Ziemer's B.C. Golf Notes: UBC, Victoria men off to NAIA Championships; Angela Arora wins NextGen Pacific tourney; Victoria Liu closes out impressive rookie season; Hadwin heads to PGA Championship at Southern Hills

UBC Thunderbirds Golf Coach Chris Macdonald - Image Credit Wilson Wong/UBC

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

It shouldn’t take the UBC Thunderbirds men’s golf team long to find out where it stands at this week’s NAIA Championship tourney in Silvas, Ill. The sixth-seeded Thunderbirds are paired with top-ranked Keiser University of West Palm Beach, Fla., in the first two rounds of the tournament. 

“Keiser has been the best team in the NAIA all season, so it will be a great test for us,” said head coach Chris Macdonald. UBC has a young team and Macdonald is pleased with the way it has progressed this season. “I feel like our team has improved a lot this year,” he said. 

“I wouldn’t have said it was certain that we’d get to nationals this year and we’re ranked sixth, so that feels pretty good. We’ve had a very positive season through a lot of ups and downs with COVID and trying to figure out how to play early in the season and all the bad weather. So I think the guys are just really excited to play and we’ll see how it evolves. Certainly we’re a team that could play well. It’s a very hard golf course.”

The tournament is being played at TPC Deere Run, which is the site of the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic every summer. “It is the best golf course we play in college golf, including the NCAA events that we play,” Macdonald said. “It’s just a phenomenal golf course for college golf. The fact they block this off for us every year is quite amazing.”

UBC has been led this season by freshman Russell Howlett of Delta. "Russell is our dominant player,” Macdonald said. “He is just so solid, loves the game, works impossibly hard and is coachable.” Mackenzie Bickell, Ethan De Graaf, Dylan MacDonald and Aidan Schemer round out UBC’s starting five. J.P. Kahlert is their sixth man.

The University of Victoria has also qualified for the NAIA Championship tourney. The Vikes are unseeded heading into the 72-hole event. John Morrow, Robin Conlan, Zach Ryujin, Chase Basalt and Aiden Craig-Steele are expected to play for Victoria.

The NAIA Women’s Championship tourney goes May 24-27 in Oklahoma City. UBC and Victoria have both qualified to play in that event.

JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT: Angela Arora held off fellow Surrey resident Lauren Kim to win the NextGen Pacific Championship at Nanaimo Golf Club. The tournament, played in tough weather conditions, featured many of Canada’s top junior players. Arora, who is off to Indiana University this fall to begin her collegiate golf career, led from start to finish. She completed the 54-hole event at four-over par to edge Kim by one shot.

Rebecca Kim of Victoria finished alone in third place at seven-over par. On the boys’ side, Eric Zhao of Toronto edged Cooper Humphreys of Kelowna and Ben MacLean of Niagara Falls, Ont., by one shot. Zhao closed with a one-over 73 to finish the event at one-over par. The top six boys and girls earned exemptions into their respective Canadian Junior Championships this summer.

STRONG FINISH: Vancouver’s Victoria Liu capped off her freshman year with a tie for 14th at the NCAA Regional tourney in Stanford, Calif. Liu, who completed the 54-hole event at two-over par, helped Princeton University to a school best finish of sixth at a NCAA Regional tourney. Vancouver’s Tiffany Kong, a junior at Princeton, tied for 37th.

Liu won two tournaments for the Tigers this year and was named Ivy League rookie of the year. Vancouver’s Leah John, a junior at the University of Nevada, also competed at the Stanford Regional as an individual. John, who will defend her B.C. Women’s Amateur Championship title next month, tied for 58th.

BIRDIES FLYING: The fact that Surrey’s Adam Svensson was 10-under par and finished tied for 69th will give you an idea of how low the scores were at the AT&T Byron Nelson tourney near Dallas. Svensson closed with a three- under 69 and finished 16 shots behind winner K.H. Lee, who successfully defended his title. 

Svensson earned $18,564 but dropped three spots on the FedEx Cup points list to 122nd. Merritt’s Roger Sloan and the Abbotsford duo of Adam Hadwin and Nick Taylor all missed the cut. Sloan fell to 172nd on the FedEx list, Taylor is now 107th and Hadwin sits at No. 51.

ON TO PGA: Hadwin has a spot in this week’s PGA Championship, which is being played at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. Hadwin’s best finish in his five previous PGA appearances came in 2019, when he tied for 29th at Bethpage Black.

ROUTE 66: Conner Kozak of Okanagan Golf Club won his second straight Interior PGA Tour event, shooting a six-under 66 at Kamloops Golf & Country Club to beat Ethan Danish of GolfTEC Kelowna by three shots. Kozak, who won last year’s PGA of BC Assistants Championship at Kamloops, earned $575 for the win.

CHIP SHOTS: A pair of Vancouver Island courses have new head professionals. Jordan Murphy has been appointed head professional at Bear Mountain Golf & Tennis Resort, while Travis Busch has joined Fairwinds Golf Club as head pro. . .Sagebrush Golf Club has opened Double 8 Ranch, its 16-hole chipping course.