Oh Brother: Christian And Ilirian Zalli Share Lead At Halfway Point Of B.C. Junior Boys Championship

It's Not A Circus Act, But The Brothers Zalli (Ilirian - L & Christian - R) Could Definitely Provide Some Entertainment Going Into The Last Two Rounds Of The BC Juniors Boys Championship Tied For The Lead - Image Credit Brad Ziemer/British Columbia Golf

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

SQUAMISH -- No, you are not seeing double. Those Zalli, Zalli names at the top of the leaderboard are correct.

It seems a serious case of sibling rivalry has broken out at the B.C. Junior Boys Championship at Squamish Golf & Country Club. Christian Zalli and his little brother Ilirian share the lead at the halfway point. Both finished the second round at five-under par, three shots better than the rest of the field.

And as for that rivalry, the brothers say that while they do love to beat one another, they are each highly supportive of the other.  “If he wins I am very happy for him,” Christian said after Wednesday’s round.

“If I win he’s happy for me. There is no bad blood. If he plays a bad round I'm sure he will be upset about the bad round, but he won’t be upset if I play well. Same thing goes my way. We just try to support each other and just try to keep each other up. We are teammates. All of this, we do it together.”

On Wednesday, Christian, 18, fired the day’s best score, a four-under 68, to move to five-under. His 15-year-old brother, playing in the group behind him, shot a one-over 73, that left him at five-under following his 66 on Tuesday. “We have played a lot with each other, but it will definitely be interesting at this kind of tournament,” Ilirian said.

He also dismissed the notion that this will be some kind of brother-versus-brother grudge match. “We are competitive,” Ilirian said. “We always want to beat each other, but we are going to really root for each other. There are not going to be any hard feelings or anything.”

Christian just graduated from David Thompson Secondary in Vancouver and is heading to the University of B.C. this fall. He does not plan to play golf. “I am going to focus on school,” he said. “Golf is a full-time job, so in my opinion you have to pick one or the other. I am going to be studying in the fall.”

Ilirian just finished Grade 9 at David Thompson. Last summer, he won the B.C. Bantam Boys Championship at Bowen Island Golf Club. It’s a big ask for a 15-year-old to win the B.C. Junior, but Ilirian thinks he is up to the task. 

“I did gain a lot of distance from last year and that is pretty much the biggest thing for somebody my age,” Ilirian said. “It’s just being able to hit shorter irons into the par 4s and stuff like that. I am hitting it quite far. I have been pretty comfortable this week and I am feeling pretty good, kind of like how I felt at the Bantam tourney.”

Ilirian, who started his round with three straight birdies, would have had the outright lead if not for a hiccup on the 18th tee. He hit his drive out of bounds to the left and made a double-bogey to finish his round. “I put my second drive in the fairway and tried to limit the damage as much as I could,” he said. “What are you going to do. It’s 72 holes, right? Every once in a while you are going to have a bad hole.”

Christian did most of his damage on the front nine, where he was four-under par. He made an unlikely birdie on the par 3 eighth hole when his flop shot bounced off the top of the flag and dropped directly into the hole. “As Gary Player says, the more you practice the luckier you get and I have practiced that shot a million times,” Christian said. “I was happy to have it go in today. Honestly I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The Zalli brothers, who both play out of Richmond Country Club, lead Nolan Thoroughgood of Victoria by three shots. Thoroughgood, who won last summer’s B.C. Amateur Championship as a 15-year-old, shot an even-par 72 Wednesday and sits at two-under par.

Mitchell Thiessen of Chilliwack and 2014 B.C. Junior champion Keaton Gudz of Victoria are tied for fourth place at one-under par. Squamish played tougher Wednesday, when it yielded only five sub-par rounds. Eleven players broke par in Tuesday’s opening round. 

The cut to the low 70 and ties came at 16-over par. Seventy-three players made the cut and will play the final two rounds.

CHIP SHOTS: The tournament included a 36-hole Zone championship that ended Wednesday, Zone 4 (Delta, Greater Vancouver, Squamish and Sunshine Coast) won with a score of seven-under par. Zone 3 (Fraser Valley) was second at 14-over par. . .The leaders tee off at 11:30 a.m. in Thursday’s third round.

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