Carrigan sputters; defending champ on course at Canadian Men's Amateur

DUNCAN —A sense of history permeates the proceedings as players from across the country, and around the world, chase among the great titles in Canadian golf at the 114th Canadian men’s amateur championship taking place at Duncan Meadows and Pheasant Glen in Qualicum Beach.

“Based on what veteran golfers ask you in the clubhouse, your success as an amateur golfer in Canada seems to be based on how many Willingdon Cup teams you have been on,” said Kevin Carrigan of Royal Colwood.

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There are two championships at stake Monday through Thursday. The Willingdon Cup is the team championship that will go to the provincial squad members with the combined three lowest scores. Carrigan is on the B.C. team for the sixth time, winning the title in 2015.

“There is so much history and tradition behind the Willingdon Cup, that I am so proud to have been on the B.C. teams that I have been fortunate enough to play on,” he said.

The individual champion this week, meanwhile, will earn a considerable perk. If it is a Canadian, he will be granted an exemption into the PGA Tour’s 2019 RBC Canadian Open in Hamilton, Ont. The Canadian amateur is an open event. If the winner turns out to be an American, that golfer will earn an exemption into the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

The latter might turn out to be the case as defending-champion and NCAA Div. 1 Oklahoma State junior Zach Bauchou of Forest, Virginia, tied a Duncan Meadows course record from the black tees of 6-under 65 in taking the first-round lead Monday.

Carrigan, whom some describe as the best Island golfer who never turned pro, has been top-five twice in the Canadian amateur and sixth once. But Monday’s home-Island opening round did not go well for the 32-year-old financial planner. The former UNLV and Texas-Arlington NCAA Div. 1 golfer out of Lambrick Park Secondary, ballooned to a plus-6 77 at Duncan Meadows.

He has a lot of work today in the second round at Pheasant Glen. Yet, if anybody knows how to rally from such a hole, it’s Carrigan, who embodies a certain type of golfer in the Canadian amateur. That’s the kind that made a decision not to pursue the pro game. The other kind is embodied by the young golfers at Duncan Meadows and Pheasant Glen this week, who are either still in junior or NCAA university golf, who dream of following in the footsteps of previous Canadian amateur champions who used this title as a springboard to the pros. Current PGA Tour players Mackenzie Hughes and Nick Taylor, and Web.com Tour pro Albin Choi, are the latest from that group of former Canadian amateur champions. It has included in the past eventual pros such Danny Mijovic, Richard Zokol, Rod Spittle, Jim Nelford, Moe Norman and Sandy Somerville.

In the other group are Carrigan and the likes of fellow career-amateurs such as Doug Roxburgh of Vancouver, who has won the Canadian amateur four times. The 1904 Olympic gold-medallist, George Lyon, was eight-time Canadian amateur champion. Past winners and lifetime amateurs such as Gary Cowan and Nick Weslock represented Canada in several Commonwealth championships and Eisenhower tournaments.

“I have no regrets,” said Carrigan.

“Those on the pro tours are really good. I didn’t want to be left with no life skills after a career of chasing the pro dream. Financial planner is a great career for me and I haven’t looked back. I am very proud of the decision I made. Yet, I still love golf and have a passion for competing.”

That’s what the Canadian amateur is all about as 256 hopefuls started out Monday chasing their goals, whatever those disparate ambitions might be.

The top 70, plus ties, after today’s second rounds at Duncan Meadows and Pheasant Glen, will advance to the final two rounds Wednesday and Thursday at Duncan Meadows.

The top Island score was turned in by Tristan Mandur of Mill Bay, the NCAA Div. 1 University of Utah Utes freshman, who shot a 2-under 69 and is tied for 11th. Josh Miller of Royal Colwood and Jake Lane of Pheasant Glen were tied for 18th at 1-under 70 with Todd Bissenden of Chemainus tied for 35th at even-par 71.

Due in part to a smoky haze through much of the early part of the day on the mid-Island, caused by a forest fire in the Nanaimo Lakes area, only 18 competitors broke par in the first round.

The defending-champion, three-member Quebec team, with two Team Canada players, took a commanding six-stroke lead in the Willingdon Cup race at minus-eight 134 with B.C. and Alberta tied for second at minus-two 140. The first two rounds count for the Willingdon Cup, which will be presented after action today.

Carrigan placed third in the B.C. amateur championship last month at Rivershore in Kamloops behind Chris Crisologo of Richmond and Caleb Gorbahn of Smithers. Those three make up the B.C. team for the 2018 Willingdon Cup competition. B.C. is still remotely in the hunt thanks mainly to Gorbahn’s individual tied-for-second 4-under 67 Monday with the touted Crisologo, low amateur in the 2018 RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey, at plus-2 73.

DIVOTS: Quebec golfers Christopher Vandette and Celeste Dao — both stationed at the Golf Canada national development centre on Bear Mountain — won the 2018 boys’ and girls’ national junior titles in Medicine Hat and Beach Grove in Tsawwassen, respectively. Vandette swung back into action Monday and was tied for seventh after the first round after shooting a 3-under 68 at Duncan Meadows.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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