Ziemer's B.C. Golf Notes: Jace Minni conquers Chambers Bay to earn first collegiate win; Ewart wins again for Barry; Frustrating finish for Svensson at Masters; Henry Lee earns conditional status at PGA Tour Canada Q-School

Delta, BC's Jace Minni - Image Courtesy Gonzaga University

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

The Gonzaga golf drought is over, thanks to Delta’s Jace Minni.

The former B.C. Juvenile Boys champion earned his first collegiate win in impressive fashion last week by capturing Seattle University’s Redhawk Invitational at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., by four shots.

It was the first individual win by a Gonzaga University player since 2016 and Minni’s final-round 65 matched the low round in the history of the golf program at the Spokane school.

“My coach said in a meeting when we got back, ‘Thanks for breaking the drought,’” Minni said with a chuckle.

Minni, now in his third year at Gonzaga, was relieved to get that elusive first college win. He acknowledged his confidence level has not been great, although he was buoyed by his first top-10 in February.

“Getting that top-10 was a big step and then to come out here and win a tournament by four strokes is pretty eye-opening,” Minni said in a telephone interview. “Going into events I am always thinking, this is the one, I am going to win this one, and I stayed really patient all week. But I didn’t really expect anything.

"It’s Chambers Bay, it’s long, it’s cold, it’s at sea level and I’m not a long-ball hitter. But I just let the putter take over. It feels great, it’s pretty relieving to know that I still have it in me and I’m not just a mediocre college player out here. I can compete with the top guys.”

Minni trailed by five entering the final round but closed with that six-under 65 that clinched the win. He had no idea he had won until his assistant coach told him as he was walking off the 18th green.

“I don’t even feel like it was too crazy a round,” said Minni, who plays out of Beach Grove Golf Club in Tsawwassen. “I just didn’t make a mistake. It doesn’t happen often. I was hitting it to where I wanted to and I stroked the putter really well and I lipped out some putts. I didn’t three-putt and it was just a round where I felt really in control, that I could hit every shot I wanted and my speed control was great on the greens.”

Minni’s 54-hole total of 205 (eight-under par) also matched Gonzaga program record. One of Minni’s playing partners for his final round was former B.C. Amateur winner Nolan Thoroughood of Oregon Sate University, who tied for fifth spot at Chambers Bay.

Minni’s mom, Mellodee Rayne, was on hand to witness her son’s win, and relayed the good news to his dad, longtime Vancouver-area teaching pro Scott Minni. “It was the first time I’ve had a parent watch and she was on the phone with my dad when I finished so she just handed the phone over. He was ecstatic, of course.”

Although he had struggled to get that first collegiate victory, Minni is no stranger to winning. He won the 2018 B.C. Juvenile Boys Championship and last summer captured the Washington State Men’s Amateur.

He will defend that Washington State Amateur title this summer at Gold Mountain in Bremerton and he also plans to play in the B.C. Amateur Championship, which goes July 11-14 at Morningstar Golf Course in Parksville.

EWART WINS AGAIN: While Minni was winning his first event, Coquitlam’s A.J. Ewart was adding to his collection. Ewart, a senior at Barry University in South Florida, fired a career-low eight-under 62 in the second round of the Battle at the Shores tourney at Miami Shores Country Club. He finished the 54-hole event at 13-under par to win by three shots and help Barry win the team title. Ewart has now won or tied for top spot 13 times in his career at Barry, a NCAA Division II powerhouse.

SOGGY FINISH: There was no fairytale finish for Surrey’s Adam Svensson in his first appearance at the Masters tournament, just a soggy and frustrating one. Svensson finished his second round in the pouring rain and fired an eight-over 80 that left him at 11-over par and eight shots shy of the cutline. Ontario’s Mackenzie Hughes, who tied for 29th, was the only one of the four Canadians in the field to make the cut.

This week’s RBC Heritage tourney in Hilton Head, S.C. is another of the PGA TOUR's designated events with a $20-million purse. Svensson and the Abbotsford duo of Nick Taylor and Adam Hadwin are all in the field.

CLOSE CALL: Coquitlam’s Henry Lee lost a three-man playoff for the last exempt spot at a PGA Tour Canada qualifying school in Litchfield Park, Ariz. Lee, who finished in a three-way tie for 10th spot at six-under par at The Wigwam Resort’s Gold Course, did earn good conditional status that should get him some starts early in the season. Another PGA Tour Canada Q-school will be held this week in San Jacinto, Calif. The sixth and final Q-school goes June 6-9 at Crown Isle Golf Resort in Courtenay.

TOP-5 FINISH: Delta’s Mary Parsons finished fifth at the Women’s All Pro Tour’s Northshore Championship in Mandeville, La. Parsons, who completed her collegiate golf career last spring at Indiana University, finished the 72-hole event at three-under par. That was two shots behind winner Yiyi Liu of Rancho Mirage, Calif.

ENCORE SET: The second annual GolfBC Group B.C. Women’s Open will be played June 10-11 at Mayfair Lakes in Richmond. Organizers are hoping for a full field of 100 players (24 pros and 76 amateurs). The tournament is open to players with a Golf Canada or USGA handicap of 26.0 or less.

A $10,000 pro purse is being offered with the overall winner earning $3,000 and a paid spot in the Monday qualifier for this summer’s CP Women’s Open at Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club in Vancouver. Richmond’s Christine Wong won last year’s inaugural B.C. Women’s Open. For more information, visit vancouvergolftour.com.

SNOWED OUT: The University of B.C.’s men’s and women’s golf teams didn’t get to play their final regular season event. The Walla Walla Invitational at Wine Valley Golf Club in southeast Washington was cancelled due to snow. Next up for both UBC teams are the Cascade Collegiate Conference Championships, which go April 24-26 at Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell, Ore.

CHIP SHOTS: Bald Eagle Golf Course in Point Roberts remains for sale and there are no immediate plans to re-open the course for play this spring, according to general manager Tracy Evans. . .Westwood Plateau in Coquitlam opens its championship course for the season on April 15 . . . Sagebrush Golf Club has scheduled May 3 as its opening date.