Six local players will tee off with 140 other golfers at Birchbank in the B.C. Junior Championship Tuesday and while the competition is fierce, hopes are high.
Kevin Bennett of Redstone Golf Club won the 2011 Zone 1 West Kootenay Junior Golf Tour and will be joined by qualifiers Brenan Moroney and Tyler McKay from the Rossland Trail Country Club, Champion Lakes’ Garrett Underwood and Christina Lake’s Tanner Kopan.
One additional club spot was awarded last week to Braden McKay for his overall performance, commitment to zone events and B.C. Golf development programs.
“We expect them to do pretty well,” said Birchbank golf pro Jeff Papilion. “Some of the kids coming out of the lower mainland are probably a little bit above everybody, buy this kind of exposure and this kind of event is great for everyone.”
2010 champion Adam Svensson of Surrey will try to repeat. Two weeks after wining the B.C.’s, Svensson won the Callaway Junior World Championship at Torrey Pines in San Diego.
Other top golfers include last year’s runner up Khaled Attieh, Shaughnessy’s Josh Zhang, Stuart Macdonald from Point Grey, Wyatt Racette from the Marine Golf Club, and Matthew Broughton from the Royal Colwood Club – all rated in the top-five in B.C.
Despite the quality field, intimate knowledge of the track should help local golfers.
“A little bit of home field advantage, knowing where your misses need to be so you don’t short side yourself, will certainly help,” said Papilion.
Tyler McKay and Moroney dueled it out in the 15-16-year-old category all season but as far as preparing for the tournament, McKay says its pretty standard.
“You’ve just got to work on the basics, play a lot of holes, get ready for the tournament mentally and get your swing and short game ready.”
McKay is a good ball striker and has finished in the top-10 in two Maple Leaf Junior Tour events.
He is looking forward to the competition and playing on his home turf.
“It’s going to play a lot tougher than normal. It’s long for a junior competition and they’ll have the greens running fast and the rough up so it should be good.”
McKay’s best score on the Birchbank course is a three-under 69, so he has the potential to be with the leaders come Friday.
Moroney is a very talented player, a big hitter and putts very well. He won twice on the junior circuit, hitting a season low score of 66 at Nelson’s Granite Pointe.
Kevin Bennett took the Zone title after playing exceptional golf in the final four events. He keeps the ball in play and hits a ton of greens. When his putting is on, he is very difficult to beat.
Garrett Underwwood has a very good touch around the greens, and is very tough mentally. His consistency is possibly his greatest asset.
Tanner Kopan also has to be considered a favourite. Kopan may have the best all-round game. He won the top medalist honour at the qualifying tournament at Redstone and Birchbank in May.
At 13, Braden is the youngest in the group. The best part of his game is putting but he is also a very intelligent player and keeps the ball in play. With five years of eligibility remaining, his expectations are modest.
“I think it would be really nice if I could make the cut,” said Braden. “I really want to see what the older and better kids are doing, and learn from them.”