DOTHAN, Alabama — Mark Goetz felt coming into this week’s PGA TOUR Canada Qualifying Tournament at RTJ Golf Trail at Highland Oaks, he had an advantage. Last year, Goetz played this same tournament at this course and earned conditional status by tying for 20th. A year ago, Goetz was still an amateur but has since turned pro. Another difference between this year and last?
Through 54 holes this week, the former University of West Virginia golfer is leading the tournament.
Goetz made eight birdies for a second consecutive day, shot a 6-under 66 and moved to 14-under, two strokes ahead of Patrick Moriarty. Stephen Franken and J.D. Hughes are three back, with three others in striking distance, at 10-under. The tournament winner earns an invitation into every 2023 PGA TOUR Canada tournament, while those finishing in the second-to-10th positions also are exempt into tournaments.
“I just tried to play golf with nothing too much on my mind,” said Goetz after his round, reflecting on his first birdie, that came at No. 3. He then added seven more. “I drove it really well on the back (nine), and my wedge play has been pretty good this week. I’ve been working mentally quite a bit over the last six months. I’ve been pretty relaxed out there.”
It showed as Goetz made four of his birdies in succession, starting at the par-5 ninth, lagging an 80-foot eagle try to four feet.
“I promise I didn’t work on that putt in the practice round,” Goetz said with a smile. He added his final two birdies of the day, at the 15th and 18th. A year ago, Goetz was tied for 17th going into the final round, he shot a 2-under 70 but dropped into 20th for conditional status. He eventually never saw any PGA TOUR Canada action in 2022.
Moriarty shot his third consecutive under-par round, this one a 67, to get to 12-under.
Did you know Mark Goetz captured more individual tournament titles—three—than any other West Virginia University player in history? His final victory came in 2022, at the Lake Las Vegas Intercollegiate, where he set the Mountaineer record for lowest 54-hole total, breaking his own record set that same season in winning the Mountaineer Invitational in October. He also won the 2021 Mountaineer Invitational, played in April 2021.
Key Information: How the Tournament Works
PGA TOUR Canada along with PGA TOUR Latinoamérica are international PGA TOUR-sanctioned tours that provide access to the Korn Ferry Tour and are part of the pathway to the PGA TOUR. Since its inception in 2013, PGA TOUR Canada has held 32 Qualifying Tournaments across the U.S. and Canada. This event is the second of six 2023 PGA TOUR Canada Qualifiers scheduled in advance of the 2023 season. Each qualifier is a 72-hole, no-cut event, with playoffs, if necessary, for the medalist position and for the 10th and final position available.
One-hundred-thirty players started the tournament Tuesday. There are 125 remaining in the field. Below is a breakdown of the various PGA TOUR Canada membership statuses available this week.
|Medalist||Exempt membership for the 2023 season|
|2nd through 10th (no ties)
|Exempt through the reshuffle, which will occur approximately halfway through the season|
|11th through 30th (plus ties)||Conditional membership|
- Players in this week’s field come from eight countries or territories: Australia, Canada, Colombia, England, France, Germany, Mexico and the United States.
- Stephen Franken has played in 12 previous PGA TOUR Canada tournaments—10 in 2019 and two a year ago. The North Carolina State product also has three years’ experience on the Korn Ferry Tour, with five career top-10s, making 35 cuts in 63 appearances. His best performance is a fourth-place showing at the 2021 Huntsville Championship, a final-round 64 leading to the top-five, where he finished a stroke out of the Paul Barjon–BillyKennerly–Mito Pereira playoff that Barjon won.
- A hole-in-one by amateur James Swash got his round going. Even-par through five holes, Swash, a senior at Louisiana Tech in Ruston, hit an 8-iron at No. 6 from 169 for his sixth career ace and second in competition. Swash added a birdie on No. 7 and another at the ninth. He poured in four additional birdies on his back nine to shoot 64, the low round of the week.
- If James Swash didn’t have the shot of the day with his ace, another European living in the U.S. playing college golf, TCU’s Aymeric Laussot, from France, did. He moved to 9-under on his final swing of the day, holing out from 132 yards with a pitching wedge for an eagle-2. Laussot is alone in eighth.
- The best round-to-round improvement Thursday came courtesy of Garrett Johnson and Connor Schmidt. Johnson shot a 7-over 79 in the second round then posted a 4-under 68 Thursday to shoot up the leaderboard 28 spots, to a tie for 24th. Schmidt matched Johnson’s 11 strokes to the good with his 67 after a 78 Wednesday. He is tied for 77th. Both players were a stroke better than the 10-shot improvement amateur Connor Howe had (75 to 65).
- Mclain Huge fired a 6-under 66, making eight birdies and tying Mark Goetz (second and third round) for most birdies in one day. Huge birdied Nos. 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15 and 16, adding bogeys at the fifth, and 14th. Beginning the day at even-par, he’s at 6-under and tied for 14th.
- With a third-round 69, Joseph Juszczyk has improved each day this week. The former Wayne State golfer opened with a 1-over 73 and followed that with a 72 before posting his first under-par round of the week that came on a five-birdie, two-bogey performance. He’s tied for 35th and in position to make a run at a membership card in Friday’s final round.
- The top Canadian of the seven left competing in this week’s field is Jake Bryson, of Dunrobin, Ontario via Utah Valley University. Bryson is tied for 52nd after rounds of 68-76-74.
- Will Chandler continued his march up the leaderboard after shooting his second consecutive 68. He’s at 10-under and tied for fifth. Chandler is one of 11 players with three under-par rounds this week.
- Leader Mark Goetz (68-68-66) and J.D. Hughes (68-69-68), tied for third, are the only two players with three rounds in the 60s this week.
- Christian Fanfelle didn’t start or finish his third round the way he wanted to, with a bogey at No. 1 and another at No. 18. The 16 holes in between, though? He’ll take it, as he used four birdies and an eagle, at the par-5 17th, to shoot a 4-under 68 to move to even-par for the tournament and a tie for 45th with a round to play. Fanfelle began the third round tied for 75th.
There were 26 amateurs playing this week, with 24 still competing. After 54 holes, six are under-par. Here are their results and where they stand:
|T5||James Swash (U.S.)||206 (-10)|
|T5||Riley Bell (U.S.)||206 (-10)|
|8||Aymeric Laussot (France)||207 (-9)|
|T9||Connor Howe (U.S.)||208 (-8)|
|T24||Sean Wilcox (U.S.)||212 (-4)|
|T24||Blain Turner (U.S.)||212 (-4)|
|T45||Christian Fanfelle (U.S.)||216 (even)|
|T52||Joey Ranieri (U.S.)||218 (+2)|
|T52||Brent Hamm (U.S.)||218 (+2)|
|T64||John Bush (U.S.)||220 (+4)|
|T64||Michael Shears (U.S.)||220 (+4)|
|T71||Andrew O’Leary (U.S.)||221 (+5)|
|T73||Diego Garcia Hernandez (Mexico)||222 (+6)|
|T77||Max Charles (Australia)||223 (+7)|
|T77||James Hunneke (U.S.)||223 (+7)|
|T80||Patrick Healy (U.S.)||224 (+8)|
|T86||Mason Nome (U.S.)||225 (+9)|
|T86||Carter Prince (U.S.)||225 (+9)|
|T89||Andrew Gianaros (U.S.)||226 (+10)|
|T94||Tyler Gray (U.S.)||228 (+12)|
|T96||Will Holmgren (U.S.)||229 (+8)|
|T108||Will Thomson (U.S.)||234 (+18)|
|T111||Kade Luebke||236 (+20)|
|T122||Ash Hakim (U.S.)||243 (+27)|
|WD||Colin Buckborough (Canada)|
|DQ||Kyle Leeds (U.S.)|
The Player’s Practice Putts
“I didn’t putt that one in the practice round.” –Mark Goetz on his 80-foot eagle putt on No. 9 that he lagged to three feet.
“It was a great way to finish. I had 132 yards, and the pin is all the way tucked at the back of the green. I was pretty short all day, so my caddie told me not to be short this time and to go for it. It bounced six feet long and rolled back into the hole. It was amazing.” –Amateur Aymeric Laussot on his hole-out eagle on No. 18
“Today was great. I felt like I didn’t play my best [Wednesday] but took what I learned from not doing as well and applied it to today. I feel like I’ve just played solid golf this week. I’ve just felt a lot of peace this week. I don’t have a lot of anxiety or fear, which I’ve been battling a lot recently. I just turned to my faith, and it’s really starting to become real for me. I know I’m a great player. I’ve played three years on the Korn Ferry (Tour). I know I can play out there.” –Stephen Franken
“I got lucky. I didn’t have the honor, and I watched my playing partners hit over the green, so I knew I had to take a bit off (my shot). I hit it, it started at the pin, the wind blew it a little left, it took one bounce and went straight in the hole.” –James Swash on his hole-in-one
Third-Round Weather: Overcast and cooler, with a high of 74. Wind S at 3-5 mph.