New wave of Canadian golf talent set to roll into Uplands

There can be opportunity in adversity.

Callum Davison of Duncan has found it in the pandemic-abbreviated 2021 Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada pro golf season, winning his second ­tournament this year, by taking the GolfBC Championship on Saturday at Gallagher’s Canyon in Kelowna with a 14-under 270 and two-stroke victory. The emerging Islander and third-year pro also won the Brudenell River Classic tour stop this month in Prince Edward Island.

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Americans have only recently been allowed across the border to play in the tour, so this year has provided a sort of revelation — previously unearthed Canadian gems who have used this chance to shine. Davison has become the poster boy.

The eight-tournament ­season concludes with the Reliance Properties DCBank Victoria Open presented by the Times Colonist this coming week at Uplands. The formalities begin ­Tuesday with the practice round, ­followed by the Pro-Am on Wednesday and then the ­tournament runs Thursday to Sunday.

It was business as usual in the Victoria Open when things left off in the summer of 2019 at Uplands. Winner Paul ­Barjon and runner-up Doc ­Redman both went on to the PGA Tour. ­Nothing unusual there. Future PGA players from Steve Stricker to Tony Finau to Mackenzie Hughes have come through the Victoria tournament.

The Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada leads to the Korn Ferry Tour, which in turn is the entry point into the PGA Tour. The Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada since 2013 has produced 56 PGA Tour players, who have won 11 PGA tournaments, and more than 300 players for the Korn Ferry Tour, who have produced 47 victories at that gateway-to-the-PGA level.

But, of course, nothing has been usual since the last stop at Uplands.

The 2020 Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada was reduced to four events due to the pandemic, two of them at Bear Mountain. The 2021 Tour has produced more of a semblance of normality and Davison isn’t the only Canadian player to take advantage of that and emerge.

Amateur Noah Steele of Kingston, Ont., is second behind Davison in the 2021 Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada ­season standings. Royal Colwood ­member Max Sear, out of the NCAA Div. 1 University of West Virginia Mountaineers, tied for the lead in the Prince Edward Island Open last month — the first of the two Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada tournaments held in that province — before being relegated to second place on the first playoff hole by ­winner Michael Blair from Ancaster, Ont., and NCAA ­Eastern ­Michigan University.

Rising 17-year-old amateur Jeevan Sihota of Victoria used his Golf Canada exemption last week to finish tied for sixth in the ATB Financial Classic tour stop in Calgary and was top-30 in Kelowna in his first two career tournaments facing pro golfers. Steele and Sihota are members of Canadian national teams.

“We are really pleased that a new generation of Canadian golfers has used this opportunity to introduce themselves to fans across the country,” said Scott Pritchard, executive-director of the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada.

“That has made it a valuable year.”

Not that it has been easy.

“We’ve had to pivot and adjust quickly in some cases,” said Pritchard.

“One thing we have been ­adamant about is having a robust health and safety plan. Some health jurisdictions are more lenient than others. But we have used an abundance of caution wherever our tournaments have taken place because we didn’t want anything to ­disrupt the ­season. And we have ­accomplished what we set out to do this year, which is provide Canadian golfers a chance to play on tour.”

Forced by the pandemic, this is the latest date the Victoria Open has been held since its inception in 1981. It will revert to its regular first-week-of-June time slot in 2022. The prize purse this week is $100,000. It will return to its normal $200,000 level next year.

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