(PGA of Canada – Ontario Zone) – Fifteen teams from across the PGA of Canada – Ontario Zone competed this year in the annual Merit Travel Golf Vacations Pro Am presented by WestJet in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
In previous years, Rob Coulter and Merit Travel Golf Vacations have brought the competing teams down to some very impressive and exclusive golf courses in Florida but this year the Merit Team raised the stakes and escorted all sixty players down to Jamaica to stay at the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall and split the four golf days between the tropical and coastal Cinnamon Hill Golf Course and the renowned and historic White Witch Golf Course, named after the ‘beautiful but wicked’ 19th century plantation owner Annee Palmer.
Expectations were surpassed by the wonderful amenities and incredible resort staff but the pristine white-sand beaches, tropical surround, and pool-side bar all played second-fiddle to the four-day competition ahead. Team Oakdale Golf & Country Club, lead by Professional Wes Stanford and bolstered by amateurs Jason Crystal, Steven Millman, and Stephan Crosswell nabbed the lead after the second round with an incredible 13-under par. The group managed to hold until the end on the final day winning the 2017 Merit Golf Vacations Pro Am by four shots.
Round one was held at Cinnamon Hill Golf Course where Bruce McCarrol and team Beacon Hall, Jeff Reynolds, Will Stewart, and Jim Brierley got off to a dominant start leading the pack by six. The lead seemed insurmountable but there was still plenty of golf still to play and Stanford’s team was just getting started.
“I thought we played really well on the first day,” Wes Stanford said after the awards ceremony. “When we finished the first round we thought that we would be near the top but after seeing what they did we knew we needed to be really consistent in order to win, and we were. We played the whole week as a team and one of us was always there to come up big when we needed them to. We had a really special back-nine on the first day and that really pushed us forward, we rode that momentum all week.”
Even after playing both courses twice, teams were still awestruck by the breathtaking scenery. “The ocean views on the Cinnamon Course are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in my life,” Millman added. “We want to thank Rob (Coulter) for bringing us to this incredible place and we can’t wait for next year.”
During the Pro Am competition the Professionals were vying for an additional prize. An $11,000 purse was up for grabs with prize money being split between overall team score, daily team score, and for the Professional who could tally the most stableford points each day and by weeks end. Six points for an eagle, four for a birdie, two for a par, and one for a bogey. 2017 PGA of Canada – Ontario Zone Player of the Year Bill Walsh got off to a hot start circling birdie on three out of his first four holes to start the tournament and most notably carded an 8-under 64 on the third day of play to cement himself clear in the lead. Walsh finished the four days with 174 stableford points which was a staggering twenty-four points better than Adam Steinschifter in second with 150 points. Greg Colekessian, Wes Stanford, and Nate Clingersmith rounded out the top five.