Barrie ON - The Great Lakes Tour Championship Series got started earlier this past week with the Barrie Classic hosted by Tangle Creek G&CC. The Barrie Classic was the first of four Major Championships on the schedule and was competed over 54 holes with a cut to the low 40% and ties after two rounds.
The first round was highlighted by GolfNorth Series #1 Grey Silo Champion Brendan Leonard of Cambridge (ON) who continued his bogey free season with a round of 4 under par 68 to lead by one shot over Brian Churchill-Smith of Oakville (ON) and a local favourite Ryan Curran of Thornton (ON)....
Throughout the entire tournament players were contending with extremely fast and firm greens at Tangle Creek G&CC considering the large amounts of rain the region was dealt with a week earlier. Many players were commenting on how great the greens were by saying "At this point in time in Ontario, there are no other greens comparable. They're fabulous." Later in May, the course will be hosting Golf Canada's Canadian University/College Championship.
The second round saw many players bearing down as they knew the cut was looming. At the start of the day the cut was projected at 2 over par. However, with the extremely fast greens, this number was expected to rise.
At the end of the day many of the top players moved up the leaderboard to get themselves into contention heading into the final round. Andrew Ledger of Barrie (ON), Josh Bamberger of Waterloo (ON) and Beon Yeong Lee of Montreal (ON) each posted the low rounds of the day with 4 under par 68's. Bamberger made the biggest move as he posted 6 under par for the tournament which was one shot clear of Brendan Leonard and two clear of J.J. Regan of Burlington (ON). Jesse Smith of Oshweken (ON) was three shots behind Bamberger's lead at 3 under par.
The 36 hole cut would surprisingly remain at 2 over par and the final round would feature 23 players in total.
54 Hole events were a part of the Great Lakes Tour in 2010, but lost interest after one season. The addition of these Championships comes with a reason "Last year we had numerous requests to hold more multi-day tournaments." said Great Lakes Tour President Jim Kenesky. "We had established great relationships with the host clubs in 2016 at Tangle Creek, Tarandowah, Hidden Lake and Batteaux Creek. So we brought the idea of a 54 hole championship to the table and they have embraced it. We now have a set of events that will create an atmosphere similar to the Tours our members are striving to compete on. We expect these events will help in the transition from one level to the next and the outcome will be more Canadian professionals on the world scene."
The Final Round began at 12:30 pm on Saturday with the feature group starting their round at 1:33 pm. As the round progressed, there seemed to be only three players with a chance to pull out the win. Josh Bamberger, Jesse Smith and Brendan Leonard. However, late charges by Mackenzie Tour - PGA Tour Canada member Sebastian Szirmak and former Canadian Junior Champion Mitch Sutton would certainly put some heat on the leaders.
As the final round came to a close, both Bamberger and Smith had chances to grab hold of the victory. Smith hit two great shots onto the par five 16th hole, but three putted for par. Bamberger made three straight bogies on holes 11 through 13. While Brendan Leonard made an untimely bogey on the 18th hole to miss the eventual playoff by a stroke.
Both Bamberger and Smith made great bounce backs with Smith making a birdie on the difficult par three 17th and Bamberger chipped in for an unlikely birdie on the par four 15th hole. After Bamberger's putt for birdie and the win on the final hole slipped by the edge, Jesse Smith and Josh Bamberger headed to a playoff at 6 under par for the tournament.
The playoff commenced on the par five 9th hole. After both players hit perfect drives, Bamberger's second shot just missed the green right and ended up in the greenside bunker leaving a difficult up and down. Smith would hit the green in two with a very likely chance at Eagle. Bamberger would not get his ball up and down for birdie and Smith would two putt for the win. With the victory Smith would take home a cheque for $4,000.
"I got off to a slow start but knew I just had to keep myself in the game." Said Smith after his win. "I three putted the par 5 16th for par and was able to follow it up with a birdie on 17. It was a great event. Very well run and the greens were PGA Tour quality all week."
The GLT Order of Merit presented by Roll ReadyTM is beginning to heat up as Brendan Leonard now leads with 710 points. The leader of the Order of Merit as of June 21st will receive an exemption into the RBC Canadian Open Final Qualifying on July 24th at Heron Point Golf Links.
To view full field results from the Barrie Classic visit HERE
To view full standings of the GLT Order of Merit presented by Roll ReadyTM visit HERE
The next event on the Great Lakes Tour schedule is the London Championship at Tarandowah Golfer's Club May 24-26.