VANCOUVER – SPORTS – Arbuckle, California’s Ben Geyer opened with a 7-under 65 at Point Grey Golf and Country Club on Thursday to take the first round lead at the Freedom 55 Financial Open, the first event of the 2016 Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada season.
The 24-year old made seven birdies and was bogey-free on the day to lead by one over Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida’s Tyler McCumber and Kitchener, Ontario’s Cam Burke.
“I drove it really well today and kept it in play. I didn’t have many stressful holes, and I was really happy with how I scored,” said Geyer, who earned exempt status on the Mackenzie Tour by the narrowest of margins last year.
After struggling on the Web.com Tour for the first half of 2015, the St. Mary’s College graduate earned the final spot in the field at last year’s season-ending Freedom 55 Financial Championship by placing 60th on the Order of Merit through the Cape Breton Open by a mere $373, thereby retaining status for this year.
“I struggled unfortunately on the Web.com Tour last year, and it was nice to be able to come up to Canada and get things figured out a bit. I have a good feel for this Tour now and I’m looking forward to competing up here this season,” said Geyer.
Burke, a two-time Canadian Amateur champion, was also bogey-free in his debut as a Mackenzie Tour member to share second place with McCumber after day one.
“I putted really well. I didn’t drive it that well, but I kept it in between the trees for the most part. I had an approach shot to all 18 holes, and I putted outstanding and my short game was really good today,” said Burke.
One shot further behind at 5-under were Mike Ballo, Jr., Vancouver-area native Devin Carrey and 19-year old Austin Connelly, also a first year Mackenzie Tour member.
KEY NUMBERS TO KNOW:
1.538: Ben Geyer’s putting average on day one
2: Bogey-free rounds (Ben Geyer, 65; Cam Burke, 66)
71: Players who shot par or better on Thursday.
“I’ve been doing this since 2011, playing pro. It’s easy to get agitated that you haven’t accomplished your goals after a few years, so I’m trying to enjoy how cool it is to come out here. It’s my first time in British Columbia. I went to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, and I’m just trying to enjoy myself rather than put too much pressure on playing well.” – Cam Burke on playing his first full season on the Mackenzie Tour.
“I took a look at the field when I came up here, and there’s a lot of names that we all know, and there’s ones that even if we don’t know them, they’re good players. It’s definitely a good field.” – Tyler McCumber on competing against familiar fields from Web.com Tour and PGA TOUR Latinoamérica events this week on the Mackenzie Tour.
“It’s one of those places I’m just comfortable with. It’s not a huge golf course and strategy’s a big part of it, so it’s right up my alley. I came here this week to continue the momentum and get some more good vibes, and it was nice to see that continue today,” – Drew Weaver on being comfortable competing at Point Grey Golf and Country Club, where he won last year’s Freedom 55 Financial Open.
“It was a little bit of a leap for me to come all the way up here after a long week last week, but I’m thrilled I did and it’s great to see a lot of familiar faces and I’m excited for the rest of the week.” – Weaver on traveling to Vancouver after playing last week in Greenville, South Carolina on the Web.com Tour.
“It takes a big weight off my shoulders knowing I have a place to play and I can set my own schedule. It’s difficult just bouncing around and getting a call last minute, so it’s always nice to know where you’re going and to at least have a pathway forward. You can graduate from here to the Web.com Tour and then to the PGA TOUR, so you actually have a platform.” – Austin Connelly on having a home tour to compete on in his first year as a pro.
“When you’re in this situation, you can live and die on every shot. I think the more you’re faced with a little bit of adversity, the more you can see what you’re made of and see if you can shoot these scores if you need to, and that’s the name of the game.” – Devin Carrey, who is playing on a sponsor exemption this week, on the pressure of performing with no guarantees of future starts.
In 2014, Geyer finished in the top-10 at the Final Stage of Web.com Tour Q-School to earn exempt status until the third re-shuffle of the 2015 Web.com Tour season, but made just one cut in 13 starts.
He then earned the final spot in the field at the season-ending Freedom 55 Financial Championship by placing 60th on the Order of Merit through the Cape Breton Open by just $373 over No. 61 Steve Carney.
Geyer finished T5 at the season-ending event and moved up to 42nd on the Order of Merit.
Tyler McCumber Shot a 6-under 66 to sit T2 through 18 holes. The 25-year old is the son of 10-time PGA TOUR winner Mark McCumber.
In 2014, McCumber won twice on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica and finished third on the Order of Merit to earn status on the Web.com Tour. Last year, McCumber finished 90th on the Web.com Tour Money List to retain conditional status.
McCumber is in the field this week playing out of a category for Web.com Tour members.
Cam Burke shot a 6-under 66 in his first round as a Mackenzie Tour member. The two-time Canadian Amateur Champion and former member of Golf Canada’s National Amateur Team earned exempt status through the first four events of the season with a T7 finish at the USA East No. 1 Q-School this year.
The graduate of Eastern Michigan University played on the Web.com Tour in 2014, making six cuts in 16 starts.
Defending Freedom 55 Financial Open Champion Drew Weaver opened with a 4-under 68 to sit T8. Weaver won at Point Grey last year after defeating Adam Svensson, Taylor Pendrith, Riley Wheeldon and Ross Beal in a five-man playoff.
Weaver, the 2007 British Amateur Champion, finished eighth on last year’s Order of Merit to earn an exemption into the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School, where he earned conditional status for 2016.
In three starts on the Web.com Tour this season, Weaver has made one cut. At last week’s BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation, Weaver was T5 through two rounds before finishing T48.
Weaver is currently third alternate for next week’s Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship.
- Weather: 12 degrees Celsius, cloudy with drizzle, winds 3 km/h.
- Thursday’s first round marked the first round in Mackenzie Tour history to use ShotLink’s scoring data, providing statistics and shot-by-shot updates to PGATOUR.COM and the PGA TOUR app.
- In addition to a $20,000 donation from the Mackenzie Tour and Web.com Tour to Fort McMurray wildfire relief, players at this week’s Freedom 55 Financial Open are signing up to donate money per birdie and eagle. To match their donations, fans can visit PGATOUR.COM/Together.
- Austin Connelly was a member of Golf Canada’s National Amateur team in 2015 and turned professional at The Great Waterway Classic last August. He earned exempt status through the first four events of the season at the California Q-School earlier this year.
- Devin Carrey has conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is playing this week on a sponsor exemption.