CALGARY, ALTA. — In cold and windy conditions at Country Hills Golf Club, Stoney Crouch heads into the weekend in contention for the third consecutive Mackenzie Tour tournament. This time, he’s in the lead after rounds of 63-67 at the ATB Financial Classic to take a one-stroke lead over three players.
“Today, the hole locations were tougher, it was colder, windier and I didn’t hit it as close, but I managed to make a few putts and played from the fairway,” said Crouch, a third-year pro. “I wasn’t struggling to make pars, and from 25 feet I was happy to just lag it up and tap it in.”
Entering the season with conditional status, Crouch Monday-qualified into the season-opening Canada Life Open, where he tied for 43rd. He had to wait until the HFX Pro-Am to make his next start due to the membership reshuffle following the Osprey Valley Open.
Since then, Crouch has played the best golf of his young career, playing in the final pairing in Halifax, tying for 17th after a final-round 75. He was in the third-to last pairing in Edmonton, on his way to a tie-for-sixth finish following a final-round 69.
“The last couple of weeks I’ve been right there, so I’ve learned what to expect,” said the Lipscomb University alum. “I know what I have to do, I can’t go shoot even-par and expect everything to be all right. You have to go play good golf, so the last few weeks, and learning from that, will help.”
Starting his round on the back nine, Crouch made back-to-back birdies twice during the round, on hole Nos. 12 and 13 and Nos. 3 and 4.
“You get used to playing in super-warm weather, but then you go out and it’s cold and windy (and) it’s harder to hit it close,” said the Odessa, Texas, native, who made par on the other 14 holes Friday. “My hands were starting to get a little solid toward the end.”
In a tie for second alongside Taylor Pendrith and Zane Thomas, Sam Fidone will play in the final pairing with Crouch on Saturday.
There are five Canadians in the top 10 heading into the weekend. In addition to Pendrith, Riley Wheeldon, Wil Bateman, Stuart Macdonald and Wes Heffernan are all tied for ninth.
- Taylor Pendrith’s last 18 rounds have each been played in less than 70 strokes. It has been 47 days since Pendrith last failed to break 70 on the Mackenzie Tour. He shot 70 during the final round of the Lethbridge Paradise Canyon Open.
- Taylor Pendrith has won the last three Canada Life Canadian Player of the Week awards, and four total this year, while Riley Wheeldon has won two. Wil Bateman, Stuart Macdonald and Wes Heffernan are all seeking the award for the first time in 2019.
- Sam Fidone’s 36-hole total of 131, following rounds of 64-67, is the Lufkin, Texas, native’s lowest since his 64-66 start at the 2018 Bayview Place DCBank Open, an event he went on to win. Finishing sixth on the Order of Merit in 2018, Fidone has only made three cuts this summer, with his best result coming at the HFX Pro-Am in the form of a tie for 29th, thanks to an opening-round 63.
- After making bogey on two of his first three holes, Zane Thomas played the remainder of his round 8-under par, backing up his opening-round 66 with a 65 to place himself in the penultimate pairing Saturday.
- Following an opening-round 75, Justin Doeden improved by nine strokes despite the tough conditions, firing 65 to match the round of the day at Country Hills to make the cut on the number.
- Due to Jake Knapp’s second missed cut of the season, Paul Barjon enters the weekend with a good chance to leapfrog the UCLA alum as the race for the Mackenzie Tour Player of the Year heats up. Trailing Knapp by just a little more than $7,000, Barjon opened the tournament with rounds of 66-67 to enter the weekend tied for fifth. Barjon missed the cut in Calgary in 2018 but tied for sixth in 2016.
- Hayden Buckley’s 66-66 start matches his lowest 36-hole total on the Mackenzie Tour. Following the hot start at the Windsor Championship, Buckley managed to break 70 in both weekend rounds to tie for eighth. In his past five events, Buckley has a weekday scoring average of 66.9.
“I’ve played with a handful of guys in amateur golf and beaten them, and now they’re on the PGA TOUR. I just have to get hot. There’s not much separation between the guys here and the guys on the TOUR.” – Stoney Crouch
“It played a lot harder; it was a different wind today and the ball wasn’t going quite as far. I really hit it good, gave myself a lot of chances and hit some good putts that burned the edge. I shot 2-under, and scores will be a little higher today, so I’ll be right in it. It was a decent round.” – Taylor Pendrith
“No. 2 was playing downwind, so it was a little bit easier today and I hit a 9-iron to about six feet for my second hole of the day to get off to a great start. After that, I was kind of stalled, my only other birdie was a two-putt from 30 feet on No. 13. I gave myself a ton of chances, and they have to start falling soon.” – Taylor Pendrith
“I’ve hit a ton of greens over the past three rounds. Today I missed a few but not in bad positions, and I was able to get up and down a few times. I still need to figure out No. 9. I drove it in the hazard again, but I had a lot of birdie looks over the past couple of days.” – Taylor Pendrith
“I just briefly looked and saw Stuart Macdonald and Wil Bateman up there and I played with Wheeldon. Both him and I were a bit stalled today, but he’s right there and we had fun and it’s great to see four Canadian flags on the main page of the leaderboard.” – Taylor Pendrith
“It was difficult. Starting off, it was very windy and I felt a little helter skelter out there and a little off balance, but I persisted and the wind died down and the course started playing easier and the greens were perfect. I finally made some putts coming in.” – Sam Fidone
“It didn’t feel as good as [Thursday’s] 64, but it felt really good. It was a grind; I didn’t birdie No. 7, and all I wanted to do was birdie either No. 8 or No. 9. I ended up making a good putt on No. 8 and then an even better one to save par on No. 9, so that was a good way to cap off the week and go into the weekend.” – Sam Fidone
“I’m hitting my irons really good this week, and I think the fescue is just far off the fairway enough that when you hit it in the rough, you have a chance to hit the green. It will probably be softer this weekend. I’m really striking my irons well, and that’s been one of the biggest factors this week.” – Sam Fidone
“I was looking at my stats and saw that I’m outside the top 100 in both fairways and greens hit, but this week I’m 45th in fairways, so I’m getting closer, and I’m top 25 in greens because I’ve hit 80 percent of them. That’s something that I haven’t done all year, and the flat stick has always been there for me.” – Sam Fidone
“My game has been a little sketchy, especially at the beginning of the year. After a good number in Halifax, I gained some confidence. Since then, I’ve been working relentlessly at it. I got my dad on the phone the other day, and he and I worked on some good stuff and I came up with a good swing feeling for the week. Now I’m absolutely striping it, so I guess Pops is my new coach.” – Sam Fidone
“I had two very different days. [Thursday], I made seven birdies and an eagle and had four bogeys to shoot 5-under. That was starting on the backside and going 5-under through six on some of the hardest holes on the back. Today was a little bit quieter.” – Hayden Buckley
“I started the day missing a three-footer for birdie on No. 2. But, sure enough, I made a few birdies on the front (nine) and then on No. 13 I hit it to six inches for eagle. It was a front-pin and I got lucky actually because I chunked it a little bit. Other than that, it was a quiet day after yesterday making almost every putt I looked at.” – Hayden Buckley
“Today I couldn’t get it as close to the hole. Pins were tougher, and it was really cold out. I didn’t drive it well enough to get it close to the hole, but I had a couple good putts for par and had some good two putts from over 30 feet.” – Hayden Buckley
“I never looked at the board today, but coming in I saw that I catapulted up the board. It’s nice to not be five or six shots back of the lead because sometimes you shoot 10-under through two rounds and you’re five or six shots back, which is crazy.” – Hayden Buckley
“Last week I opened with 8-under and finishing the week at 5-under. Whenever you finish worse than you were after the first round, it’s never good. It hurt me a little bit because I felt I played well but just couldn’t get anything to go in the hole after the first round. Everybody wants to win tournaments and climb the ranks this time of the year, but last week reminded me to stay patient.” – Hayden Buckley
Second-Round Weather: Overcast. High of 14. Wind 25 KPH.