L’Île Bizard, Québec – On the 2019 Mackenzie Tour, a whole new approach is paying off with outlandish dividends for Taylor Pendrith.
On Sunday the 28-year-old Richmond Hill, Ontario golfer completed a four-day domination of the North Course at the Elm Ridge Golf & Country Club in Montreal to win his second TOUR event of the season.
Not only did he set a course record of 62 (-10) on Friday, but he followed it up by matching it the very next day.
To finish he tossed in a relatively paltry 67 to reach a -28 total and earn a victory by an eight-stroke margin at the Mackenzie Investments Open. It also set a PGA TOUR Canada scoring record, relative to par.
In finding his way to the podium he says he turned his back on his earlier success to get the job done.
“Today, honestly, I just tried to forget about it,” he shared by phone from Montreal on Sunday evening. “I knew I had a big lead and I just went out there and tried to play the best I could and make as many birdies as possible.”
Despite his position Pendrith kept his foot on the pedal, knowing other players on the tour are capable of low scores and that no lead was safe.
“I played aggressive all day, even on the 17th hole (a tight 540 yard, par 5). I hit driver where I could see other guys, if they had a big lead, would not hit driver. It’s a pretty intimidating tee ball.”
Pendrith, in a way, used to count himself among those players, despite being able to hit the golf ball prodigious lengths, he admits to being a little more tightly wound in his play in the past. This year, though, it’s not the case.
The five-year perspective of dealing with injuries, and mixed results on both the Mackenzie Tour and Korn Ferry Tour, has turned him in a new direction. It’s one that has paid off with six top-ten finishes, two wins, and the #2 spot on the tour’s Order of Merit as they head into this week’s concluding Canada Life Championship in London, Ontario.
His Sunday on Ile-Bizard was more proof of that.
“I had a ton of fun out there; me and my caddy having a few laughs. It was stress-free and I didn’t feel much pressure. I felt really comfortable out there,” he noted give a nod to the confidence gained from winning for the first time on the Mackenzie Tour in Edmonton just a month ago after some close calls in the past.
With $120,259 earned this season, Taylor is a little over $5,000 behind France’s Paul Barjon for the top spot on the Order of Merit (OOM) and he is highly aware of that position. While the players ranked 2-5 in the OOM earned Conditional Status on the higher level Korn Ferry Tour, the #1 spot is the “golden ticket”, providing Exempt Status for 2020. That is what he is chasing.
“For sure, finishing #1 out here is huge. I knew I had some work to do but now winning this week really changes things. It’s super tight at the top so it’s really up for grabs.”
Confident in his game, Pendrith also has a favourable outlook for the Canada Life Championship because he enjoys the host layout at Highland Country Club.
“I love the golf course. It suits my game really well and I’ve played well there in the past so I’m really looking forward to it now knowing that I have a chance, if I have a good week, to move up to #1. It would be great to be fully exempt out there (on the Korn Ferry Tour) next year.”
The Stanley Thompson-designed Highland CC is not known for generous playing corridors but Taylor says he will stick to his style of play.
“I’ve probably played there 12 or 15 rounds and it’s not wide open, for sure, but if you do hit it in the trees you do kind of have a shot, and the par fives I can really take advantage of. I’ve been driving it great all week so if I can get the ball in the fairways I’ll have a lot of wedges and the wedges were awesome this week as well.”
Pendrith expects plenty of family and friends to be on hand in London. It’s a nice follow-up to his parents being present for his win in Montreal. He thinks it may be the first trophy they have seen him hoist since winning the Porter Cup, a top amateur event, in 2013.
A Balanced Approach
With one event left to play on the Canadian circuit in 2019, Pendrith is now a cumulative 137 under par for the year. Few Canadian players have had a better season, save for his good friend Corey Conners on the PGA TOUR or fellow Team Canada alumni Brooke Henderson on the LPGA TOUR.
It’s been quite a summer for the former Team Canada member who is not only fully recovered from injuries that hampered his play for parts of three seasons, but taken to finding his own method to success. That has included some things he has not done well in the past. He is finally making more of the putts he expects to make, the five to ten footers, and his attitude about life as a pro has also evolved.
“I’m really trying to have fun out there,” he explains. “On the golf course I have a great caddy, my buddy Mitch (Theoret). He’s been with me most of the year. He’s awesome. He really takes my mind off golf; we don’t overthink things and he can really read the greens really well. That’s number one. I’m just happy, having fun competing again.”
A transition has also taken place in other parts of his golf life.
“I think in the past I’ve been too…golf-focused, and not enjoying the other things in life. The year that I got on to the Web.com, the Korn Ferry Tour now, I was basically looking at the others guys and some guys would go to the range for three hours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. I figured out that doesn’t work for me. You’ve got to find the balance. For me, maybe it’s thirty minutes on the range and thirty minutes on the putting green. Or maybe it’s not play the course on Monday; maybe just walk nine holes. I’ve kind of figured that out this year. Kind of taking it easy a little more. One, because I’ve gotten injured in the past, and two, because it work for me.”
It’s impossible to argue that, and after locking up the Canada Life Canadian Player of the Year award with the win in Montreal, the table is set for Pendrith in London. There he joins the top 60 players on the TOUR and will attempt to attain another feat, being the first Canadian to earn the top spot on the OOM since 2013.
The honours that year went to his Kent State University teammate, and good friend, Mackenzie Hughes. Hughes has already been a winner on the PGA TOUR and Taylor would love to follow in his footsteps, starting with a return to the Korn Ferry Tour in good health, form, and with a new outlook.
“It’s been a fun year so far,” he says with what you know is a smile on the other end of the line. “I’m really hoping for one more good week to cap the season off.”
The wise wouldn’t bet against him.