VICTORIA – SPORTS – Five players shot matching rounds of 6-under 64 on Thursday at Uplands Golf Club to share the first round lead at the Bayview Place Island Savings Open presented by Times Colonist, the second event of the 2016 Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada season.
Rockford, Illnois’ Brad Benjamin and Victoria, B.C.’s Ben Griffin – a PGA of Canada member and Assistant Pro at Uplands – both recorded albatrosses on the par-5 seventh hole to reach 6-under, tied with Langley, B.C.’s Adam Cornelson, Cibolo, Texas’ Jeff Rein and Shelton, Washington’s Chris Evans.
Griffin and Benjamin’s deuces mark the first time two albatrosses have been recorded in the same round in Mackenzie Tour history.
“It reminded me of when I made my first hole-in-one,” said Benjamin, a first-year Mackenzie Tour member. “You’re just kind of mentally out of it. I just tried to use that experience, because you’re just trying to stay focused for eight and nine. Those holes are just as important as any others.”
Griffin, a 36-year old Victoria native with more than 20 years’ worth of experience playing at Uplands, was treated to a hero’s welcome from fans at the 18th hole.
“I just kept saying to myself, ‘Why not me? Someone’s got to play well.’ It was a little bit of a steer job on the last couple of holes just trying to get it into the clubhouse, but it was great to see people out here – it’s like a second family to me.”
Rein matched Benjamin’s 64 playing in the same group, while Cornelson and Evans posted their scores in windier conditions Thursday morning to take the early lead.
“It’s a nice, but we all know on this Tour how the guys can go low, so I’m focused on getting some rest and hitting that first tee shot and seeing how it goes,” said Cornelson.
One shot behind the group at 6-under were Seann Harlingten, Aaron Cockerill, Scott Vincent and Hank Lebioda with rounds of 5-under 65.
KEY NUMBERS TO KNOW:
2: Strokes required for both Brad Benjamin and Ben Griffin to complete the seventh hole Thursday.
0: Previous rounds in Mackenzie Tour history with two albatrosses.
-9: Combined score to par on the par-5 seventh hole by the five co-leaders on day one.
Ben Griffin recorded an albatross on the 513-yard par-5 seventh hole, part of a 6-under 64. Griffin holed his second shot with a 3-hybrid from 240 yards.
Griffin, an Assistant Professional at Uplands Golf Club, received a sponsor exemption on Tuesday morning after a previous exemption was given back to the tournament. He is making his fifth start in the event, where he has yet to make a cut.
Brad Benjamin recorded an albatross on the 513-yard par-5 seventh hole, using a 3-wood from 251 yards.
Benjamin won the 2009 U.S. Amateur Public Links, defeating Abbotsford, B.C.’s Nick Taylor 7&6 in the championship match.
Adam Cornelson is making his 52nd start on the Mackenzie Tour this week. In 2015 he finished 94th on the Order of Merit after making five cuts in 11 starts, but regained exempt status through the first four events of the year with a T9 finish at the British Columbia Qualifying Tournament.
Cornelson has finished in the top-25 in each of the last four seasons in Victoria, with a career-best T13 finish coming in 2013.
Thursday’s 64 marks Cornelson’s best career round at Uplands Golf Club.
Chris Evans is playing his second career Mackenzie Tour this week after making his debut with a T23 finish at the Freedom 55 Financial Open last week in Vancouver. Evans is playing out of an eligibility category for Web.com Tour members and has conditional status after finishing T114 at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.
Evans was born in Federal Way, Washington and grew up in Shelton, Washington.
At last week’s Freedom 55 Financial Open, Evans was T6 through two rounds before finishing T23.
Jeff Rein is making his 13th career start on the Mackenzie Tour this week. In 2015, he finished 96th on the Order of Merit with a season-best T21 at The Wildfire Invitational. He regained status with a solo 4th place finish at the British Columbia Q-School in 2016.
“I love it, and not just the golf course, but the city, the tournament, the people out here. I’ve got great vibes here and I’m just gonna take it one day at a time and see how it goes.” – Adam Cornelson on the friendly confines of Uplands Golf Club.
“Being from the Pacific Northwest, I love having the chance to come up here. I spend a lot of time down in Palm Springs, and it’s nice to be back up here.” – Chris Evans on playing well at Uplands after a T23 finish last week in Vancouver.
“The afternoon definitely got the good end of the draw, because it was pumping this morning. I didn’t putt very well last week, so I kind of worked on it and putted really well, and struck it well too.” – Jeff Rein on taking advantage of good scoring conditions on Thursday.
- Weather: 13 degrees Celsius, partly cloudy, winds 18 km/h in the morning, 9 km/h in the afternoon.
- Thursday marks the first time there have ever been two albatrosses on the same day at a Mackenzie Tour event.
- Prior to Thursday, the last albatross recorded at a Mackenzie Tour event was by Joel Thelen at the 2015 Great Waterway Classic.
- Participants from last week’s NCAA Championship in the field: Hank Lebioda (65/T6), Paul Barjon (68/T26), Max Rottluff (68/T26), Sean Kelly (69/T44), Taylor Moore (69/T44), Will Starke (71/T80), Matt NeSmith (72/T100).