Kimberley, BC's Jared du Toit Loving The Latin Life

Former B.C. Amateur Champion Jared du Toit Is Competing On The PGA Tour - LatinoAmerica Circuit - Image Courtesy British Columbia Golf

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

Playing the PGA Tour LatinoAmerica circuit has been part golf, part adventure for Jared du Toit. The former B.C. Amateur champion from Kimberley acknowledges he hasn’t yet played as well as he’d like, but repeatedly uses the same four-letter word to describe his experiences through the first four events: cool.

“The travel days can be pretty long, but a lot of places we get to go are really cool,” du Toit says in a telephone interview from Montego Bay, the site of this week’s BMW Jamaica Classic. “I probably wouldn’t have the opportunity or desire to go to a lot of these places if I wasn’t playing golf. So it is very cool to just have the opportunity to check out these places and see some new parts of the world. It has definitely been very cool.”

So far, the tour has made stops in Guatemala, Mexico, Argentina and now Jamaica.  “All those stereotypes about Jamaica are pretty true,” du Toit says with a chuckle. “People are very laid back here, and you can smell a lot of marijuana in the air.”

Sometimes, du Toit feels like he is on one of those Contiki travel tours, not following a professional golf tour. His first stop was in Antigua, Guatemala, site of the season-opening Guatemala Stella Artois Open in mid-March. The tournament was played at La Reunion Golf Resort, a stunning Pete Dye layout that is surrounded by four volcanoes.

Four very active volcanoes, du Toit discovered. “I was about to fall asleep one night and the volcano erupted and shook the house a little bit,” he says. “It was one of the coolest things I have experienced.” After a tournament in Mexico, du Toit then headed to Argentina for two events. “I went down a little early and spent a day in Santiago, Chile,” he says.

“I got to see a bunch of the cool things there. That trip was really cool for me. It is so far south down there and it’s kind of a different world. When you are in Mexico, for example, you kind of know what to expect. When you go down to Argentina it’s a little different. The rules of the road are different, they have all these roundabouts.

"And the restaurants don’t open until like 8 p.m. and they don’t get busy until 9:45. It’s just a really weird, different experience, but it was very cool. We got to play two really nice golf courses. And Argentinians love their golf so they supported the events really well and made it fun for us.”

With all his Latin American travels, du Toit joked that he should be in the running for an end-of-season award. “I would say I am the most improved player out here when it comes to Spanish,” he says. “My roommate this week just laughed at that comment. . .I definitely came in not doing too well, but now I can kind of get by. It's still not great by any means, but I have definitely come a long way in the month or so that I have been down here.”

image courtesy Golf Canada

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Du Toit says he has generally felt safe during his travels through Latin America. “You definitely have to learn how to travel and obviously safety is a priority. What I have been doing so far is staying at the host hotels or at least hotels where a lot of the guys are staying at.

"We can split cabs to and from the course. I have a bunch of friends who have played this tour before so they've kind of guided me along the way a little bit and told me where to go and where not to go so I haven’t had any scares yet. And I really haven’t heard anything from anybody so I definitely feel safe.”

Du Toit, who turned pro just about a year ago after graduating from Arizona State University, earned playing privileges on the PGA Tour LatinoAmerica via qualifying school earlier this year. He figured it would help fill out his schedule before and after the PGA Tour Canada-Mackenzie Tour season.

He has made three of four cuts to date with two top-20 finishes. He thinks his game is starting to come to life. “I feel like I am getting better,” he says. “Those first two or three events I didn’t really have my best stuff, but I was grinding pretty hard and trying to squeeze as much out of the round as I could. I think it's coming. I am definitely feeling more optimistic about where everything is going and how my game is feeling.”

Like the Mackenzie Tour, the LatinoAmerica circuit offers Tour status to the top five players on its money list at the end of the year. Du Toit currently stands 37th. He was 23rd on the Mackenzie Tour money list last year.

Du Toit plans on returning home to play the three B.C. season-opening events in June on the Mackenzie Tour -- the Freedom 55 Financial Open at Point Grey in Vancouver, the Bayview Place DC Bank Open  at Uplands in Victoria and the GolfBC Championship at Gallagher’s Canyon in Kelowna.

The second half schedule of the Latino America circuit has not yet been released, but it will likely conflict with the final three or four events of year’s Mackenzie Tour. Du Toit will make a decision on where to play based on his standing on each tour. If he happens to get hot on the Latino America circuit, then he’ll likely return to play the second half of the schedule.

Du Toit noted that fellow Canadian Corey Conners, now a PGA TOUR regular, played both tours in 2016. “He did the same thing I am doing. He was playing on both tours. He got off to a good start in Latin America and I think he stayed down here longer than he originally anticipated and then he went up to Canada and ended up playing great up there.

"But he did a great job of kind of spreading out his chances. That's what I would do ideally. I haven’t got off to a great start down here, but things can change pretty quick in golf.”