Austin James Earns First Professional Victory on Great Lakes Tour

Austin James earns his first professional victory at a Great Lakes Tour event in Copetown, Ontario. (Photo: Great Lakes Tour)

Austin James has found some early success in the 2018 golf season. The 22 year-old Bath, Ontario golfer recently earned conditional status on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada and is currently playing a mixed schedule of tournaments.

On Tuesday, May 15 that included an appearance on the Ontario-based Great Lakes Tour who was hosting their fourth regular event at the Copetown Woods Golf Club near Hamilton, Ontario.

The Charleston Southern University graduate, who turned professional last August after a strong run with Team Canada, used his length to overpower the 6905-yard course to shoot 66 (-6) for a one-stroke victory over a foursome of more seasoned pros. Sharing second place were Chris Hemmerich, Luke Moser, Brett Cairns, and Mitch Sutton, all at five under par.

James made eight birdies against two bogies in his round. That’s impressive for anyone, let alone somebody playing the golf course for the very first time. He told Flagstick.com what the secret to the day was for him.

“Honestly I’d never played the course before but I really enjoyed the greens out there,” he shared by phone. “I was putting really well and it was just one of those days where I felt really confident with any kind of putt. No matter the distance I was confident that I’d have a chance to make it. Obviously that resulted in a few birdies, which was nice.”

Since turning professional last August the results on the course have been mixed for James, who was a standout in his NCAA career and is happy to be back to his more familiar low-scoring and winning ways.

“It was exciting to get the first one under the belt. A one day event but it’s just nice to get a good round under my belt as well. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in that kind of position so it’s nice to kind of rise up to the challenge.”

In place of a practice round at Copetown Woods, James decided to spend some time with his long-time coach, former LPGA member Cathy Sherk. It was not a deeply technical session, but proved to be an important one.

“We’ve been working on kind of the same stuff the last few years but I kind of bounced some ideas off her, “Austin related. “I was struggling to hit the ball a little straighter with less of a draw. She was just reassuring me that it’s okay to turn the ball over as long as you’re committed to your line and committed to seeing the ball turn left; to just aim right and swing it. That was nice so I hit some greens today and hit a lot of decent wedges. Really what the difference was, was the putter. I played with Luke Moser who shot five under and he probably hit the ball better than me but the putts just kind of fell in for me today.”

Even as he was making his run on the golf course, James was well aware that a very capable field were fighting for the same top prize. That kept him focused right until the end of play.

“I made a couple bogies early, on two and three, and I fought it back to I think two under at the turn where I saw the leaderboard, and I saw some good players were at three (under) so I thought if I got to six I would force them to play a good back nine. I got to six and actually had a couple of chances coming in to get to seven. I thought it might be seven (to win) but luckily six was enough.”

The timing of the win was not lost on James, considering that he is just days removed from his home club, the Loyalist Country Club in Bath, Ontario (where his dad Geoff is the Head Professional) holding a major fundraiser to aid his professional pursuits. A full day of golf saw the community show up and put their emotional and financial support behind Austin, just as they have done for his older sister, Augusta, who plays the Symetra Tour.

He noted gratefully, “The fundraising tournament was awesome. There were so many people out there, from all over really but definitely from the Kingston area. It’s good to validate to them and myself that I can play pro golf.”

Next on the agenda for James will be a three-day Circuit Canada Pro Tour event in Boucherville, Quebec after which he will turn his attention to the PGA TOUR affiliated Mackenzie Tour where he needs to Monday qualify for events to improve his ranking and get access to more of their 13 stop schedule. He’ll fly west on May 25 to British Columbia where the TOUR starts up their 2018 slate of tournaments.

“I’m going to head out west and see what I can do out there. Hopefully I’ll get into a few of those and get reshuffled in so I can play more. That’s kind of Plan A and Plan B would be to play more local events if that does not happen.”

For the win at Copetown Woods, Austin earned $1,175. As a non-member of the Great Lakes Tour he did not earn any points for the Order of Merit.

Full Leaderboard

Pos. Player To Par

Gross

Total

Gross

Purse Points
1 Austin James

Bath (ON)
-6 66 $1,175.00 500.00
T2 Mitch Sutton

London (ON)
-5 67 $718.75 183.75
T2 Chris Hemmerich

Kitchener (ON)
-5 67 $718.75 183.75
T2 Luke Moser

Kitchener (ON)
-5 67 $718.75 183.75
T2 Brett Cairns

Courtland (ON)
-5 67 $718.75 183.75
T6 Brendan Leonard

Cambridge (ON)
-4 68 $308.33 91.67
T6 Lucas Kim

Richmond Hill (ON)
-4 68 $308.33 91.67
T6 Joey Hetherman

Pickering (ON)
-4 68 $308.33 91.67
T9 Andrew Aguanno

Toronto (ON)
-3 69 $96.43 66.14
T9 Michael Dart

Toronto (ON)
-3 69 $96.43 66.14
T9 Sebastian Szirmak

Toronto (ON)
-3 69 $96.43 66.14
T9 Turner Southey-Gordon

Toronto (ON)
-3 69 $96.43 66.14
T9 Keaton Jones

Kitchener (ON)
-3 69 $96.43 66.14
T9 Stephane Dubois

Brantford (ON)
-3 69 $96.43 66.14
T9 Jake Scott

Strongsville (OH)
-3 69 $96.43 66.14
T16 Gord Burns

Newmarket (ON)
-2 70 $0.00 54.50
T16 Luke Ovenden

Georgetown (ON)
-2 70 $0.00 54.50
T18 Jamie DePiero

Thunder Bay (ON)
-1 71 $0.00 52.50
T18 Colin MacGregor

Freelton (ON)
-1 71 $0.00 52.50
T20 Ed Maunder

Oakville (ON)
E 72 $0.00 49.50
T20 Greg Belsito

Thornhill (ON)
E 72 $0.00 49.50
T20 Jakob Montemurro

Hamilton (ON)
E 72 $0.00 49.50
T20 Andrew Jensen

Ottawa (ON)
E 72 $0.00 49.50
T24 Tae Woo Kim

Toronto (ON)
+1 73 $0.00 46.50
T24 Sean Bozuk

Burlington (ON)
+1 73 $0.00 46.50
T26 Josh Chambers

Burlington (ON)
+2 74 $0.00 43.50
T26 Sameer Kalia

Campbellville (ON)
+2 74 $0.00 43.50
T26 Ben Groome

Simcoe (ON)
+2 74 $0.00 43.50
T26 Andrew Ledger

Toronto (ON)
+2 74 $0.00 43.50
T30 Andrew Russ

Oakville (ON)
+3 75 $0.00 40.00
T30 Chris Wilson

Toronto (ON)
+3 75 $0.00 40.00
T30 Wes Furlong

Barrie (ON)
+3 75 $0.00 40.00
T33 Zach Giusti

Aurora (ON)
+4 76 $0.00 37.00
T33 Jeremy Greville

Stoney Creek (ON)
+4 76 $0.00 37.00
T33 Jonathan Pigott

Aurora (ON)
+4 76 $0.00 37.00
36 Jake Homuth

Exeter (ON)
+5 77 $0.00 35.00
37 James Allison

Haliburton (ON)
+6 78 $0.00 34.00
T38 Jose Nicolau Melo

Ribeira Grande, Azores
+7 79 $0.00 32.50
T38 Seong-Woong Moon

Etobicoke (ON)
+7 79 $0.00 32.50
40 Brian Williams

Mississauga (ON)
+8 80 $0.00 31.00