PGA TOUR Canada – Tough conditions can’t slow Cantlay as he takes first-round lead

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Golf

PGA TOUR Canada Q-School Continues

Pos. Name Scores
1 Nick Cantlay (U.S.) 33-35—68 (-4)
T2 a-Briggs Duce (U.S.) 34-35—69 (-3)
T2 Ben Lein (U.S.) 35-34—69 (-3)
T4 a-Hunter Epson (U.S.) 35-35—70 (-2)
T4 Derek Castillo (U.S.) 37-33—70 (-2)
T4 Lloyd Jefferson Go (Philippines) 34-36—70 (-2)
T4 George Markham (U.S.) 36-34—70 (-2)
T8 a-Yung Hua Liu (Chinese Taipei) 35-36—71 (-1)
T8 Gonzalo Rubio (Mexico) 35-36—71 (-1)
T8 Peter Kuest (U.S.) 36-35—71 (-1)
T8 Mitchell Schow (U.S.) 34-37—71 (-1)

SAN JACINTO California — SPORTS – Nick Cantlay almost went bogey-free Tuesday during the first round of the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada Qualifying Tournament at Soboba Springs Golf Club. That would have been quite the feat as those playing in the afternoon had to contend with wind gusting to 20 mph, a little rain and cool temperatures. None of it seemed to bother Cantlay as the California native and former Long Beach State golfer used three birdies and an eagle against his one late bogey to shoot a 68. He will take a one-shot lead into the second round, ahead of fellow Long Beach State 49er Ben Lein and amateur Briggs Duce. Four more players—amateur Hunter Epson, Derek Castillo, Lloyd Jefferson Go and George Markham—are two shots behind.

“All in all, it was just really, really hard out there. The wind was blowing the ball around on the green. It was tough, and I was just glad to have a good score on the back (nine),” Cantlay said following his round. “I was just playing well, some good things happened to me and it all worked out.”

Cantlay posted his 68, taking advantage of Soboba Springs par-5s. He began his round quickly, with a birdie at No. 1 and then eagled the par-5 fifth, with seven other pars on a clean, front-nine scorecard.

He called holes 13 and 15 “really tough” but granted the results were “good birdies there.” He played that part of his round during the worst of the wind.

Cantlay is certainly familiar with the golf course, having played in a Golden State Tour tournament three weeks ago and then finishing 10th at a Swing Thought Tour tournament here last week.

Lein was more than satisfied with his 69 after not playing much competitive golf for more than a year. The PGA TOUR Series-China veteran has played in 63 previous tournaments in that part of the world, beginning in the Series’ inaugural season of 2014. His best Series performance was a third-place finish at the 2018 Clearwater Bay Open in Hong Kong, thanks to a final-round 65.

Despite long layoffs between competitive starts, Lein looked to be in mid-season form, making five birdies and only two bogeys in his opening 18. He birdied three of Soboba Springs’ four par-5s, including back-to-back birdies on the front nine’s only two par-5s, Nos. 5 and 6.

“I’ve been working pretty hard the last couple of weeks, months, just to prepare for something,” said Lein, who played in the afternoon and battled the wind for almost his entire round. “I haven’t prepared for anything in over a year, so it’s definitely something a little different. I worked on a lot of things here and there, and I’m getting back into the groove of things.”

A year ago, Duce planned on attending the Qualifying Tournament scheduled here, while finishing his Wildcat college career. Instead, the pandemic hit, and the Mackenzie Tour shuttered that qualifier and all others—eventually cancelling the entire season. Duce is doing this week what he planned on taking place a year ago.

Although Duce started slowly, with a bogey and six pars over his first seven holes, he made the turn in 1-under after consecutive birdies at his eighth and ninth holes, playing in the morning. He made it four birdies in a row when he cashed in at Nos. 1 and 2, his 10th and 11th holes. Two birdies, two bogeys and three pars rounded out his nine and a spot alongside Lein on the scoreboard.

Following this tournament, the Sierra Vista, Arizona, native, who returned to school for an additional year, will travel with his Wildcat teammates to Augusta, Georgia, for the Augusta Haskins Award Invitational at Forest Hills Golf Club.

In all, only 11 players were able to break par on the opening day.

Did you know Hunter Epson’s last victory came at the 2020 Silver State Amateur in Nevada? At the 54-hole event, Epson improved his score each day, shooting rounds of 70-68-64 to defeat Connor Golembeski by two shots at Paiute Golf Resort in Las Vegas in October.

Key Information 

How the Tournament Works 

One-hundred-six players entered this tournament this week, and 105 remain (Justin L. Harding withdrew during his round Tuesday). Below is a breakdown of the various Mackenzie Tour membership statuses available this week.

 

Finish Position Status
Medalist Exempt membership for the 2021 season
2nd through 6th (no ties

 

Exempt through the reshuffle, which will occur approximately halfway through the season
7th through 25th (plus ties) Conditional membership

 

  • This is a 72-hole, no-cut event. There will be playoffs, if necessary, for the medalist position and for the sixth and final position available.
  • Players in this week’s field come from eight countries (Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, South Korea, Mexico, Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States).
  • Nick Cantlay is the brother of PGA TOUR player Patrick Cantlay, who is playing in the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play this week in Austin, Texas. Nick began his college career at Loyola Marymount before transferring to Long Beach State for his final three years (one a redshirt season).
  • There are 20 amateurs in the field. Of that group, four broke par Tuesday, with two finishing at even par. Leading the way is Briggs Duce (3-under), followed by Hunter Epson (2-under) and Yung Hua Liu and Mitchell Schow (1-under). Ethan Casto and Mason Koch finished with even-par 72s.
  • Briggs Duce is No. 136 in the PGA TOUR University rankings, playing for the University of Arizona, and he’s in the 392nd position in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
  • Derek Castillo is also a native Californian, from Yorba Linda. He originally played for UNLV before transferring to Cal State-Fullerton. His last victory came at the Sacramento State Invitational in Elk Grove, California. Castillo shot a final-round 68 to defeat Cal State-Northridge’s Mats Ege of Norway by a shot.
  • Andrew Paisley opened with a 4-over 76, but he did have one highlight: a hole-in-one on the fourth hole. He holed his gap wedge on the par-3, offsetting bogeys on No. 3 and No. 5. It was Paisley’s second career ace and first in competition.
  • Amateur Mitchell Schow earned PGA TOUR Latinoamérica status in 2020 but elected to remain an amateur. He relinquished that status and returned to play at the University of Utah. Schow made the turn at 3-under but made two bogeys against only one birdie on his final nine holes to finish at 1-under 71. He’s tied for eighth.
  • After a stellar college career, Peter Kuest played in five PGA TOUR events in 2020, making one cut—at the Barracuda Championship in Truckee, California, where he finished 65th. Kuest, a native Californian (Fresno) opened this week’s tournament with a 1-under 71 and is tied for eighth.
  • Another PGA TOUR Series-China player, TK Kim, opened the tournament with an even-par 72 and is tied for 12th. The Idaho resident has played 44 times in China, his last season coming in 2018. His top showing was in 2015 when he tied for second at the Lushan Open with Sejun Yoon, two shots behind winner Bryden Macpherson.
  • Amateur Hunter Epson, a senior at Long Beach State, is currently the 707th-ranked amateur in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Epson has reached as high as 364th. He originally signed with Pepperdine and played there during his freshman season before transferring to Long Beach State, near where he grew up.

Quotable

“I felt good, comfortable with the golf course. I knew what I was doing, and I was doing the same thing on every hole.” –Nick Cantlay on his familiarity with Soboba Springs

“It’s just hard to get back into competing in general after not being in a tournament for so long. I think playing a lot more on the golf course with friends definitely helps, but nothing emulates teeing it up in a tournament, for sure.” –Ben Lein

“I didn’t hit it great, but I missed it in the right areas. I putted well, and I’ve spent some time putting on these greens.” –Ben Lein

“I think I scored pretty well. I think that’s the main part.” –Ben Lein 

“When I saw the [groupings], I thought I couldn’t have gotten a better draw. Good time. I knew who Norman was, but I had never met him.” –Ben Lein on his grouping with fellow PGA TOUR Series-China alum Jeffrey Kang and Norman Xiong

“The golf course is in good shape. The greens are rolling really well in the morning.” –Briggs Duce

“I got off to a little slow start. I stayed patient and made a lot of pars. Then the putts started to fall, and I made a good little putt on 18. I’m excited for the week. I think it’s a good start, but there is still a lot of golf to play.” –Briggs Duce

“I thought I played well; nothing too flashy. I just went out there and took each shot for what it was.” –Briggs Duce

“I had a lot of putts that didn’t go in in the beginning. I wasn’t thinking about what was a good score. I was just trying to hit good shots, and a couple of putts fell.” –Briggs Duce

“I had a couple of chances on the par-5s that I didn’t capitalize on. But I also made some good putts. It all evened out over the course of the day.” –Briggs Duce 

First-Round Weather: Overcast and cool in the morning. Wind SW at 8-12 mph. A small front moved into the area in the early afternoon. Rain began falling at 4:18 p.m., and lasted for approximately 20 minutes. Wind steadily gusted in the afternoon from 18 to 20 mph. High of 64.