Ziemer's B.C. Golf Notes: Taylor has Match Play and Masters on his mind; UBC’s Mackenzie Bickell starts tourney with a bang; Ledgeview to play host to Canadian Open regional qualifier

Abbotsford, BC's Nick Taylor - Image Credit Bernard Brault/Golf Canada

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

Nick Taylor has always been happy to give back to his home town, so when organizers of this past weekend’s Western Golf Expo at Abbotsford’s Tradex facility asked for a favour, Taylor was happy to oblige.

Taylor lent his support to the show by appearing opening day via Zoom from his Scottsdale home for an interview with Vancouver Golf Tour commissioner Fraser Mulholland and Sportsnet 650’s Randip Janda.

Taylor offered some excellent insight into the great year he is putting together on the PGA TOUR. He also had some big personal news, revealing that he and his wife Andie are expecting their second child in May.

Taylor has shot up the Official World Golf Ranking in recent weeks, thanks in large part to his second-place finish at the WM Phoenix Open. But Taylor has been far from a one-tournament wonder this season. In 11 starts in the 2022-23 PGA TOUR season, he has registered two other top-10s and three other finishes inside the top 25.

He feels like his game is in the best shape ever. Taylor said a new putting grip has definitely helped. “This January is when I committed to the claw grip with my putting,” he said. “It wasn’t that I was necessarily putting terribly, but it was more about the inconsistency and that grip put me in a great set-up position every time and I didn’t have to think much about it. And since the Sony Open (in Hawaii) when I really committed to it, the putting has been a vast improvement tournament to tournament. So it has been a nice change.”

Taylor is now in his ninth year on the PGA TOUR and is amazed how fast time has flown by. “There has obviously been some stressful times in keeping my job, but there have been a lot of euphoric moments as well,” said the two-time PGA TOUR winner.

“I’m very grateful for how many years I have been out here and it’s nice that I feel like I am hitting my stride here in my ninth year . . . I feel like my best golf is to come and I am excited about that.”

Taylor has two big tournaments coming up — this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players Championship the following week — that could determine if he gets a spot in the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play in late March.

He could also play his way into the Masters with a further move up the world rankings. “The Match Play cutoff is after the Players and the top 64 in the world who are eligible will play,” Taylor said. “So right now I am pretty close to that number. A couple of solid weeks and I’ll definitely be in the Match Play.”

AU REVOIR: Taylor shared a funny story with his Golf Expo audience about his time at the University of Washington. Taylor, who had taken French in high school and earned good marks, enrolled in a French class at UW. “When I took it in college I assumed it would be a continuation,” he said. “But I remember going into class and the teacher started speaking fluent French and I was like a deer in the headlights. I had no idea what was going on so I panicked.”

Taylor withdrew from that class and opted for another language course. “It was called introduction to Swahili,” Taylor said with a laugh. “I wouldn’t say it was the hardest class. It was like an ‘athletes' class,’ so the star quarterback was in my class . . . it is one of the biggest regrets of my academic career.” It should be noted that Taylor did earn a business degree at the University of Washington.

ON TO ORLANDO: Taylor will be joined this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando by fellow British Columbians Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford and Adam Svensson of Surrey. Svensson is coming off a tie for 49th finish at last week’s Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., that earned him $20,944. The Arnold Palmer Invitational, played at Bay Hill in Orlando, Fla., is another of the PGA TOUR’s elevated events and offers a $20-million purse.

FAST START: It was Mackenzie Bickell’s first hole-in-one and it came in rather unique circumstances for the second-year member of UBC’s men’s golf team. Bickell and his Thunderbird teammates were in Jurupa Valley, Calif., for The Joust at Goose Creek tourney and the Richmond native was the first player off as he started his round on the par 3 ninth hole. “It was literally the first shot of the tournament and it went in,” Bickell said. “I have been waiting to get the first one and that was a cool way to get it.”

Bickell hit what he called a soft nine-iron to the 151-yard hole. The ball landed about three yards behind the pin and spun back into the hole. “It was a big shock,” he said. “It was 8 in the morning and we woke up at like 5:30, it was a compressed warm-up and everything. I just wanted to get the round started and especially with starting on a par 3, I just wanted to hit the green.”

Bickell joked that it was all downhill after that. He ended up tying for 52nd place in the 54-hole event at 16-over par. UBC finished eighth in the 13-team competition that featured several NCAA Division I schools.

TWO NEW RECRUITS: Two of British Columbia’s top junior golfers will be joining UBC’s women’s team this fall. Tina Jiang of Richmond and Coco Pei of Surrey have both committed to the Thunderbirds.
Jiang had a wonderful summer last year that was highlighted by winning the gold medal at the Canada Summer Games. She finished third at the B.C. Junior Girls Championship and was 16th at both the Canadian Junior Girls and Canadian Women’s Amateur championships.

“I had the opportunity to coach Tina last summer at the Canada Summer Games and she is an experienced and consistent player who can take it under par,” said UBC coach Chris Macdonald. “She takes a lot of pride in her play and is a great competitor. Her distance off the tee can set her apart and she has a terrific wedge game that gives her several birdie putts a round.”

Pei qualified to play in last summer’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Chambers Bay in Washington state. “I’ve had a chance to watch Coco play over the last three years,” Macdonald said. “She finished as one of the top 30 women’s players in Canada this past summer and I really believe the best is yet to come for her game. Coco drives the ball accurately and understands the strategy of the game in competition and is a good putter.”

CRISOLOGO LEADS WAY: Simon Fraser University’s men’s team improved each day and finished seventh at the Rattler Invitational in San Antonio, Tex. The Red Leafs completed the 54-hole event at 35-over par, 16 shots behind the winning team from Cameron University in Oklahoma. Michael Crisologo led the way for SFU. He closed with a three-under 69 to finish tied for 11th at six-over par. The SFU women’s team makes its spring debut at this week’s Tim Tierney Pioneer Shootout in Alameda, Calif.

OPEN SEASON: Ledgeview Golf Course in Abbotsford will play host to a RBC Canadian Open regional qualifier on May 12. Registration is now open for the qualifier, where players will have an opportunity to play their way into the final Monday qualifier scheduled for June 4 at Coppinwood Golf Club in Goodwood, Ont. The RBC Canadian Open goes June 8-11 at Oakdale Golf & Country Club in Toronto.

CHIP SHOTS: Coquitlam’s Henry Lee, Tristan Mandur of Duncan and Ziggy Nathu of Richmond are in the field for this week’s Asher Tour event, the Oceanside Open, in California. . .Vancouver’s Leah John, now in her senior year at the University of Nevada, tied for 17th at the The Show at Spanish Trail in Las Vegas. That’s the tournament where the two-time B.C. Women’s Amateur champion earned her first collegiate win last spring.