Edie Nicholson & Kole Keenas win McLennan Ross Alberta Tour Championship
By Dunc Mills:
The 27th season of the McLennan Ross Alberta Junior Tour, Presented by Crowe Mackay, came to a sensational conclusion this afternoon at Wolf Creek Golf Resort near Ponoka, annually ranked among Canada’s Top 100 golf courses. A total of 91 junior golfers from every corner of the province was on hand as they had earned the right to compete in the annual finale for the McLennan Ross Alberta Junior Tour season.
Despite the lack of rain recently in Central Alberta, Wolf Creek was in great shape, with the fairways playing hard and fast and the greens even more slick than usual. The players handled the conditions in superb fashion as over two dozen players broke 80 in their quest to get their name on the Tour Championship trophy. We already knew that we would have a new girls’ champion, as four-time defending champion Jayla Kucy of Camrose was not in the field today to try for her fifth title in a row. The 2022 Junior Boys’ Champion Christian Flick of Carnmoney GCC in Calgary was on hand today to defend his title , and he came oh so close to doing so.
Several junior boys in different age brackets jostled for position throughout the day, but when all the scorecards were returned, Kole Keenas, 17, of Country Hills GCC in Calgary eked out a narrow 1-shot win, posting a 1-over par 71 to get his nose to the wire ahead of the aforementioned Flick and 18-year-old Jeremy Hart of Sirocco GC in Calgary. When asked about his round in the post-tournament media scrum, Keenas said, “I played pretty steady for most of the day ( 3 bogies, 2 birdies) , but I made some great up-and-downs for pars on 9, 10, and 11 before I finished my round off with a ten-footer for par on #12. ”
Christian Flick’s round was the polar opposite, as after starting on #10 in the 10 a.m. shotgun start, he made two 7’s on the back 9, including a quadruple bogey-7 on the par-3 17th to make the turn in 6-over par 41. But Christian wasn’t giving up his title quietly, as he stormed to the finish line with a 4-under par 31 on the front, playing his last four holes in four-under par. One shot short.
Hart was actually in the lead with two holes to play at 1-under through 16, but double-bogied the famously diabolical par-4 9th and bogied the par-3 10th, the final hole of his round, to finish on 72.
Age group winners today included Bennett Love of Red Deer GCC in the Boys U13 division. Love ran roughshod over his U13 competition much of the summer on Tour, and looks like he will be a force to be reckoned with in years to come. In the Boys U15 flight, it was Tyler-tied, as Tyler Kidd of Priddis Greens and Tyler Hennessey of Earl Grey dead-heated with 75s. Flick’s score led the U17 division, as did Hart’s score in the U19s.
On the distaff side, we had a great total of 24 junior girls on hand today, as the interest in girls’ junior golf in Alberta continues to surge as we come out of COVID. All the girls played from the same tees today, so we can fairly compare all their results. Edie Nicholson,16, of Calgary’s Willow Park GCC posted a 77, good for a narrow one-shot margin of victory over pre-tournament favourite Brynne Davies of Earl Grey, 12-year-old Sela Ogada of Sirocco, and Sophie Dhaliwal of Silverwing GC in Calgary. Nicholson described her round as ‘steady but unspectacular’ as she only managed one birdie on the day, but avoided any major disasters.
WATCH INTERVIEWS WITH CHAMPIONS EDIE NICHOLSON & KOLE KEENAS
Sela Ogala topped the U13 girls with her 78, with Aliyah Hull of Calgary best in the U15 flight with an 81. Nicholson’s 77 headed the U17 flight, and Davies’ 78 led the way with the U19 girls.
The Tour Championship is always a somewhat bittersweet experience, as we always have a big field of many of the province’s best juniors on hand, but knowing full well that it will be nine months before these youngsters get to tee it up on Tour again. The Tour continues to provide a wonderful showcase for many of Alberta’s young up-and-coming players, while providing a well organized jumping-off point for other kids getting their first taste of what it takes to compete in junior golf. McLennan Ross Alberta Junior Tour organizers will be hard at work again very soon to fine-tune the golf experience for these young people, as we look forward to an exciting 2023 season.