Victoria’s Jackson Rothwell Survives Rocky Start To Win 117th B.C. Amateur Championship

 Jackson Rothwell Of Victoria Holds The B.C. Amateur Championship Trophy Aloft After His Win At Big Sky GC In Pemberton - Images Credit Brad Ziemer/BC Golf

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

PEMBERTON -- A nightmarish start to his round ended with a dream finish for Jackson Rothwell, who won the B.C. Amateur Championship the hard way Friday at Big Sky Golf Club.

The 18-year-old Victoria resident hit a wayward drive off the first tee, made double-bogey and lost the lead he had enjoyed since the first round. Rather than bow his head and surrender to the butterflies that were in full flight in his stomach, Rothwell showed plenty of resolve the rest of the way as he battled with Isaac Lee of Pitt Meadows in the 117th playing of the championship.

Thanks to some clutch play on the back nine, Rothwell emerged with a one-shot win that no one really saw coming. Especially Rothwell.  This wasn’t exactly a Cinderella story out of nowhere, but it was close.

“My goal this year was to make the top 10, so this has exceeded my expectations for sure,” Rothwell said. “It is pretty amazing. Just a couple of years ago I was struggling to just make the cut at a B.C. Junior and now I am a B.C. Amateur champion.”

Rothwell shot a one-under 71 to finish the 72-hole championship at 10-under par. Friday’s round was a veritable roller-coaster with a number of lead changes along the way. “Tough start today,” said Rothwell, who just graduated from St. Michael’s University school. “It was a flip-flop of the lead very quickly. I think I am better playing from behind, so maybe that worked out for me.

“I was able to kind of stable (sic) the ship. I wasn’t really making any putts on the front, but made some key putts coming down the stretch to close it out.”

By today’s standards, Rothwell could be described as something of a late bloomer. He served notice at last week’s B.C. Junior Boys Championship at Fairwinds Golf Course in Nanoose Bay, where he finished third, that his game was in good form. But no one -- not even Rothwell -- was picking him to win this week.

However, he posted a seven-under 65 in the first round at Big Sky on Tuesday and that seemed to fill him with confidence. “The course just set up really nicely for me,” he said. “It suits my game, lots of mid-irons, not too demanding off the tee.”

Walking every step of the way with Rothwell this week was his dad Alex, who did a great job of hiding his own nerves as he caddied for his son. “It is awesome I get to share this with him,” Jackson Rothwell said. “He was a pretty big help with emotional support more than like shot selection. It is nice to have him there. He is pretty happy with this week as well.”

The 2019 British Columbia Men's Willingdon Cup Team From L-R: Roy Kang, Jackson Rothwell & Isaac Lee

That would be an understatement. “I think I did my best to really not show my emotions at all,” said Alex Rothwell. “We spent a lot of time making stupid jokes back and forth just trying to keep it light. I think I can honestly say I was way more stressed than he was.” The elder Rothwell said Friday’s win will benefit his son as he moves on to play collegiate golf at Babson College near Boston.

“First of all, he went wire-to-wire which I think is really hard to do. I think he will now have a different mindset when he plays these events because he knows he actually belongs in this crowd and can compete at this high level. This is something he has been working at in a focused way since he was 14 and I am incredibly proud of him.”

Lee led by two shots at the turn, but Rothwell had regained the lead by the time they walked off the 12th green. Lee pulled even when Rothwell bogeyed the par 4 14th hole, but Rothwell took the lead for good with a birdie on the par 4 15th. And when Lee bogeyed the par 4 16th, Rothwell had a two-shot cushion with two holes to play. “I made a birdie on 15 and made a real good up and down on 16 and at that point I felt like I was really in control,” he said.

Lee, who is about to enter his sophomore year at Simon Fraser University, was lamenting a handful of loose shots that likely cost him the title. “It was a battle,” Lee said. “I just had four loose swings out there. . . holes 11 through 16 was the tough stretch for me.”

Lee took considerable solace that his second-place finish gets him a spot on the Willingdon Cup team that will represent British Columbia at the Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship, which goes Aug. 5-8 at Glen Arbour Golf Course & The Links at Brunello in Hammonds Plains, N.S. “That was my goal this week, to get in the top three,” Lee said. “It is good to be on the team.”

It took a playoff to decide the third spot on the Willingdon Cup team. Roy Kang of North Vancouver and 14-year-old Cooper Humphreys of Kelowna tied for third at four-under par. Kang, a 20-year-old who plays collegiate golf at the University of Denver, prevailed on the first playoff hole by eagling the par 5 18th. Kang also eagled No. 18 to finish his third and fourth rounds. “I must like this hole,” Kang said with a grin. “I didn’t try to eagle it. I just kind of aimed at the middle of the green. I wanted to put a high draw on it and it ended up being six or seven feet from the hole and I made the putt.

“It is really meaningful to make the team. I played my junior golf in B.C. and I always wanted to be on the Willingdon Cup team and this is a real treat for me and a real pleasure.”

Doug Roxburgh, the 13-time winner who played in his 53rd B.C. Amateur, closed with a one-over 73 and finished tied for 36th place at 12-over. Roxburgh will defend his B.C. Senior Championship later this month at Vernon Golf Club.

Click HERE for complete Final Scoring.

CHIP SHOTS: The B.C. Amateur also included a two-man best-ball competition. The team of Mike Aizawa and Zaahidali Nathu, both of Richmond, won with a score of 24-under. Kang and partner Hyunkook Jung of Richmond were one shot back in second place. . .Next year’s B.C. Amateur Championship will be held at the Okanagan Golf Club’s Bear Course in Kelowna.