Cao, Bear Mountain winners in Canada Life Series

You win some and you lose some in sports. That doesn’t change amid a pandemic.

Langford found that out after two successful Canada Life Series pro golf tournaments were staged on Bear Mountain after the burgeoning Island community lost its bid, to Charlottetown, P.E.I., to host the pro soccer Canadian Premier League season.

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Yi Cao and Evan Holmes were the champions of the 54-hole Canada Life tournaments over the past two weeks, leading wire-to-wire on the mountain and valley courses respectively, as sport continues to return.

But the biggest winner might have been Bear Mountain itself.

“The two tournaments were great successes and really shone a light on Bear Mountain,” said Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada executive director Scott Pritchard.

“We are hearing from the golfers, who have high compliments about the two courses, and about how grateful they are for the opportunity to play.”

Not that they were easy tracks. Far from it. Jack Nicklaus and son Steve wanted the natural terrain to provide a challenge and that is what they designed over both the mountain and valley circuits.

“Both courses are formidable tests,” said Pritchard.

“There was trouble everywhere for the golfers and big numbers all over the place. It speaks to the challenge Bear Mountain presents.”

An old golf adage – about keeping the ball in play — held Cao and Holmes in good stead over respective weeks.

“Holmes in the first week and Cao in the second week kept the ball in front of them and avoided some of those big numbers,” said Pritchard.

The Tsawwassen-resident Cao, who shot a 61 this summer to set the new Beach Grove club record, tied for third last week and looks to be in strong position to earn the berth into the 2021 RBC Canadian Open at St. George’s in Toronto that will go to the winner of the four-tournament Canada Life Series, which concludes Sept. 2-4 and Sept. 9-11 at TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley. If he takes that spot, it would be Cao’s third PGA Tour start after also playing in the 2016 and 2018 World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions events in Shanghai because of exemptions won on the PGA Tour China and points earned in the China Golf Association. Cao said he plans to contest the two remaining Canada Life series tournaments to hopefully gain that cherished berth in the 2021 Canadian Open.

Cao closed out the second $50,000 Canada Life pro tournament Wednesday on Bear Mountain with a final-round 5-under 66 to go with his 67s over the first two rounds to win at 13-under on the valley course. He then made a beeline to Swartz Bay for the 7 p.m. ferry. With $9,000 in his pockets for the victory, he could have afforded assured loading.

“I went into this final round with a five-shot lead but that can disappear quickly on this course if you hit it out of bounds maybe just twice,” said Cao.

“I didn’t want anybody to take my trophy away by me beating myself today. And I didn’t beat myself. I was always playing for birdie.”

Cao may have won the week but Joey Savoie, however, won the day. The Quebec native, who played in the NCAA for Middle Tennessee State and represented Canada in the 2019 Lima Pan Am Games, shot a final-round 7-under 64 to earn the $2,750 bonus for recording the tournament low round. The perk is provided for every Canada Life tournament by current and former Canadian PGA Tour players Adam Hadwin, Corey Conners, Nick Taylor, Mackenzie Hughes, Roger Sloan, Michael Gligic, Graham DeLaet, Stephen Ames, David Hearn, Mike Weir and Ian Leggatt to help out the next generation.

“I played solid today, bogie free,” said Savoie, the 2018 Canadian men’s amateur golfer of the year.

Savoie shot up 15 spots on the final day to finish in a second-place tie with Albert Pistorius of South Africa at 5-under 208 over three rounds.

“The key on this golf course is really to hit the fairways and as many greens as possible. I was able to do that today,” said Savoie, in his post-round media interview.

“I didn’t have any big mistakes. Overall, I was hitting fairways and greens and that’s what you have to do at his place.”

Michael Blair of Ancaster, Ont., who w on a qualifier and played in the 2019 RBC Canadian Open in Hamilton, was fourth at 4-under 209. Former University of Victoria Vikes player Lawren Rowe, a graduate of Mount Douglas Secondary, was fifth at 3-under 210.

Callum Davison of Duncan also made a big move with a 5-under 66 Wednesday to rocket up 20 spots. The 19-year-old, who golfed out of both the Cowichan and Duncan Meadows clubs and turned down NCAA Div. 1 scholarship offers to turn pro, finished tied for sixth with a three-round total of 2-under 211.

“It’s huge. It’s definitely big for the Canadians and the local guys,” said Davison, in his post-round interview with organizers.

Also in that five-way tie for sixth place was top Canadian amateur A.J. Ewart of Coquitlam.

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