The 114th B.C. Amateur Golf Championship began at Pheasant Glen Golf Resort with the iconic Doug Roxburgh entering his history-making 50th straight competition.
It ended with a 15-year-old Victoria youth creating his own history in his first appearance.
Sporting a set of braces and a steely control of his nerves, Nolan Thoroughgood of Royal Colwood Golf Club shot a smooth, even-par final round to finish at 7-under-par 281, two strokes ahead of fellow teen A.J. Ewart of Coquitlam and three strokes up on 20-year-old Zach Anderson of Nanaimo.
“I was always telling myself, no matter what happens I’ve got possibly 50 more chances to come back and win this,” Thoroughgood said in reference to Roxburgh, the 13-time B.C. Amateur champion who missed the cut this week by a single stroke.
Instead, the teenager claimed the tournament trophy and earned a spot in next month’s Canadian Amateur Championship, heading B.C.’s Willingdon Cup team with Ewart and Anderson. One month ahead of his 16th birthday, Thoroughgood became the the youngest winner of the B.C. Am, topping the mark set by Adam Svensson of Surrey, who was 16 when he won the 2010 championship.
Matthew Haddad of Qualicum Beach, 23, led the way among local golfers, shooting a 291 to finish tied for 14 and improve on previous B.C. Am finishes of 36th place in 2012 and 45th in 2013.
“It went pretty well, but I never put together an 18-hole round,” said Haddad, who was competing in his first B.C. Am since his 2013 finish. “I knew I had a chance at a top-5 finish or a win if I golfed my best, but there were always a few mistakes.”
Brian De Biasio, the reigning club champion at Pheasant Glen, shot a 2-under 70 Friday, rallying after struggling through the middle rounds to finish at 294 in a tie for 25th. Aidan Goodfellow, a 16-year-old from Parksville who tied with Thoroughgood for 14 place at the B.C. Junior Boys Amateur one week earlier, was a stroke back of De Biasio at 295.
In the 36-hole Zone competition, held concurrently with the championship over the first two days of play, the victory went to the Zone 6 (North Vancouver Island) team of De Biasio, Anderson, Kyler Bourgeault of Qualicum Beach and Greg Koster of Courtenay.
Kyler Bourgeault of Qualicum Beach chips up to the 18th green during the final round of the B.C. Amateur Golf Championship at Pheasant Glen Golf Resort in Qualicum Beach Friday afternoon. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS
De Biasio and Koster also finished second in the two-man, best-ball competition, one stroke back of Richmond’s Chris Crisologo and Vancouver’s Jacob Vanderpass.
Thoroughgood earned his win honestly, opening with a 5-under 67 on Tuesday that put him one stroke off the lead, then sandwiching a pair of even-par rounds around a 2-under 70 in Thursday’s third round to hold off his challengers. He never dropped from the top spot from the second round on.
“I kind of expected myself to choke in the second round, and didn’t,” he said, flashing a smile around his dental hardware. “Then I expected to choke in the third round; didn’t. (Friday), I didn’t expect to win. It still doesn’t feel real.”
Thoroughgood was threatened with a reversal only once, when he hooked his drive on the par-5 10th hole into the tall firs lining the fairway.
“I though, ‘Oh, here’s where it goes off the rails,’” he said.
But the ball struck a tree trunk, bounced into the fairway, and eventually dropped into the cup for a birdie that put him at 8-under for the tourney.
With a sizeable entourage of spectators and fellow players ringing the 18th green, Thoroughgood three-putted for a bogey, but that did nothing to diminish the applause of the fans, or slow the charge of fellow Royal Colwood players Kevin Carrigan and Dylan Bell, who rushed the green with a large tub of ice water and dumped it over the winner.
After shaking hands with Anderson and fellow playing partner Chris Crisologo of Richmond, Thoroughgood embraced his father, Garth, who served as his caddy throughout the four-day, 72-hole championship.
Asked who was more nervous during the round, Garth Thoroughgood didn’t hesitate.
“I guarantee you, I was way more nervous (than Nolan),” he said. “I just tried to stay close and not give him any advice.”
From left, Zone 6 golfers Greg Koster of Courtenay, Zach Anderson of Nanaimo and Brian De Biasio of Qualicum Beach accept the trophy from British Columbia Golf volunteer Shiela Van Gisbergen after winning the zone competition during the 114th B.C. Amateur Championship at Pheasant Glen. Not pictured is teammate Kyler Bourgeault of Qualicum Beach. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS
Anderson, who just finished his second season of play for Washington State University, said he was doomed by back-to-back bogeys on holes 14 and 15 that dropped him four strokes behind the leader. He credited Thoroughgood for his poise in not allowing an opening to his opponents.
“You never wish anyone to do poorly out there,” said Anderson. “But when you’re four down with three holes to go, you kind of have to bank on that. He held it really well together out there; solid kid. It will be interesting to see how he will do in the future.”
While Thoroughgood fended off Anderson down the stretch, his closest pursuer was playing two groups ahead of him. Ewart scored two eagles and a birdie on the front nine en route to the day’s best round, a 5-under 67, but was left to wonder what might have been had he not opened the day with a triple-bogey on the first hole.
It was the second straight runner-up finish for Ewart, 17, who placed just behind Tristan Mandur of Mill Bay in the B.C. Junior Amateur one week earlier.
The other big winner in the B.C. Am was the Pheasant Glen course itself, which served up an opening-round smorgasbord of low scores before British Columbia Golf officials adjusted the set-up with longer tee shots and tighter pin placements.
“The course was the big winner this week, as far as I’m concerned,” said De Biasio, who has won four straight club championships here. “It was tough, but fair. They don’t want it to be easy. They want it to be a challenge so the cream rises to the top.”
Cream was also on the menu for Thoroughgood, who is several years away from celebrating with Champagne or a victory beer. Instead, Donna Dutton, co-owner of Pheasant Glen with her husband Bill, ran into Qualicum Beach during the awards ceremony to get the milk and ice cream for the victor’s chocolate milkshake.
As he accepted his medal, plaque and crystal bowl, Thoroughgood thanked Pheasant Glen, British Columbia Golf, his fellow golfers and tournament volunteers. After posing for photos with the other top finishers, he stepped back in front of the crowd.
“I’d also like to thank my dad for driving me here,” he said. “Because I can’t.”
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