Unaware that he had a two stroke lead with just the closing 18th hole to play at The Great Waterway Classic, Chilliwack, B.C.’ s Brad Clapp had no plans to let up.
Given the soft scoring conditions at the Loyalist Golf & Country Club all week for the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada event he was wise to consider the -21 mark he was at might not be enough for a win.
What he didn’t know was that the player he feared most, Albin Choi, had stumbled on the closing hole, made a bogey, and was tied for the clubhouse lead with five other players at -19.
“I saw Albin was charging. I saw him at 20 under with the 18th (to go)…I knew he made eagle here yesterday; that was just as possible today especially a little bit downwind. I just wanted to keep on the gas pedal,” shared the 28 year-old who was actually born just 80 km’s away from Loyalist Country Club, in Trenton, Ontario.
“I chose not to know what the scores were at on 18. I had a friend following, Chris Killmer, and he said ‘do you want know?'” “I said after my tee shot and I hit a good tee shot and said I still don’t want to know,”
With no knowledge of where he stood 28 year-old Clapp fired away on the 511-yard par five, hitting a drive that he classified as his best shot of the week. He followed with a shot that most felt was even more spectacular, leading to a closing eagle, and his first win on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR.
“The tee shot was probably the best shot of the tournament just under the pressure,” said Clapp after being presented with the trophy. “I was a little more nervous on that.”
In typical Clapp fashion, the winner of the long drive contest at this year’s Rideau View Golf Club Pro-Am, hit it long and true on the 72nd hole, splitting the fairway and leaving just 174 yards to the flag. What followed, an eight iron approach that landed softly and stopped 4 feet from the hole, delighted the spectators ringing the final green.
“We had a great number (yardage). We had it yesterday. It was the exact same shot we had in yesterday so it was a really comfortable shot in there and it worked out great.”
Clapp sank the short putt for an eagle and the winning -23 (265) total, giving him a four stroke winning margin, the biggest on the TOUR this year
Entering the week in 67th place on the Mackenzie Tour Order of Merit, the win propelled Clapp to 7th position, well within reach of “the Five” who earn status on the 2016 Web.com Tour.
“It’s a huge boost to the bank account,” joked Clapp when asked what the win means for him. On top of the first prize $31,500 he also earned an extra $2500 for being the low Canadian.
“It’s awesome. It probably still hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s a little surreal knowing how good this tour is and how good you have to play four years in a row. It’s a huge accomplishment,” he added.
“I’m not sure where this will put me inside the top 20, the top 5 by the end of the year but that’s been my main goal since I got on this tour last year was to move on to the Web.com (Tour) and keep testing myself against better players. That puts me right in those kind of spots and we’ve still got three events to go and hopefully we’ll move up into those top five so I don’t have to go to q-school.”
The three putt bogey on the 18th hole was a costly one for Albin Choi. A solo second would have earned him an extra $8639. He remains in 3rd on the Order of Merit in his chase for “The Five”. One less stroke this week would have put him into second by about $1000.
Austin Connelly, the 18 year-old dual American-Canadian citizen had a decent first start as a professional. He tied for 30th place at -14. Paired this week with local caddy Chris Edwards of Belleville he has chosen to continue the relationship. Edwards, a paramedic by trade, is scheduled to caddy for Connelly at The Wildfire Invitational and the Cape Breton Celtic Classic, the next two stops on Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada.
This could be the last playing of The Great Waterway Classic. The four – year title sponsorship agreement with The Great Waterway Tourism region has concluded and there are yet to be any indications of a renewal. The Canadian Junior Golf Association, the tournament host, would need to find sponsorship to the tune of $200-225,000 for the event to continue if The Great Waterway does not return in a full capacity. No timeline has been given as to when a decision will be made about the event’s future.