It was a homecoming of sorts for Riley Wheeldon when the Comox golfer hit Victoria for the PGA Tour Canada’s Times Colonist Island Savings Open.
Wheeldon posted a career-best third-place finish and became the first Freedom 55 Financial Canadian Player of the Week, earning a $1,500 annuity. The top Canadian on the Order of Merit will be named Freedom 55 Financial Canadian Player of the Year and receive a $10,000 cash prize.
Wheeldon shot a 3-under 67 on Sunday to finish 7-under overall, edging out fellow British Columbians Devin Carrey and Nick Taylor for low Canadian honours. The June 6-9 tourney was held at Uplands, with Wheeldon shooting steady rounds of 65-72-69-67.
The 22-year old drew a large gallery (including friends and family) on Sunday, playing alongside fellow Vancouver Islander Darren Griff of Nanaimo, and said the experience of being in contention and finishing as low Canadian were a valuable learning experience.
“Any time you can finish up the leaderboard and get in the hunt, you can draw again on that in the future,” said Wheeldon in a PGA Tour Canada press release. “Each time you’re out here and get in contention it means a lot, and I hope I’m able to get in contention more often.
“Had a few more putts fallen the final three days, I believe I would have won the event,” Wheeldon wrote in his blog. “But a third-place finish is still a great start to the Canadian Tour season and there were a lot of positives to build on.”
Wheeldon said he has been happy with his transition to Callaway golf equipment, which he used in Victoria. His busy summer continues June 13-15 with the VGT Saputo Vancouver Open. He then returns to the PGA Tour Canada for the June 20-23 ATB Financial Classic in Calgary and the July 4-7 Dakota Dunes Open in Saskatoon.
Things didn’t go quite so well for Wheeldon the following weekend when he attempted to qualify for the RBC Canadian Open at Gorge Vale Golf Club in Victoria. Wheeldon was among several players who somewhat surprisingly missed the cut.
“I think it was just a little bit of post-tournament letdown. I gave a lot into last week,” said Wheeldon, who shot 4-over 76. “There are still other avenues to make it into the tournament (Canadian Open) and coming off this past week, I struggled a bit for motivation,” he told a reporter.
The top three on the PGA Tour Canada after the fifth stop at The Players’ Cup in Winnipeg get to tee it up in the RBC Canadian Open while the next 17 get into the final qualifier.
CHIP INS Wheeldon, who calls Crown Isle his home course, resides in Kissimmee, Florida and plays out of the Reunion Golf Resort … he enjoyed much success in his 2008-2010 university career at Louisville (2010 Big East Player of the Year and 2009 Big East Freshman of the Year) and turned pro in 2010 … the Times Colonist Island Savings Open was the inaugural event for PGA Tour Canada (formerly the Canadian Tour) … Stephen Gangluff of Ohio won it at 11-under … the first of three Regional Qualifiers June 10 at Gorge Vale saw 13 of 71 players finishing 1-under or better to make it through to the final Monday Qualifier of the 2013 RBC Canadian Open, to be held July 22 in Ontario …