SHERWOOD PARK, Alberta — Ladies and gentlemen, he’s been on the brink, and now he’s ready to break through. With two runner-up finishes under his belt, Chris Korte is hungry for the top spot as the PGA TOUR Canada pulls into its third province in as many weeks, setting the stage for the ATB Classic.
Étienne Papineau, the Canadian ace, kick-started the season with a win at the Royal Beach Victoria Open, and Korte was hot on his heels in second place. When John Pak took the Elk Ridge Saskatchewan Open, Korte was once again the bridesmaid, never the bride. But this week, folks, Korte has his sights set on the winner’s circle as he steps onto the greens at Northern Bear Golf Course.
“The game’s been rock solid,” says Korte. “I’m seeing the results come in, which is fantastic. My focus is on sticking to the process, playing smart, not pushing too hard, and of course, sinking those putts.”
Born and raised in Littleton, Colorado, Korte honed his skills at the University of Denver before turning pro in 2018. He’s been grinding on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica since 2019, but hasn’t found much success yet.
Despite a strong start this season and currently sitting at No. 3 on the Fortinet Cup points list, Korte needs to keep his momentum to maintain his eligibility. He clinched a conditional status with a 14th place finish at the PGA TOUR Canada Qualifying Tournament in Phoenix earlier this year. If he can crack the top 20 in a tournament, which he’s already done twice this season, he’s in the clear for the next event. If not, he’s back on the alternates list, waiting for his shot.
“The pressure’s definitely on,” Korte says. “A top-20 finish this week would be huge. Every round counts.”
Papineau currently leads the Fortinet Cup standings with 517 points, just a hair ahead of Pak with 490. George Kneiser and rookie Connor Howe are trailing behind.
The Fortinet Cup is offering a $100,000 player-bonus pool, with $25,000 for the winner. The top finisher gets a ticket to the full 2024 Korn Ferry Tour season, while the second through fifth placers earn conditional Korn Ferry Tour status.
Howe, a recent Georgia Tech graduate, has been showing promise in the early season events and also clinched a second-place finish at the Elk Ridge Saskatchewan Open.
“College golf has prepared us well,” Howe says. “We’re not scared of anyone. We’re here to compete with the best.”
Eric Lilleboe, who had a strong showing at the ATB Classic last year, is eager to compete again, despite the tournament moving locations. Lilleboe has made the cut in both PGA TOUR Canada events this summer, but he’s still looking for a top 25 finish.
“Sometimes you just have to be patient and wait for the good rounds to come,” Lilleboe says. “I’ve made two cuts, which is a positive, but I’m ready to step up my game on the weekends.”
Northern Bear Golf Course, one of only three Jack Nicklaus Signature Courses in Canada, is hosting the ATB Classic for the first time. Withfive sets of tees ranging from 5,300 to 7,200 yards, this course will test the skill and strategy of each player, from the seasoned pros to the rising rookies.
This golf course offers a unique blend of parkland, forest, and links-style holes. The design includes strategic bunkering, wide rolling fairways, undulating greens, and varying wind conditions, which add to the challenge. With water in play on 14 of the 18 holes, players will need to be accurate off the tee and cautious on their approach shots.
The ATB Classic is not just a golf tournament but also an event that has been supporting Alberta’s children’s charities since its inception. Proceeds from the tournament go to support Alberta’s Promise, which helps create and nurture partnerships that provide resources to enhance the lives of children.
The competition is set to begin with a 132-player field teeing off for the first round on Thursday. The cut will be made after 36 holes, reducing the field to the top 60 players and ties for the weekend rounds. The final round will take place on Sunday, with the champion earning 500 points toward the Fortinet Cup.
With such a talented field, including several players who have already proven themselves on the PGA TOUR Canada, the ATB Classic is sure to be a thrilling event. The question on everyone’s mind is, will Chris Korte finally clinch his first win, or will another player step up to claim the trophy? Stay tuned as the action unfolds on the greens of Northern Bear Golf Course.