Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada

Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada announces 2021 season and tournament plans

Mackenzie Tour logo
Mackenzie Tour logo.

TORONTO—The Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada will return to action in 2021 with a set of eight tournaments available for players based in Canada. The PGA TOUR made the announcement June 10. 

A year after the global pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 season, and with restrictions still in place at the Canada-U.S. border, the Mackenzie Tour is giving competitive opportunities to players already in Canada through this eight-event schedule that begins in July and runs to October. 

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to make this announcement. We always knew we would have PGA TOUR-affiliated golf in Canada in 2021, so it’s nice to finally make it official with the announcement of these eight tournaments,” said Scott Pritchard, Mackenzie Tour Executive Director. “We are appreciative to all of our partners, the golf courses where we’re playing, the communities that will host us for the week and Mackenzie Investments, which has been such a significant partner for so many years.” 

The season begins in late-July, with the Mackenzie Investments Open at Club de Golf Le Blainvillier in the city of Blainville just outside of Montreal on July 26-August 1. Following a two- week break, the Tour begins a seven-tournament-in-seven-week stretch, beginning August 16- 22 at TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley for the Osprey Valley Open. Next is a two-week stay in Prince Edward Island for a pair of tournaments at two of the island’s finest golf courses. First up is the Prince Edward Island Open (August 23-29) at Dundarave Golf Club followed by the Brudenell River Classic (August 30-September 5) at Brudenell River Golf Course. 

Players will then travel west for a tournament to be announced at a later date and will be played the week of September 6-12, followed by Calgary’s ATB Financial Classic (September 13- 19) at Country Hills Golf Club, both long-time Tour partners. The season concludes with a pair of tournaments in British Columbia, the GolfBC Championship at Gallagher’s Canyon Golf and Country Club (September 20-26) followed by the DCBank Open presented by Times Colonist at Uplands Golf Club (September 27-October 3). 

The Mackenzie Tour and tournament organizers continue to monitor issues surrounding the global pandemic, and they have worked with local and provincial health authorities and will continue to do so leading up to the tournaments. Approvals to return to competition still need to happen across the country, but organizers remain encouraged that the tournaments will be able to take place based on the vaccine rollout. 

Even with the compacted schedule and the number of events played in consecutive weeks caused by continued pandemic issues, Pritchard sees this year’s set of tournaments and their place on the schedule as a good thing. 

“We believe there is a good pacing to our schedule, and the players will get in a lot of golf this summer in successive weeks. With the limited amount of competitive golf available over the last year, we know the players are anxious to get started and will embrace these events played at high-quality golf courses in the summer and into the fall,” Pritchard added. 

In 2020, the PGA TOUR conducted a four-tournament grouping of tournaments for players in Canada. What the Tour conducted last summer will serve as a model in 2021. 

“What I’m most excited about is that these players will have opportunities to compete at PGA TOUR-sanctioned events, the competitions taking place at quality golf courses and the Tour offering some compelling season-ending incentive for these players,” Pritchard added. 

The top player at the conclusion of the season will earn full status on the 2022 Mackenzie Tour, while players finishing No. 2 through 5 on the Points List will receive conditional 2022 Mackenzie Tour status, which will gain them entry into the first set of events before the reshuffle. Finishers six through 10 will each earn a sponsor exemption into a 2022 Mackenzie Tour event. 

Tour officials will continue to monitor the travel restrictions in place and adapt accordingly should policies change before or during the season. 

Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada

Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada announces 2021 season and tournament plans

Mackenzie Tour
MONTREAL, QC - SEPTEMBER 07: View of the Mackenzie Tour logo plate at the tenth hole during the third round of the Mackenzie Tour - Mackenzie Investments Open on September 7, 2019, at Elm Ridge Country Club in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

TORONTO—The Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada will return to action in 2021 with a set of eight tournaments available for players based in Canada. The PGA TOUR made the announcement June 10. 

A year after the global pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 season, and with restrictions still in place at the Canada-U.S. border, the Mackenzie Tour is giving competitive opportunities to players already in Canada through this eight-event schedule that begins in July and runs to October. 

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to make this announcement. We always knew we would have PGA TOUR-affiliated golf in Canada in 2021, so it’s nice to finally make it official with the announcement of these eight tournaments,” said Scott Pritchard, Mackenzie Tour Executive Director. “We are appreciative to all of our partners, the golf courses where we’re playing, the communities that will host us for the week and Mackenzie Investments, which has been such a significant partner for so many years.” 

The season begins in late-July, with the Mackenzie Investments Open at Club de Golf Le Blainvillier in the city of Blainville just outside of Montreal on July 26-August 1. Following a two- week break, the Tour begins a seven-tournament-in-seven-week stretch, beginning August 16- 22 at TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley for the Osprey Valley Open. Next is a two-week stay in Prince Edward Island for a pair of tournaments at two of the island’s finest golf courses. First up is the Prince Edward Island Open (August 23-29) at Dundarave Golf Club followed by the Brudenell River Classic (August 30-September 5) at Brudenell River Golf Course. 

Players will then travel west for a tournament to be announced at a later date and will be played the week of September 6-12, followed by Calgary’s ATB Financial Classic (September 13- 19) at Country Hills Golf Club, both long-time Tour partners. The season concludes with a pair of tournaments in British Columbia, the GolfBC Championship at Gallagher’s Canyon Golf and Country Club (September 20-26) followed by the DCBank Open presented by Times Colonist at Uplands Golf Club (September 27-October 3). 

The Mackenzie Tour and tournament organizers continue to monitor issues surrounding the global pandemic, and they have worked with local and provincial health authorities and will continue to do so leading up to the tournaments. Approvals to return to competition still need to happen across the country, but organizers remain encouraged that the tournaments will be able to take place based on the vaccine rollout. 

Even with the compacted schedule and the number of events played in consecutive weeks caused by continued pandemic issues, Pritchard sees this year’s set of tournaments and their place on the schedule as a good thing. 

“We believe there is a good pacing to our schedule, and the players will get in a lot of golf this summer in successive weeks. With the limited amount of competitive golf available over the last year, we know the players are anxious to get started and will embrace these events played at high-quality golf courses in the summer and into the fall,” Pritchard added. 

In 2020, the PGA TOUR conducted a four-tournament grouping of tournaments for players in Canada. What the Tour conducted last summer will serve as a model in 2021. 

“What I’m most excited about is that these players will have opportunities to compete at PGA TOUR-sanctioned events, the competitions taking place at quality golf courses and the Tour offering some compelling season-ending incentive for these players,” Pritchard added. 

The top player at the conclusion of the season will earn full status on the 2022 Mackenzie Tour, while players finishing No. 2 through 5 on the Points List will receive conditional 2022 Mackenzie Tour status, which will gain them entry into the first set of events before the reshuffle. Finishers six through 10 will each earn a sponsor exemption into a 2022 Mackenzie Tour event. 

Tour officials will continue to monitor the travel restrictions in place and adapt accordingly should policies change before or during the season. 

Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada

PGA TOUR creates new Tour to support PGA TOUR Canada members

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida—The PGA TOUR announced Thursday the creation of the Forme Tour for current PGA TOUR Canada members as a result of restrictions and other COVID-19-related issues at the U.S.-Canadian border. For 2021, PGA TOUR Canada members will be given access to the Forme Tour, allowing them the ability to compete in a series of U.S.-based events between June and September. 

The Forme Tour will continue to provide Official World Golf Ranking points and is planning an eight-tournament schedule played during the summer. The top-five points earners earning 2021-22 Korn Ferry Tour membership along with others advancing to the second and final stages of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament. 

The Forme Tour’s 72-hole, medal-play events will be conducted identically to other PGA TOUR-affiliated Tour tournaments. Auburn University Club in Auburn, Alabama, and Ohio’s TPC River’s Bend in the Cincinnati suburb of Maineville, two premier golf facilities, have already signed as host sites. The Tour’s other six venues—as well as tournament dates—will be announced later this spring.

“We are excited to offer this opportunity to our PGA TOUR Canada members, and our commitment is to continue to do business with high-caliber golf courses,” said Greg Carlson, Executive Director of the Forme Tour, who previously filled the same role for seven years for PGA TOUR Series-China. We look forward to announcing the remaining schedule and venues in the coming weeks.”

The Mackenzie Tour will conduct events held across Canada for Canadian-based players later this summer. These players will compete to earn access to the traditional Mackenzie Tour in 2022. The Mackenzie Tour expects that a number of familiar sites from coast to coast will be included in a schedule announcement that will arrive in the coming weeks.   

Mackenzie Tour Executive Director Scott Pritchard has seen firsthand the challenges the global pandemic has caused and is seeking and expects to secure competitive opportunities under the Mackenzie Tour banner for players who reside in Canada.

“The Canada-based players will play in 72-hole Mackenzie Tour events, and the tournaments will continue to support local charities and local economies. We will share more details about specific plans in the near future,” said Pritchard. “We’re excited to continue to further develop golf and competitive golfers in this country.”

The Forme Tour will adopt its eligibility from PGA TOUR Canada and will feature the top-60 points earners from the 2019 PGA TOUR Canada season, qualified members from the PGA TOUR University Ranking and those who successfully qualified at the three Qualifying Tournaments in 2020 (prior to cancellation of 2020 PGA TOUR Canada season due to Covid-19) and the seven 2021 Qualifying Tournaments.

Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada Team Canada

Team Canada’s Laurent Desmarchais goes wire-to-wire to win Canada Life Series title

Laurent Desmarchais
Laurent Desmarchais (Golf Canada)

CALEDON, Ont. — It was a wild back nine for Laurent Desmarchais during the final round of the season-ending Canada Life Series Championship at TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley. The amateur made four birdies and two bogeys to go with two pars—none bigger than the 10-footer he rolled in on the final hole to shoot a final-round 67 that gave him a one-shot triumph over Callum Davison.

While he doesn’t get to cash the first-prize check of $9,000, Desmarchais can walk away knowing he was the best player this week, winning his first pro tournament with a wire-to-wire performance.

“I don’t even have words right now. I made a few big putts down the stretch,” he said.

Desmarchais took control of the tournament with birdies at Nos. 15 and 16, taking a two-shot lead with two holes to play. He made things tough on himself, though, with a bogey at the 17th hole. If there ever were a good bogey, however, that was it. His tee shot landed 20 feet over the green, long and left. Desmarchais tried to hit his second shot into the slope and roll the ball onto the green, but instead the ball rolled back into the collection area. Desmarchais putted up the hill for his third shot, barely getting over the ridge and onto the green. He then rolled in a 10-footer that just crept into the hole.

Things didn’t get any easier on the par-4 closing hole. Desmarchais missed the green with his second-shot approach and had an awkward lie, the ball in front of the green but on a downward slope. He elected to putt from there, and left his birdie try 10 feet short. He calmly rolled the putt, the ball clanking against the flagstick and dropping into the hole for the par and the win.

“I was quite nervous on the last few holes. My tee shot on 17 flew like 20 yards over the green, which I still don’t quite understand, but I made two big putts—one for bogey on 17 and one for par on 18. It’s just insane,” Desmarchais explained. “It’s big for my confidence knowing I can make those putts. Just winning this event is huge for my confidence and for my game.”

Davison made things interesting with his final-round 65 that included three birdies over his last five holes, the capper a birdie on the 18th that allowed him to post in the clubhouse at 16-under. It wasn’t quite enough, and Davison’s bogey on the par-3 17th will haunt him as he, like Desmarchais, was unable to get up and down for par, missing a six-footer. The only consolation is Davison receives the $9,000 first prize as the top-finishing professional.

For a while, Blair Bursey looked like he might make a run at the title when he made three consecutive birdies to begin his back nine, getting to 14-under. He fell into neutral after that, closing the Series with five pars and a 54th-hole bogey. He finished at 13-under and tied for fourth.

All week, though, Desmarchais, the Golf Canada Junior Squad Member and University of Tennessee commit, was the player to beat when he opened the tournament with a 9-under 62. Consecutive 67s to finish the week sealed the deal for the 19-year-old native of Quebec. He ended fourth on the final Canada Life Points List.

Yi Cao was one stroke better than Albert Pistorius on Friday, and that allowed Cao to finish No. 1 on the Canada Life Points List. By virtue of that distinction, Cao earns a playing spot in the 2021 RBC Canadian Open on the PGA TOUR.

 

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The invitation is courtesy of Golf Canada. He also earns conditional 2021 Mackenzie Tour status and six guaranteed tournament starts. Pistorius finished second, followed by Evan Holmes, Laurent Desmarchais and Callum Davison. Those four players also earn conditional Mackenzie Tour status and two guaranteed 2021 tournament starts.

Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada

Laurent Desmarchais rebounds from slow start to maintain advantage

Laurent Desmarchais
Laurent Desmarchais (Golf Canada)

CALEDON, Ontario—An early double bogey by 18-hole leader Laurent Desmarchais gave the impression that the amateur was not ready to maintain his lead at the Canada Life Series season finale at TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley’s Heathlands Course. A clean scorecard after that opening miscue suggested otherwise. Following his early wobble, Desmarchais made six birdies and 11 pars to shoot a second-round 67 to go with his opening 62 that left him at 13-under overall and two shots ahead of Hugo Bernard and Joey Savoie with 18 holes to play.

The fun really began for Desmarchais when he made the turn. He was 1-over for the day stepping to the 10th tee, Heathlands’ No. 1. It was a nine where he had gone low a mere 18 hours earlier, shooting a 29 in the opening round.

“I just love this nine. I got on the first tee box and was like, Let’s shoot another 29,” the 19-year-old said. “I started with four birdies and one chip-in and lipped out really hard on No. 5, and I knew it was a really good start.” In actuality, it was getting late in Desmarchais’ round when he made his fourth consecutive birdie, righting the ship. He added one more birdie, on the par-3 eighth, his second-to-last hole.

No putt, Desmarchais, a Golf Canada Junior Squad Member, said, was more important to his round than the birdie he rolled in on his fourth hole immediate after the double bogey. “It was like a 40-footer, and that was really big for my confidence,” the teenager added. “I haven’t been in contention in this kind of event so far, but I was kind of close in my first [Canada Life Series tournament] at Bear Mountain. I just need to keep going and give myself a lot of chances [Friday].”

Savoie remained in contention with his Desmarchais-matching 67 that included only one bogey. “I think it’s a fun course to play, and if the wind is blowing it can play totally different. I like those types of courses,” he said.

Bernard opened with a birdie at No. 1, bogeyed No. 2, ended up birdieing three of the Heathlands Course’s four par-5s and made nothing but birdies (eight) and pars (eight) after that on his way to a day’s best 63.

Overall points leader Yi Cao didn’t hurt himself Thursday but could never gather any momentum, shooting a 2-under 69. He will begin the final round at 6-under and tied for 16th, a stroke behind Albert Pistorius. The South African, a mere 18 points behind Cao in the points chase, shot a 3-under 68 and is tied for 12th. Evan Holmes, the only other player who going into the week could have mathematically won the points title, shot a second consecutive 71 and is tied for 54th.

The leaders will tee off at noon EDT Friday, with the all-Quebec-based grouping of Desmarchais, Bernard and Savoie making up the final threesome.

Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada Team Canada

Team Canada’s Desmarchais shoots 62 to grab early lead at TPC Toronto

Laurent Desmarchais
Laurent Desmarchais (Golf Canada)

CALEDON, Ontario—Although cool and overcast all day, players at TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley’s Heathlands Course experienced very little wind, and the scores reflected that in the Canada Life Series’ season finale. Amateur Laurent Desmarchais fired an opening, 9-under 62 to take the lead, and five others were 65 or better during what turned out to be ideal scoring conditions in the first round. They include the 64 shooters Joey Savoie and Brendan Leonard and a trio at 65—amateur Jordan Crampton, Blair Bursey and Tanvir Kahlon.

Nobody, though, was better than Desmarchais on Wednesday. The member of Golf Canada’s Junior Boy’s Squad has played in all three previous Canada Life Series tournaments, making the cut each week. Desmarchais’ tie for 10th in the season-opener remains his best finish. His opening 68 that week was his best 18-hole score until he dismantled the Heathlands Course with his eight-birdie, one-eagle, one-bogey 62 in round one.

Desmarchais, currently the 314th-ranked player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, made things look easy.

“Honestly, I just didn’t miss a shot out there. I started with an eagle and got some momentum there, and just kept hitting good shots and making putts,” the Longueuil, Quebec, native explained after his round. “After I turned in 29, I thought maybe there was a chance to shoot 59, but I bogeyed 11. After that, I just focused on hitting a few more good shots and bounced back with a birdie on the next hole.”

The birdie barrage slowed down after that, with his final birdie of the day coming at the par-5 16th. No other mistakes gave him the dream start to fourth and final Canada Life Series tournament.

“I want to win,” Desmarchais said matter-of-factly. “Every time I play in an event, I want to try and win, and so hopefully I can keep playing well and give myself a chance to win this week.” He certainly did.

Desmarchais will have to hold off a contingent of 17 players within four shots of the lead with 36 holes to play.

Three players still have a shot at winning the overall points title, with Cao (first) and Pistorius (second) both distancing themselves from No. 3 Evan Holmes, who could only muster an even-par 71. Holmes is tied for 65th and will have to turn things around Thursday to make the cut. Cao and Pistorius both shot 67s and are tied for 19th. For Cao, it was a case of what might have been. He was 8-under through 16 holes after a birdie on the par-5. Cao gave back half of his gains for the day when he made consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 17 and 18 for a disappointing close to his day.

Getting off to a fast start is nothing new for Leonard. At last week’s Canada Life Series tournament, also at TPC Toronto, Leonard fired an opening 66 followed by a 2-under 69 that left him tied for the lead with Cao and Andrew J. Funk with a round to play. Leonard closed with a 75 that left him tied for ninth. He seemingly forgot about that frustrating final round, although it took him a while to get going. Playing the Heathlands Course’s back nine first, Leonard made two birdies and two bogeys to turn at even-par. He then turned it on, making four consecutive birdies—and seven total—over his final nine to shoot a 29, matching the low nine-hole score of the Series (Blair Bursey in the third round of the second Bear Mountain tournament).

“Funny enough, I switched my putting grip through six holes and kind of went off after that on the back nine,” said Leonard, who went with the claw grip for his final 12 holes. “It was perfect with no wind and easy to take advantage of it out there. I decided it was worth a change and it worked out.”

Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada

Fast start allows Pistorius to hang on to take TPC Toronto

CALEDON, Ontario—Albert Pistorius made it look easy as he quickly broke away from the logjam of three other players tied atop the leaderboard when the final round of the Canada Life Series at TPC Toronto: Heathlands Course event began. Pistorius eagled his first hole of the day and birdied the third to quickly move to 10-under. As it turned out, Pistorius would need all those strokes.

The South Africa native who lives in Calgary was 4-over the rest of the way but that blazing start allowed him to win the third Canada Life Series tournament by a stroke over Andrew J. Funk, Callum Davison and Points List leader Yi Cao. The victory earned Pistorius 500 points, a $9,000 first-place payday and, most importantly, his first professional victory.

It was a battle late in the round, as wind blew strong and often on a crisp late-summer day. With the final grouping of Pistorius, Cao and Funk all tied at 8-under through 15 holes and Davison playing ahead, also at 8-under, it came down to who could make a putt down the stretch. As it turned out, it was Pistorius, at the par-5 16th, when he made his final birdie of the day—from eight feet. Meanwhile, the other three players all had late bogeys coming in, giving Pistorius the cushion he needed to bogey No. 18 and still walk away with the title.

“There were a lot of thoughts out there just barging into your mind, and you just have to keep focused on what you’re trying to do,” Pistorius said of both the pressure and the elements, not necessarily in that order. “It’s exhausting. With the wind swirling, it wasn’t easy out there today. Some of it was like a three-club wind.”

The weather took its toll on the field, and the leaders were not exempt. Davison shot himself out after he made back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 15 and 16. Funk bogeyed the par-3 17th to end his chances, and Cao bogeyed No. 16. After their bogeys, the trio could make nothing but pars.

“Today being such a difficult day, it’s extra sweet to be able to win. It was so tough to choose clubs. Some of the pins were tucked way back, and it was hard to get it close, especially on the back nine,” explained Pistorius, who put playing professional golf seven years ago. When his then-wife took a job in Calgary, Pistorius moved with her and began working at Pinebrook Golf and Country Club as a teaching pro. His decision to give tournament golf another try turned out to be a good one.

With a two-shot lead standing on the 18th tee, Pistorius split the fairway on his drive. On his full-wedge second shot, he caught the downslope on the green just in front of the cup, and the ball rolled away, leaving himself a 30-footer back up the hill. Pistorius misjudged the distance on his birdie effort and rolled his putt seven feet past the hole. With no scoreboards on the course, Pistorius was a little unsure where he stood against the field. He missed that putt, settling for bogey.

“On the last hole, I three-putted and thought I was going to be in a playoff,” Pistorius admitted. “It was just nice to know I didn’t have to go through that. I would have loved to show a little more emotion on 18, but I’m just glad that I got the win.

“This is my first win as a professional,” he added, “so I have to go home and think about this. It hasn’t really come to my mind that I’ve won. I’m pretty sure it will sink in a little later.

Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada

Four-way tie atop leaderboard heading into finale at TPC Toronto

CALEDON, Ontario—Four players—Andrew J. Funk, Brendan Leonard, Canada Life Series Points Standings leader Yi Cao and Albert Pistorius—are jammed at the top of the leaderboard with one round left in the Canada Life Series tournament at TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley’s Heathlands Course. Lest you think the winner will come from that group, a bevy of other players are within shouting distance and will have plenty to say who lifts the trophy Friday afternoon.

Amateur Garrett Rank is only a stroke back, while the trio of Aaron Crawford, David Byrne and JJ Regan are two behind. Friday is shaping up as a battle as the Series completes its third of four tournaments.

Leonard wasn’t doing much with his round when he got things revved up.

“I made a nice eagle on No. 1. I had 217 (yards) to the pin and hit 5-iron, and I was right on it,” Leonard said of his quick start to his back nine that gave a jolt to his day. “I was 1-over going into that, so it flipped pretty quickly once I eagled there, and I hit it pretty close on the next.” Leonard followed that 3-under streak with another birdie at his 15th hole before closing with a disappointing bogey at the par-5 ninth, his 18th hole that, in retrospect, would have given him the outright lead. There’s nothing to hang his head about, though. The par-5 played .231 strokes over par Thursday as wind continued to wreak havoc on players’ strategy.

“It’s just staying patient, and that’s all I did out there,” Leonard added.

Cao, winner of the previous event at Bear Mountain and the first-round leader, found the going a bit more treacherous during his second tour of the Heathlands Course. Cao could never get out of neutral, playing the front nine in 1-under and the back nine in 1-over, with consecutive bogeys at Nos. 13 and 14 before he parred out. Like every other player, the British Columbia resident who is a native of China, battled the wind.

“I think the most-important thing about the wind out here is just how wide open it is, especially on the greens. The tee shots don’t bother me as much, but it makes the greens pretty tough to read. I was struggling a little bit on the greens.”

Even tied for the lead, Cao smiled at the prospect of going for two wins in a row.

“I just love playing out here, and I love the position that I’m in [Friday],” he added.

Pistorius had the round of the day, a 64 that moved him up 37 places on the leaderboard. His clean scorecard showed no bogeys and birdies on Nos. 1, 8, 9, 10, 12, 15 and 16. Funk only had one bogey to go with five birdies.

Rank is also more than satisfied with his position with 18 holes to play. “I got off to a nice start. The wind was kind of down for the first five or six holes. I hit some nice shots and made some nice putts,” Rank explained. “I didn’t finish as strong as I would have liked, but I’m in a good spot.”

Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada

Cao’s momentum continues, takes lead at TPC Toronto

CALEDON, Ontario—Two weeks ago, Yi Cao won the second Canada Life Series tournament in Langford, B.C., and in the process he moved to the top of the Canada Life Series Points Standings. He certainly likes his position and doesn’t seem to be interested in relinquishing his status as the Series’ top player. Wednesday at TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley’s Heathlands Course, the native of China who moved to Canada during his teenage years, fired an opening-round, 7-under 64 to take a one-shot lead over Tyson Turchanski. A quartet of players, Derek Gillespie, Brendan Leonard, Blair Bursey and JJ Regan are at 5-under with 36 holes to play.

Cao is still smiling not only about his solid first-round play and his win two weeks ago but the trajectory of his career and how quickly things changed once the Canada Life Series began.

“With little playing opportunities this year, I was thinking about quitting golf to pursue another career,” Cao said. “The Canada Life Series literally changed my life, and with four events I really can’t ask for anything more.”

Wednesday, under rainy, gloomy but warm conditions that gave way to sunshine later in the day, Cao began quickly on the Heathlands Course’s back nine. He birdied his first two holes of the day then remained in neutral the remainder of his opening nine, making seven consecutive pars. He got things going after the turn, with three consecutive birdies and four in five holes. Cao’s lone bogey of the day came at No. 7, but he atoned for that with closing birdies on his final two holes.

Even after one round, Cao, a winner on PGA TOUR China-Series in addition to his breakthrough Canada Life Series triumph, is not necessarily thinking ahead.

“I try not to think about the benefits of winning the Canada Life Series,” Cao said of what’s afforded the Points Standings champion—conditional 2021 Mackenzie Tour status and a start in the 2021 RBC Canadian Open. “The most important thing for me is to stay positive and accept the result.”

Turchanski had a clean scorecard Wednesday, with six birdies—three on each TPC Toronto nine. He couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start as he birdied the first three holes of the tournament. Turchanski also closed in style, making a pair of birdies at Nos. 17 and 18.

Bursey, a former Utah Valley University golfer, joined the group at 5-under but looked like he might even hold the lead the way things were going on his opening nine and as he made the turn. Yet after making birdies on his 10th, 11th and 12th holes of the day (TPC Toronto’s Nos. 1-3), Bursey made six consecutive pars as he stalled at 5-under.

“I think the biggest thing for me is my coach and I were working on some stuff that would help long-term, and I’m just trying to get comfortable with those changes,” said Bursey, who seemed plenty at ease in the opening round. “I want to see how it maybe changes my approach, mostly in terms of hitting it farther.”

Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada

Cao is completely dominant in winning wire to wire

Yi Cao
Yi Cao (Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada)

LANGFORD, B.C.—Beginning the day with a five-shot lead, Yi Cao, a Delta, B.C., resident by way of China, let everybody in the field at Bear Mountain Golf & Tennis Resort Community’s Valley Course know he wouldn’t be taking his foot off the gas. Cao birdied his first hole of the final round, shot a closing 66 and was completely dominant for all 54 holes as he won the Canada Life Series at Bear Mountain: Valley Course event by a whopping eight strokes over Joey Savoie and Albert Pistorius. Cao was bogey-free Wednesday, with his 66 his best score of the week. The 29-year-old walked away with the $9,000 first-place check, and he also took over the lead on the Points List, picking up 500 points for the win.

Cao has been the best player through the Series’ first two weeks, never shooting an over-par round during his six tours around Bear Mountain’s two courses, with a win and a tie for third in two weeks’ work. He was a combined 17-under in the two tournaments.

“The biggest event I’ve won was on PGA TOUR (Series)-China, but I have never won going into the final round with a lead. On PGA TOUR China, I started eight shots back, so this was a new and fun experience,” said Cao, recalling the final-round 63 he shot to win the 2018 Chongqing Championship.

The key to victory for the native of Beijing was his ability to conquer the Valley Course’s four par-5s. He played them in 9-under for the week. He gave a first-round signal that the par-5s was where he would do his damage, making birdie on all four par-5s. He birdied the 12th hole all three days, and, naturally, he put a bow on his triumph by making a birdie at the tournament’s closing hole, the par-5 18th.

“My strategy on the par-5s was to just keep my ball in play the first tee shot, and then if I have a good chance to reach the green I’ll go for it. Otherwise I would stay back and play for the green in three shots,” Cao added. “Luckily my putter worked.”

Although Savoie was never in contention, he helped himself considerably with his closing 64 that was, like Cao’s round, bogey-free. Savoie, making his Canada Life Series debut after skipping last week’s tournament, began the day tied for 17th and, like Pistorius, earned 245 points and $3,375 with his runner-up performance.

“It feels good. I didn’t shoot under-par until today. I felt like I made all my birdies and all my good swings during one round for the week,” Savoie said.

The next tournament, at TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley’s Heathlands Course, will be a Wednesday-through-Friday affair, beginning September 2. The players will enjoy a 14-day layoff as they make their way across the country to the Toronto suburb of Caledon.

Did you know Joey Savoie was a member of Team Canada and didn’t turn pro until this season? He has played in five previous Mackenzie Tour tournaments, all as an amateur, making two cuts, a tie for 30th at the 2019 Osprey Valley Open his top outing.