Golf

On Grand Strand Golf: Area PGA Tour Canada players struggle to retain status

Zack Byrd
Zack Byrd Courtesy photo

Four players with ties to the Grand Strand who are competing on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA Tour Canada had six events to earn enough money to maintain status for the second half of the year.

Zack Byrd of Murrells Inlet did enough to continue playing.

Thaddeus Wier III of Myrtle Beach, Tyler Light of Little River and 2013 Coastal Carolina graduate Charlie Winegardner of Lothian, Md., failed to make a single cut and may not survive the midseason status reshuffle of conditional members based on performance in the first half of the year.

They will be fortunate to receive any more starts on the tour, according to PGA Tour Canada media official Brian Decker.

A fifth player from the area playing on the tour, Ricky McDonald of Pawleys Island, finished 12th on the 2014 PGA Tour Canada money list and is exempt for at least 10 events, so he was not in danger of losing status.

The tour’s sixth event was the Staal Foundation Open presented by Tbaytel at Whitewater Golf Club in Thunder Bay, Ontario, which concluded Sunday.

Byrd missed the cut by one shot Friday with a 2-under 142. Winegardner missed it by four shots, Wier by five and Light by 16 strokes.

Winegardner made an eagle on his 12th hole of the first round to reach 4-under and was in the top 10, but he made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the next hole to drop to 1 over and never recovered.

McDonald skipped this past week’s event and spent the week in Pawleys Island. He plans to compete in each of the final six events. He has made three of five cuts and is 74th on the money list with $3,728.

Byrd, a 2009 CCU grad with a sports management degree, has made two cuts in six events and a tie for eighth in the fourth event early this month will allow him to set his second-half schedule. He is 55th on the money list with the $5,622.

The next tournament is the ATB Financial Classic next week at the Links of Glen Eagles in Calgary, Alberta.

Six different players have won the first six events and 151 players have earned money this season.

J.J. Spaun has a significant earnings lead of more than $25,000 Canadian dollars with $70,263. The top five money winners at the end of the season earn status on the Web.com Tour, the feeder circuit of the PGA Tour.

Players finishing second through 18th in three qualifying tournaments all earned conditional status on PGA Tour Canada – the better the finish, the better the status. Light tied for fifth and Winegardner 20th in a qualifier in California, and Wier tied for 16th in a qualifier in Canada.

Wier’s 12 rounds on tour were all scores between 73 and 79, Light had a pair of 69s but also had six rounds of 76 or worse, and Winegardner played in five tournaments and shot 72 or better in eight of his 10 rounds, and was usually near the cut line.

The next three tournaments have 156-player fields and the 11th event, the Cape Breton Celtic Classic in Nova Scotia, has 144 players. The 10th and 12th events of the season in September are based on the 2015 Order of Merit, with 122 and 60 players, respectively.

Decker said last year the alternate lists were exhausted for the events in Calgary and Nova Scotia – the seventh and 11th events this year – so Wier and Light in particular are candidates to get into those events, though there are more conditional members this season.

The entry deadline for next week’s event is 5 p.m. Wednesday. As of early afternoon Tuesday, Wier was the first alternate, Light was the second and Winegardner was the sixth.

Wier is the second highest-ranked conditional member without earnings, putting him 88th on the full listing of conditional members. Light is third and 89th and Winegardner is 10th and 96th.

Wier, 24, a native of the Buffalo area who played collegiately at St. John Fisher College outside Rochester, N.Y., is assessing his next move and will take at least a week off to give a sore wrist time to heal.

“I’ve got to clear my head and decide what’s the next move to make,” said Wier, who stayed at tournament sites on weekends after missed cuts to practice and observe. “It was a great experience. I got to travel and see a lot of cool parts of Canada. It was disappointing not to play good golf. … I think the best thing I take away from it is seeing the guys at the top and being able to know what wins tournaments.”

Wier is considering playing some eGolf and/or Grand Strand-headquartered SwingThought.com Tour events, and entering a couple PGA Tour Canada Monday qualifiers within driving distance of Buffalo. He believes he’ll be better off for his stint in Canada.

“It was a great learning experience,” Wier said. “I haven’t been immersed in strong fields like that because I played Division III golf. It’s not like it created any doubt. If anything, these guys who shoot 18 under to win tournaments still hit bad shots, right now they’re just a little more consistent. I am very optimistic about moving forward and being able to get my next shot.”

Light, a native of Massillon, Ohio, who played at Malone University in his home state and moved to Little River last July, is also considering Monday qualifiers in Canada if he indeed doesn’t get into another event, and joining the SwingThought.com Tour, though he’s still assessing his options.

“I haven’t played particularly good golf,” he said. “I may take a week to sharpen things up. I’ve gotten away from a couple swing keys and I’d like to work on those.”

Light, 24, said his biggest adjustment has been life on a tour that traverses a large country.

“You really have to be able to get into a rhythm and get comfortable with the lifestyle of traveling, flying, living out of your suitcase for a week and traveling to the next event,” Light said. “… It was a lot to take in and it’s an adjustment. I’ll adjust and get comfortable and I’ll get back to playing some good golf.”

PGA Tour Canada was rebranded the Mackenzie Tour in May with the signing of a six-year umbrella sponsorship agreement with Mackenzie Investments.

U.S. Junior in S.C.

The best boys junior golfers in the U.S. are in South Carolina this week for the 156-player U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Colleton River Plantation’s Dye Course in Bluffton.

The par-72 course will be set up as long as 7,366 yards, making it the second-longest course in U.S. Junior history with a demanding course rating of 76.4 and slope rating of 150.

A pair of 18-hole stroke-play qualifying rounds Monday and Tuesday will determine the 64 players who qualify for match play. The championship match scheduled for Saturday is 36 holes. Admission is free all week and the public is encouraged to attend.

Fox Sports 1 will broadcast semifinal and final action from 2-4 p.m. both Friday and Saturday.

There were 3,184 entries for the tournament and 36-hole qualifiers were held at 60 sites in 43 states. There are 13 players from the Carolinas – eight from N.C. and five from S.C., including Christian Salzer of Sumter and Jack Parrott of Columbia, who were the winner and runner-up of the S.C. Junior last month at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club.

This is the third U.S. Junior held in the Palmetto State, joining tournaments in 1963 at Florence Country Club and 1979 at Moss Creek Golf Club in Hilton Head Island.

There are two multiple U.S. Junior winners. Tiger Woods won three in a row from 1991-93 and Jordan Spieth won two in 2009 and 2011.

HJGT in Charleston

The Hurricane Junior Golf Tour has extended the entry deadline to Thursday for the Daniel Island Junior Shootout from July 28-29 on the Daniel Island Club Beresford Course outside Charleston.

The 36-hole event is $189 for members and $234 for non-members. For more information or to register, call the tour at 904-379-2697 or visit www.hjgt.org.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284 or on Twitter @alanblondin, or read his blog Green Reading at myrtlebeachonline.com

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