Round 1 – Staal Foundation Open pres. by Tbaytel
First Round Leaderboard (Bold denotes Canadian):
James Erkenbeck – 65 (-7)
Riley Wheeldon – 67 (-5)
Corey Conners – 68 (-4)
Austin Connelly – 68 (-4)
Michael Blair – 68 (-4)
Logan McCracken – 68 (-4)
Taylor Moore – 68 (-4)
(July 14, 2016 - Thunder Bay, Ont.) – San Diego, California’s James Erkenbeck shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday at Whitewater Golf Club to take the first round lead at the Staal Foundation Open presented by Tbaytel, the sixth event of the 2016 Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada season.
The 26-year old carded one of just two bogey-free rounds on the day and birdied four of his final eight holes to lead by two over Comox, B.C.’s Riley Wheeldon after 18 holes of play.
“I just tried to stay patient and hit a lot of good golf shots, and I happened to hit some close and knock in a few putts,” said Erkenbeck of his round, which came on a day where gusting winds made scoring a challenge. “It was windy all day. I was just trying to make pars, but there are some birdie holes out here and I tried to take advantage, but I was just trying to hang in there.”
The second year Mackenzie Tour player has had an up-and-down campaign in 2016, with a T8 finish at the GolfBC Championship to go with four missed cuts. The University of New Mexico grad said he feels as though he’s played better than the results have shown so far this year.
“I feel like I’ve been close. I’ve had a good first round and a bad second round, or a bad first round and a good second round, so I’ve missed a lot of cuts by a couple of shots. I’ve had a lot of good rounds, so I’ve just been waiting to put four good rounds together,” said Erkenbeck.
Wheeldon, who started the season with four missed cuts of his own before rebounding with a T4 finish at the Players Cup last week, credited a more patient approach than the start of the year for his upward trending game.
“I was struggling at the start of the year, kind of searching. I found a few things last week and regained a little bit of confidence and hopefully I’ll carry it over this week,” said Wheeldon. “I three-putted from a spot on number one that, I think, in weeks past would have made me pretty upset, but I’ve been working on taking it a little bit easier and being more patient with myself out there and not getting so down on my putter. Luckily, the putter turned around quickly.”
One shot further behind in a five-way tie for third were Corey Conners, Logan McCracken, Austin Connelly, Taylor Moore and Monday Qualifier Michael Blair.
James Erkenbeck is making his 18th career start on the Mackenzie Tour. The University of New Mexico graduate finished 60th on the 2016 Order of Merit to retain exempt status for 2016.
Erkenbeck’s best 2016 finish is a tie for eighth at the GolfBC Championship.
Riley Wheeldon is making his 49th career start on the Mackenzie Tour this week. The former University of Louisville Cardinal finished second on the 2013 Order of Merit thanks to a win at the Syncrude Boreal Open presented by AECON to earn conditional status on the Web.com Tour.
Wheeldon missed the first four cuts of the season but rebounded with a T4 finish at the Players Cup last week to move to 33rd on the Order of Merit.
“I like the conditions. It was tough, so it’s easier to stay patient when it’s like that out there. Par is a good score, so I tried to make some stress-free pars and my putter got a little hot. It’s one of, if not the best layouts we play all year. There’s a couple of holes that are tough and I like it.” – Riley Wheeldon on challenging conditions on Thursday at Whitewater.
“It feels good. I definitely had a lot of confidence coming in here this week. It was a fun event last year, and it was nice to be up near the lead and have some heat on me. I’m really looking forward to getting into that position again, and hopefully I can play well.” – Corey Conners on returning to the site of his best career Mackenzie Tour finish, a solo third place result at last year’s Staal Foundation Open presented by Tbaytel.
“I told my dad at the start of the week my goal was to make as few bogeys as possible. I felt like last week, I really played quite well and made 10 birdies the first two rounds, and just had way too many mistakes. I was making poor decisions and trying to get overly aggressive and sometimes it paid off, but more times than not it didn’t. When you look at the leaderboard when you’re starting your round and there’s an 8-, two 7-s and four sixes, you have to get after it. I knew the course was going to be challenging with the wind, so I just tried to stay patient.” – Austin Connelly on the challenging Whitewater Golf Club playing more into his style than courses in previous weeks on the Mackenzie Tour.
“It’s in the back of my mind as I’m playing, bit I just have to focus on taking it one shot at a time and if I make it into the top three at the end of the week, then great. It’s motivation this week and it has been all year. Each week matters and each shot matters, and that’s kind of been my plan.” – Order of Merit No. 6 Taylor Moore on trying to move into the top three on the Order of Merit and earn an RBC Canadian Open exemption.
- Weather: 18 degrees Celsius, cloudy with scattered showers, winds 20 km/h gusting to 43 km/h.
- Order of Merit leader Dan McCarthy opened with a 1-over 73, the first time in 21 rounds this season he has failed to shoot under par.
- The top three players on the Order of Merit after this week will earn exemptions into the PGA TOUR’s RBC Canadian Open. Scores from the top five through Round One: Dan McCarthy (73/+1/T62), Adam Cornelson (73/+1/T62), Max Rottluff (74/+2/T85), Ryan Williams (73/+1/T62), Carter Jenkins (78/+6/T139).
- NCAA individual champion Aaron Wise opened his Mackenzie Tour career with an even-par 72 to sit T42.
- Preferred lies were in effect for Round 1.
- Bogey-free rounds: James Erkenbeck (65), Austin Connelly (68).
- Taylor Moore needs at least a two-way tie for second to pass Max Rottluff for No. 3 on the Order of Merit.
- Corey Conners’ best career Mackenzie Tour finish (3rd) came at the 2015 Staal Foundation Open presented by Tbaytel.
- Logan McCracken’s best career Mackenzie Tour finish (T4) came at the 2015 Staal Foundation Open presented by Tbaytel.
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Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada