Vegas Took The Trophy But du Toit Stole The Show

Kimberley, B.C.'s Jared du Toit Won The Hearts And Admiration Of Golf Fans Across The Country As He Stayed In Contention For The National Championship All Week - Image Courtesy Golf Canada

by Bryan Outram/British Columbia Golf

After he opened with a wonderful 5-under 67 to start the RBC Canadian Open, more than a few golf fans were turning to one another and asking, "Who's Jared du Toit?"

Well, they know now. 

The 22-year old amateur from Kimberley, B.C., who begins his senior year at Arizona State this fall, is very well known to those who follow amateur golf closely in the Pacific Northwest, having won the B.C. Junior Boys title in 2013, the B.C. Amateur in 2015 and adding the 2015 NCAA Big Sky Conference Championship title.

Playing in his first PGA TOUR event, du Toit followed up his first round with 3 more sub-par rounds (71,70,71) winning the Gary Cowan medal for finishing as the low amateur in the process. Paired in the final group on Sunday with 2013 RBC Canadian Open winner Brandt Snedeker, the support du Toit received was nearly overwhelming. With the  entire country rooting him on du Toit handled the pressure beautifully and still found time to take it all in and enjoy the experience.

“Unbelievable. The atmosphere they were providing was unbelievable,” said du Toit. He added that he lost count of how many high fives he had on Sunday, but there were enough to make his hands sore. “Every tee box, every green, everyone was clapping, hollering, ‘Go Canada!’ It was truly unbelievable. I’m on cloud nine right now.”

Although he would fall out of contention as the round wore on, du Toit received a standing ovation when he birdied the final hole of the tournament. He also got the biggest ovation of the day at the awards ceremony on the 18th green at Glen Abbey Golf Club. 

Contributing to his impressive showing was the fact that he was suffering from bronchitis. Team Canada Men's Head Coach coach Derek Ingram drove du Toit to the Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital with du Toit eventually only getting five hours of sleep heading into Sunday’s final round. “We’re going to take care of this bronchitis a little bit, probably hold off the celebration a little more,” said du Toit. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I haven’t thought that far ahead.”

Ingram was as impressed as any by du Toit’s performance but certainly not as surprised as most, “Jared’s been playing great, he’s been trending really well for the past six months,” Ingram said. “He’s been playing great, a bit of a surprise to be in the final group of the Canadian Open as an amateur, but not surprised that he played well at all.”

Lest we forget it was Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas with a final round 8-under 64, including birdies on 4 of the last 6 holes, who posted a 12-under 276 to win by one shot. The 31-year old began the day 5 shots back of Snedeker and four behind du Toit and 2016 U.S. Open Champion Dustin Johnson.

It was the 2nd PGA TOUR win for Vegas, the first coming in just his second start on TOUR at the Bob Hope Classic back in 2011. “It’s never easy,” Vegas said, “I won on my second start as a rookie. I really thought it was going to be a little bit easier right after that. But it’s been five tough years with injuries to kind of get your momentum back to win golf tournaments."

Du Toit, a member of Golf Canada’s National Amateur Squad, finished at 9-under in a four-way tie for ninth, two shots ahead of world number one ranked Jason Day. Asked how he might have reacted to this success if he had been told about it even a few days back, he found it difficult to put into words, “I don’t know what I would say. Honestly, I had no expectations coming into this week. I thought maybe if I play well and make the cut…I honestly didn’t know. To come out this week and play well, Top-10 feels really good.”

Du Toit, who only had around 15 fans following his group during Thursday’s opening round, saw that change in a most dramatic way when he continued to play well, not falling off the map as could have easily been expected under the circumstances. 

The next time the young man tees it up on TOUR, chances are he'll have a few more followers.