Cole Wilson (CAN) on the first tee during Round 1 of the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship 2019 at the Co. Sligo Golf Club, Rosses Point, Sligo, Ireland, May 16, 2019. (Thos Caffrey/Golffile)

Cole Wilson (CAN) on the first tee during Round 1 of the Flogas Irish Amateur Open Championship 2019 at the Co. Sligo Golf Club, Rosses Point, Sligo, Ireland, May 16, 2019. (Thos Caffrey/Golffile)

North Okanagan Knights goalie turns to pro golf, wins first event

Cole Wilson, 20, finished in a tie for first in his debut tournament on the Vancouver Golf Tour

Kelowna’s Cole Wilson started 2021 between the pipes for the North Okanagan Knights Junior B hockey team, and before the first month of the year was up, he secured his first win as a professional golfer.

The 20-year-old has been working towards a professional golf career while playing high-level hockey for several years, and with his Knights sidelined by the pandemic for the time being, he decided there was no better time to make the leap.

“With COVID shutting down the hockey season it kind of gave me clarity that I should just turn pro now,” he said.

Wilson made his first professional start on the Vancouver Golf Tour Jan. 27, a single-round event at Northview Golf and Country Club in Surrey. Despite playing through wintry conditions, the 20-year-old shot two under par to share first place with one other golfer.

Known as the winter tour, the event lived up to its name with rain turning to snow in 2 C weather that stuck to the greens on several holes.

The elements made for some interesting putting, which Wilson likened to building a snowman.

“You have a little snowball, you roll it in the snow making it a lot bigger. It was exactly like that with the golf ball,” he said.

Wilson was the last to tee off, starting on the back nine. He said once he’d hit his first drive down the right side of the ninth fairway he felt an aura of change; a new chapter in his career was underway.

“I felt really calm,” he said.

“By the time we got to the 10th green it had started snowing and visibility got a little low,” Wilson added. “All of us were marking our tap-ins from like one foot out because who knows how it will come off.

“I took nothing for granted and that was the key.”

READ MORE: Vernon pro to join elite women’s golf coaching program

Off to a hot start, Wilson hopes to earn PGA Tour of Canada status this year. Up next is the PGA of Canada qualifying school, which will see him ship out to Arizona from March 29 to April 2.

The co-win is the latest in a string of golfing accomplishments Wilson has put together in a short period of time. He started playing competitively just five years ago, developing his game at Kelowna’s Okanagan Golf Club. In 2019, playing as an amateur, he was the youngest competitor and only Canadian at both the Irish Men’s Open Championship and the Southern California Open — the latter America’s second-oldest golf tournament.

After transferring back from the University of Missouri Science and Technology, Wilson led his UBC Okanagan team to their first win at the 2019 USports Canada West Alberta Invitational, laying down a record-setting individual performance for the low medalist honours. He would go on to be named the MVP of the UBC Okanagan men’s golf team and was nominated for UBCO’s Male Athlete of the Year.

Wilson won the 2020 Vancouver Open Amateur Title, following the footsteps of several Canadian PGA Tour stars. Over the course of his amateur career, he collected 13 wins, another 13 top-five finishes and was ranked as high as 2,777th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.

Though he’s now retired from hockey, his years in the crease proved his all-round athleticism. At age 15, when was first committing to golf as his main sport, he was also playing in the Yale Hockey Academy Elite 15s.

Playing with the Knights in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League was a chance to have some fun in his 20-year-old season, enjoying the perks of a team sport he’ll leave behind as he pursues golf.

“One of the things that I missed most about being in a game of hockey was just the team atmosphere, the team bus trips… uniting as one and working together to achieve the same goals,” he said.

Wilson will play a single-round event on the Vancouver Golf Tour every Wednesday over the course of the winter season.

READ MORE: Shuswap golf course applies for bylaw amendment to develop up to 151 RV lots


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
Follow us: Facebook | Twitter

Golf

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Seniors in the Interior Health region can book their COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, March 8, 2021 at 7 a.m. (File photo)
Seniors in Interior Heath region can book COVID-19 shots starting Monday

Starting March 8 the vaccination call centre will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kelowna General Hospital

One patient and one staff member on Unit have tested positive for the virus.

Fire ripped through a mobile home on Boucherie Road in West Kelowna on March. 6. (Phil McLachlan - West Kelowna News)
‘My whole life just went up in smoke’; Fire consumes West Kelowna mobile home

RCMP confirmed that there were no injuries due to the fire

A COVID-19 exposure has been confirmed at Pearson Road Elementary in Rutland Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Barry Gerding - Black Press Media)
COVID-19 exposures at Kelowna elementary school

Interior Health confirms virus exposures at Pearson Road Elementary

A render of the proposed expansion at Kelowna Christian School. (City of Kelowna)
City of Kelowna staff support major expansion of local school

Expansion would increase the size of Kelowna Christian School by roughly 3,540 square metres

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Multiple people were injured at a Vernon home following an early-morning break-in Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Black Press file photo)
Multiple people left injured following break-and-enter in Vernon

Police believe the early-morning break-in was targeted and not a threat to the general public

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

A Coldstream resident who found an owl struggling on her property in March 2021 is now spreading awareness of about the knock-on effects of rodent poisoning. (Kathy Renaud photo)
Okanagan owl ‘fighting for her life’ after ingesting rat poison

Coldstream resident warns against the use of rodenticide due to risk of secondary poisoning in raptors

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

Most Read