Macdonald Should Feel Right At Home For His Pro Debut At Point Grey

The Freedom 55 Financial Open Is The First Event Of The 2017 Mackenzie Tour Schedule And Will Also Be The Pro Debut For Vancouver's Stuart Macdonald (R) Shown Here With Teammate Lawren Rowe Of Victoria After Winning The Peruvian International Amateur Championship - Image Credit Golf Canada

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

Stuart Macdonald practically grew up on the fairways of Vancouver’s Point Grey Golf & Country Club and during many of the “hundreds and hundreds” of rounds played there he would find himself dreaming about becoming a touring pro.

What he never dreamed of was making his pro debut at his home course.

But come Thursday, when the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada circuit begins its new season with the $175,000 Freedom 55 Financial Open, that is exactly what is going to happen for the 22-year-old Macdonald.

It has been a while since Macdonald has had first-tee jitters at Point Grey. After all, he knows the course so well he could practically play it blind-folded. But he acknowledges the butterflies in his stomach figure to be in full flight when he steps up to the tee and realizes that childhood dream.

“I would never have imagined my first pro event would be here at Point Grey,” Macdonald says. “Obviously with it being my first pro event I am sure I will have nerves and I will be in front of the home crowd, but at the end of the day it’s another golf tournament. I have played lots of golf tournaments before and hopefully I can calm my nerves and just play my game. I am really excited to get going.”

Macdonald finished his collegiate golf career at Purdue University in Indiana one year ago and earned his Mackenzie Tour playing privileges with a clutch performance at qualifying school earlier this spring. He birdied his final three holes to finish tied for ninth place and is guaranteed the first four starts of the season.

He hopes he can put his home-course advantage to good use at the Freedom 55 event. “I have obviously played Point Grey so many times, I don’t even think twice about what club I am going to hit off the tee,” Macdonald says of Point Grey. “It's the same thing every time. I have a pretty solidified game plan and I think that’s beneficial.”

Macdonald first played the course when he was eight or nine years old. His parents are both members and they began taking him to the Point Grey driving range. His mom, Susan, who played golf for the University of B.C. was a big influence.

Macdonald didn’t immediately catch the golf bug as he continued to play other sports -- soccer, baseball and tennis -- before he became obsessed with golf. “I started taking it seriously when I was about 11 or 12 years old and ran with it,” he says. Over the years, he has had some excellent rounds at Point Grey. “I shot a 64, a couple of 65s, a couple 66s,” he says.

Since graduating from Purdue this past December, Macdonald has kept his game sharp by playing lots of amateur golf. He headed to Australia in January and played some events there. Earlier this spring, he and Lawren Rowe of Victoria represented British Columbia Golf at the Peruvian International Amateur Championship in Lima, where they beat the field by five shots and Macdonald won the individual title.

Macdonald, who has been a member of Golf Canada’s national team for the last two years, says there are no secrets about what you must do to play well at Point Grey. “You have to hit the fairway,” he says. “It’s a big tree-lined golf course. It’s not an overly long golf course, so if you can hit the fairway you are going to have lots of wedges and you will probably make some putts.”

His pro debut will be a family affair as Macdonald will have hid dad, Robert, on the bag as his caddie. “I played a few events down in Australia in January and he caddied for me and I played all right so I thought we might as well do it here,” Macdonald says.

The Freedom 55 tourney will have lots of local content. Tour regulars like Ryan Williams of Vancouver, Langley’s Adam Cornelson, Riley Wheeldon of Courtenay, Seann Harlingten of West Vancouver and Chilliwack’s Brad Clapp are all in the field.

Sponsor’s exemptions have been granted to Kevin Stinson of Mission, Devin Carrey of Surrey, Jay Snyder of Vancouver and 2016 B.C. high school champion Diego San Pedro of Richmond. Point Grey head professional Dave Zibrik was also awarded a sponsor’s exemption.

CHIP SHOTS: Sunday’s winner earns $31,500 . . .the Freedom 55 event is the first of three British Columbia stops on the Mackenzie Tour schedule. The Bayview Place Cardtronics Open goes June 8-11 at Uplands Golf Club in Victoria. That is followed by the GolfBC Championship, which goes June 15-18 at Gallagher’s Canyon in Kelowna.