Vanderwal loves taste of pro game

For Shawn Vanderwal, the Western Championship was just a part of the process.

Vanderwal, 21, was the second-best Kamloops finisher in the Canadian Tour event, which continues today and Sunday at Rivershore Golf Links. His 146 total - he had back-to-back 73s - was six off the cut line.

But Vanderwal, a South Kamloops grad, wasn't as disappointed as one might have expected.

After all, he still has two years of school and golf remaining with the Drury University Panthers in Springfield, Mo., and is using his foray into professional golf as a learning experience.

"I now know what I need to do to play at the next level," said Vanderwal, who played as an amateur and thus can remain in NCAA's Division II. "It was a big eye-opener."

Vanderwal played both days with Chris Power, an assistant professional at Rivershore, and Nick Taylor, who plays out of Vancouver.

Taylor, who has played in two U.S. Open championships, fired back-to-back 67s and was tied for eighth after two rounds.

Vanderwal took advantage of the up-close look at one of Canada's top young golfers.

"Playing with Nick, you just see how he hits it and how he doesn't make mistakes," said Vanderwal, who won a provincial high school championship with the South Kamloops Titans and a national championship with the TRU WolfPack, both in 2008.

"That's what I lack - I make too many mistakes and when I make birdies, they're to get back into the low 70s, whereas he's making birdies to shoot in the 60s."

Dion Sirianni was the top Kamloops finisher, following a 75 with a 70.

Other Kamloops finishers were: Adam Gruber (76-73-149); Riley Balson (72-77-149); Shawn Fagan (74-77-151); Stephen Connor (77-77-154); Ian Henson (82-76-158); Ryan Krisko (76-82-158); Power (82-80-162); and Shaun Carson (81-84-165).

Vanderwal is planning to head back to Springfield in July, before the Greater Lakes Valley Conference season starts. He has enjoyed his first two seasons down south.

"It's been fun, I've been able to travel all over the place," said Vanderwal, a management and marketing student. "I won once this year, and I came close a couple other times.

"I'm just trying to improve every year, improve and build, and this will definitely help."

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Players are scoring a lot better at Rivershore than they were at Victoria's Uplands Golf Course, where the Times Colonist Open was played last week.

In fact, this is one of the lowest-scoring tournaments in Canadian Tour history, at least so far.

The cut number for the top-60 and ties in Kamloops was 140, three full strokes lower than at the Times Colonist Open. It should be noted that Uplands is par-70, while Rivershore's par is 72.

The 4-under total is tied for the fourth lowest cut (in relation to par) in Canadian Tour history - the lowest was 6-under at the 2008 ATB Financial Classic at Calgary's Cottonwood Club.

At last month's Mexican PGA Championship in Mazatlan, the cut was 145.

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Friday's scoring average was 71.25, down from 71.37 the day before. The toughest hole was the par-3 17th, with players needing 3.26 strokes, on average, to finish it.

The easiest hole, for the second day in a row, was the par-5 fourth, whose scoring average was 4.32.

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Coloured balls have long been a favourite for amateur golfers, but you might be surprised to know that a few Canadian Tour players went yellow on Thursday and Friday.

The yellow ball of choice is the Srixon Z-Star Tour, and a half dozen players were smacking them around.

The rest of the field stuck with the normal white balls.

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Conditions have been uncommonly calm at Rivershore this week, but the one gust of wind that came forced Canadian Tour officials to make a change.

During a 10-minute windy span on Thursday afternoon - really the only noticeable wind of the first two rounds - the Tour's scoring tent blew down. Fortunately, there wasn't anybody inside, but it made for something of a spectacle, a big green tent rolling behind the ninth green.

The tent has since been taken down, and players sign their scorecards under the patio on the north side of the clubhouse.

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Cranbrook Golf Club is to play host to B.C. Golf's senior women's championship next week, and B.C. Golf Hall of Fame member Jackie Little is in the field.

Little, who calls Port Alberni home, is back after missing the 2010 season due to injury. She is one of 55 women who will compete for the Lucy Markham Trophy starting Tuesday and ending Thursday.

There aren't any Kamloops players on the start list.

mhunter@kamloopsnews.ca

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