Blair, Hall share first-round lead at tight Royal Beach Victoria Open
|T1||Gavin Hall (U.S.)||29-34—63 (-7)|
|T1||Michael Blair (Canada)||34-29—63 (-7)|
|3||Danny Walker (U.S.)||34-30—64 (-6)|
|T4||Charles Huntzinger (U.S.)||32-33—65 (-5)|
|T4||Briggs Duce (U.S.)||32-33—65 (-5)|
|T4||Lee Detmer (U.S.)||31-34—65 (-5)|
|T4||Jeffrey Kang (U.S.)||33-32—65 (-5)|
|T4||Blake Maum (U.S.)||31-34—65 (-5)|
|T4||Motin Yeung (Hong Kong)||33-32—65 (-5)|
|T4||Joey Savoie (Canada)||33-32—65 (-5)|
|T4||Justin Doeden (U.S.)||31-34—65 (-5)|
|T4||Yi Cao (China)||30-35—65 (-5)|
VICTORIA, British Columbia — Because of the global pandemic, it had been 990 days since PGA TOUR Canada held a tournament with all the proverbial bells and whistles. That changed Thursday when the Royal Beach Victoria Open presented by Times Colonist teed off at the Uplands Golf Club. The 72-hole tournament is the first of 11 official events this season.
The players went about their business in impressive fashion, with American Gavin Hall and Canadian Michael Blair each shooting 7-under 63s on the par-70 course. Former University of Virginia standout Danny Walker is alone in third, one shot back at 6-under.
Hall, who played for the University of Texas and was in a celebratory mood as the Longhorns won the NCAA Championship on Wednesday, birdied his first hole then cooled, with eight consecutive pars to finish his opening nine. He caught fire after that, on Upland’s first nine holes. He birdied Nos. 1, 2 and 3 then added three more in succession, starting at No. 6. He wound up with seven birdies and no bogeys for his 63.
“Everything started clicking,” Hall said of his second-nine play. “I hit a really nice approach shot on No. 1 and hit a good approach shot to a couple feet. Then I birdied the next hole, a short one, and poured in a nice 10-footer on No. 3.”
Things developed quickly for the lefty.
“I was fortunate to get it in the hole early, which was nice. Everybody wants to start off well, so that was good,” Hall said of his opening birdie. “I stalled a little bit on the [first] nine. I knew if I kept giving myself opportunities out there, the scores would come.”
Blair, from Ancaster, Ontario, matched Hall’s score after netting eight birdies (including four consecutively on his opening nine) to overcome a bogey on his closing hole, No. 9, that dropped him from 8-under into the two-way tie for first.
“I started off on the 10th just taking the safe play, laying it up to give myself a nice wedge,” Blair said. “I hit it to 11 feet, and it went in. I was off and running.”
The leaders are followed by a pack of golfers, all with 5-under 65s. That group is Americans Lee Detmer, Justin Doeden, Briggs Duce, Charles Huntzinger, Jeffrey Kang and Blake Maum and Hong Kong’s Motin Yeung, China’s Yi Cao and Canada’s Joey Savoie.
PGA TOUR Canada canceled its scheduled seasons in 2020 and 2021 in the wake of COVID-19 concerns. Last year, issues with the U.S.-Canada border led to the creation of an eight-tournament tour for players living in Canada. There was also an abbreviated situation in the United States for PGA TOUR Canada members, who played on the Forme Tour.
Did you know Blair Bursey of Gander, Newfoundland won the 2021 Reliance Properties DCBank Open at the Uplands Golf Club? That tournamnet was the final stop in an abbreviated Tour season restricted to players already living in Canada. Bursey, who is the first native Newfoundlander to play NCAA Division I golf (Utah Valley University), prevailed by one stroke over Jonnie Motomochi of Delta, British Columbia. Bursey opened this week’s Royal Beach Victoria Open with a 3-over 73.
There are 38 Canadians playing in the Royal Beach Victoria Open. The best of the bunch Thursday was Michael Blair, who is also tied with Gavin Hall for the outright lead. Here are the Canadians and how they fared through 18 holes.
|T1||Michael Blair||63 (7-under)|
|T4||Joey Savoie||65 (5-under)|
|T13||Étienne Papineau||66 (4-under)|
|T22||Brendan MacDougall||67 (3-under)|
|T22||Hugo Bernard||67 (3-under)|
|T22||Wil Bateman||67 (3-under)|
|T39||Jimmy Jones||68 (2-under)|
|T39||Matthew Kreutz||68 (2-under)|
|T58||Chris Crisologo||69 (1-under)|
|T58||Bryce Barker||69 (1-under)|
|T58||Max Sekulic||69 (1-under)|
|T58||Brendan Leonard||69 (1-under)|
|T58||Riley Wheeldon||69 (1-under)|
|T58||Marc Bourgeois||69 (1-under)|
|T58||Max Sear||69 (1-under)|
|T81||Austin Ryan||70 (even)|
|T81||Tony Gil||70 (even)|
|T81||Jared du Toit||70 (even)|
|T81||Jamie Sadlowski||70 (even)|
|T100||James Allenby||71 (1-over)|
|T100||Jim Rutledge||71 (1-over)|
|T100||Callum Davison||71 (1-over)|
|T115||Mitchell Sutton||72 (2-over)|
|T115||Chris R. Wilson||72 (2-over)|
|T115||Andrew Harrison||72 (2-over)|
|T115||Jeevan Sihota||72 (2-over)|
|T115||Lawren Rowe||72 (2-over)|
|T115||Adam Power||72 (2-over)|
|T129||Cory Renfrew||73 (3-over)|
|T129||Drew Nesbitt||73 (3-over)|
|T129||Khan Lee||73 (3-over)|
|T140||Kaleb Gorbahn||74 (4-over)|
|T147||James Colin Davis||76 (6-over)|
|T151||Zach Anderson||77 (7-over)|
|T153||a-Ethan Posthumus||77 (7-over)|
|T153||Travis Busch||81 (11-over)|
|T153||Matt Broughton||81 (11-over)|
Fortinet, a global cybersecurity solutions company based in California, has signed an agreement through 2026 to sponsor the PGA TOUR Canada season-long points race. The Fortinet Cup offers a $100,000 bonus pool for players, with $25,000 going to the overall winner. The top points-getter also earns 2023 membership to the Korn Ferry Tour, and the champion will be exempt for the PGA TOUR’s 2023 RBC Canadian Open.
Jake Knapp is back on PGA TOUR Canada for the first time since 2019, and he started off well Thursday. The former UCLA Bruin fired a 4-under 66. In 2019, Knapp qualified for the Tour by winning a Qualifying Tournament. He then won the season-opening Canada Life Open and added another triumph, at the GolfBC Open played at Uplands Golf Club. He eventually finished third on the final Order of Merit.
Callum Davison, the Player of the Year from the 2021 Canadian-only series of tournaments, opened with a 1-over 71 and is tied for 100th after 18 holes.
Another former California collegian who spent a lot of time in Canada is Rico Hoey, who played collegiately at USC. Hoey had a tough start to his Royal Beach Victoria Open tournament, firing a 2-over 72. Hoey finished fifth on the 2017 Order of Merit and had under-par scores in the final 12 rounds of that season.
The Royal Beach Victoria Open is truly an international competition, with players from 13 countries and territories competing for the title. France’s Paul Barjon, now a PGA TOUR member, won the last official event here, in 2019. He finished atop the Tour’s Order of Merit and earned Player of the Year honors.
Charles Huntzinger got a little help in the opening round. The 25-year-old from Georgia brought his father on the trip to be his caddie. It worked out well, with Huntzinger shooting a 5-under 70, settling into a tie for fourth entering Friday’s second round. “It was kind of a last-minute decision,” he said about his dad making the trip. “It’s hard to have someone travel all the way out west. I’ll take all the help I can get.”
American Danny Walker, who is all alone in third place after opening with a 64, is glad to see PGA TOUR Canada back running on schedule. He played a full PGA TOUR season in 2018. “The Tour is really well run, (and) you play a lot of great courses,” Walker said. “It’s really great to have an avenue to where you can play well and move up through this Tour.”
The Players say…
“I didn’t make too many long putts. I just kept the ball in front of me. You have to hit it in the fairway to score out here. It’s pretty tough to score from the trees or the rough with the pin locations and the way the greens are.” –Gavin Hall
“At the same time, if you do put the ball in the fairway you can be aggressive, and you can go low because you’re going to have some wedges in your hands.” –Gavin Hall
“It was a pretty clean day. I got some good opportunities for birdies and capitalized on that and then didn’t have a lot of mistakes. So that’s a good recipe for a good round.” –Jeffrey Kang
“Rest. It’s been a long week so far, so hit the couch and get off my feet.” –Charles Huntzinger on his post-round plans
“The greens are so good. You just feel that if you get it started on line, they’re going to go in.” –Michael Blair
First-Round Weather: Partly cloudy. High of 18. Wind SW at 4-7 kph.