Gallagher’s duo primed for pro event

John Mlikotic and Chris Trunzer will be among hometown favourites for GolfBC Championship beginning Thursday in Kelowna

Gallagher's Canyon professionals Chris Trunzer (left) and John Mlikotic will be playing on their home course this week after earning exemptions into the GolfBC Championship

It will be the biggest tournament appearance of John Mlikotic’s young pro career to date.

For Chris Trunzer, playing in a Mackenzie Tour-PGA Canada Tour event will be nothing new.

Still, regardless of their experience, the two Gallagher’s Canyon Golf and Country Club professionals are thrilled with the prospects of teeing it up this week at their home course for the GolfBC Championship.

Trunzer, the director of instruction for the GBC Academy at Gallagher’s, and Mlikotic, a CPGA pro at Gallagher’s, both earned sponsors exemptions last week for the third event of the season on the Mackenzie Tour.

Mlikotic, who grew up in Kelowna, hopes his first PGA Canada Tour event will serve as a stepping stone to a long and productive pro career.

“It’s pretty special to get into this tournament in my hometown,” said Mlikotic, 22, an Immaculata grad who played four seasons at Simon Fraser. “My dreams have always been to play professionally, so hopefully this will be the start of that.

“Knowing the golf course, hopefully I can use that to my advantage,” he added. “It’s a big event for me and my path in the golf industry…I’m just really excited.”

Trunzer has been playing professionally for close to a decade and spent some time on the national golf team in his native Germany.

The 32-year-old, who moved to North America in 2006, has experience on pro tours in the U.S. and South America, and played in seven of 12 events last season on the Mackenzie Tour.

And while Trunzer’s focus this summer will be on his new job as the head of the GBC Academy at Gallagher’s, he expects to be in competition mode once the GolfBC Championship begins.

“Once I enter a tournament, I want to win,” said Trunzer. “At the same time, I want to relax and enjoy it, try and act like I’m out with my buddies. I have another job to go to, so maybe there won’t be as much tension or pressure as there would be if I was on tour. Having said that, I want to play my best. I know there will be people rooting for me as one of the hometown boys.”

Trunzer very nearly earned an early ticket into the tournament last week in a qualifying tournament for the region’s academy pros.

Trunzer shared the best round of the day with a four-under par 68, but then lost in a sudden death playoff to Vernon native Conner Kozak.

An assistant pro at the Okanagan Golf Club, the GolfBC Championship will mark Kozak’s professional debut.

“It’ll be exciting,” said Kozak, 23, who played four seasons with the UBC Thunderbirds golf team. “It’ll be interesting to see how Kelowna embraces this event and will be nice to be part of that. It’s great for the community and a big opportunity for me, so it should be a lot of fun.”

A fourth local player, Greg Machtaler, earned an exemption into the tournament earlier this year.

Machtaler, 32, grew up in Summerland but now lives in Kelowna.

The GolfBC Championship, featuring four rounds, begins Thursday, 7:30 a.m., at Gallagher’s Canyon with 156 players in the field and a prize package of $175,000.

The winner on Sunday will pick up $31,500.

For more information on the tournament events, visit golfbcchampionship.com

Spectator parking

With no spectator parking at Gallagher’s Canyon for the GolfBC Championship, designated lots have been set up near the golf course, with regular shuttle service right up to the admission gates.

There are three ways to approach the golf course, from which cars will be asked to follow directional signage to one of the parking lots.

If coming from downtown or West Kelowna via Gordon Drive, K.L.O. Road or Benvoulin Road, proceed east on K.L.O. Road until reaching the three-way intersection of K.L.O. Road, McCulloch Road and E. Kelowna Road. Signage will be posted at that intersection.

If coming from East Kelowna, signage will be posted on E. Kelowna Road at Reid Road.

If coming from South Kelowna, signage will be posted on June Springs Road at McCulloch Road.

Single day tickets are $10, full tournament passes are $25, while kids 12-and-under are admitted free.