drive Golf Club, has been recognized by the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association as winner of the CSGA/Toro Assistant Superintendent of the Year Award. . .Invermere’s Luke Schaal, son of longtime Copper Point general manager Brian Schaal, has committed to play collegiate golf at Monmouth University in New Jersey.