Robby Shelton knew little about Kelowna or Gallagher’s Canyon Golf and Country Club before arriving in town last week.
Chances are the 21-year-old from Wilmer, Alabama will have fond memories of both for a long time to come.
Shelton led from wire-to-wire to capture the Mackenzie Tour’s GolfBC Championship by one stroke over three other players, sealing the title Sunday with a seven-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole.
It was the former University of Alabama standout’s first professional victory.
“It means a lot,” said Shelton, who finished at 19-under par. “Just to win anywhere is so exciting. Just to know that my game’s there and to finally get one done feels great.
“I still have to play well the rest of this season, but to get a win early on is huge and does a lot for my confidence.”
Fellow Americans Cody Blick, Johnny Ruiz and Adam Webb finished tied for second, one stroke back of Shelton.
Shelton has his share of PGA Tour experience, having made the cut in three of six events this season. He placed 16th this April at the Valero Texas Open. In 2015, as an amateur, he finished an upstart third at the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship, won by Scott Piercy.
The 2017 tournament was the second year of a four-year commitment to Kelowna and Gallagher’s Canyon by PGA TOUR-Canada.
Showcasing many of the game’s up-and-coming players, the Mackenzie Tour has served as a stepping stone for current PGA Tour players such as Canadians Adam Hadwin, Graham DeLaet, David Hearn, Nick Taylor and Mackenzie Hughes.
COURSE RECORD FOR DU TOIT…
Kimberley’s Jared du Toit made a memorable Mackenzie Tour debut, scorching Gallagher’s Canyon Saturday for a course-record round of 10-under par 61.
“I hadn’t shot a low one in a while, so to do it in my second event as a pro was very nice and a big relief,” said du Toit, who just turned pro this month. “Having your name kind of on the wall some place that’s not home is very cool, you know something I’m really proud of.”
Formerly the No. 1-ranked amateur in Canada, du Toit earned a sponsor’s exemption for the tournament and ended up tied for ninth at 12-under par.
As for his thoughts on Kelowna and the GolfBC Championship, du Toit was suitably impressed.
“I liked it a lot, it’s only the second year but it already seems very established, the volunteers were great. I really liked the tournament and I’m thankful for getting the sponsor exemption this week.”
du Toit captured the imagination of Canadian golf fans last year with a ninth-place finish at the Canadian Open.
The top Canadian at the GolfBC Championship was Vancouver’s Seann Harlingten who tied for seventh at -13.
Ex-world long drive champ Jamie Sadlowski, from St. Paul, Alta., made his Mackenzie Tour debut and tied for 24th at 10- under par.
HOPLEY SOAKS IT IN…
For Kelowna’s Matt Hopley the only thing missing from his first ever appearance in a pro tournament was making the cut.
The 15-year-old member at Gallagher’s Canyon, playing on a sponsor’s exemption, was the youngest player in the 156-man field.
“It was a great experience playing with some of the best players in Canada and even though I didn’t play too well I had so much fun, and I learned so much from these guys and playing with them,” said Hopley, who shot 75 each of the first two days at the GolfBC Championship.
Meanwhile, Hopley’s teacher and Gallagher’s director of instruction, Chris Trunzer, made the cut and finished in a tie for 68th.
GOLFBC FOR CHARITY…
In addition to providing four days of entertainment for local golf fans, the 2017 GolfBC Championship generated $150,000 for two B.C. charities.
Following the tournament, with the help of generous donors and a significant contribution by the Chan Family Foundation and Mackenzie Tour—PGA TOUR Canada, GolfBC announced a $100,000 donation to the BC Cancer Foundation, and another $50,000 for Red Cross Kelowna flood relief.
“We are absolutely thrilled with the volunteers, corporate sponsors, and golf fans in Kelowna and the entire Okanagan Valley,” said tournament director Hugh Vassos.
“We are especially proud of the tremendous contribution to our chosen charities. The second annual GolfBC Championship is in the books as a success and the tournament continues to grow as one of the best on the Mackenzie Tour.”