Here’s a dozen golfers to keep an eye on this week at the Staal Foundation Open at Whitewater golf course. We'll start with the local contingent:
Evan DeGrazia – The winner of the 2014 Keg District Open, the 19-year-old lapped the field, shooting a five-under 67 while battling brutal winds, dodging lighting and heavy downpours en route to a nine-stroke victory. The win earned him one of two automatic local qualifying berths in the tournament. Jamie Depiero earned the other in a one-day qualifier last month at Strathcona Golf Course. Tee-off time: Thursday: 2 p.m., first hole.
Walter Keating Jr. – The city’s last regular Canadian Tour player, Keating spent five seasons on the circuit from 1999 to 2003. The winner of several local titles, he played professionally for 11 seasons and recently just missed qualifying for last weekend’s PGA Tour Canada spot in Winnipeg. He was granted a special exemption into the field this week.Tee-off time: Thursday: 2 p.m., 10th hole.
Alan McLean – Though technically not a local player, the Scottish-born, South African-raised McLean lived in Thunder Bay for several years. He’s a former member of the European and Nationwide Tours, a winner on the PGA Tour Canada when it was known as the Canadian Tour and has a big bomb off the tee. Tee-off time: Thursday: 12:10 p.m., 10th hole.
Robbie Untinen – Untinen holds Whitewater’s course record, shooting an eight-under 64 a couple years ago at the Canadian Tire District Amateur. The blond bomber was given a special exemption into the tournament and is coming off a runner-up performance at last month’s Keg District Open. Tee-off time: Thursday: 2 p.m., first hole.
Other locals include Jamie DePiero (9 a.m., 10th hole) and Jeff Hunter (2 p.m., first hole), neither of whom would surprise if they make the weekend cut.
Next up are four international players who could do well this week:
Joel Dahmen – With two wins in his first four events, the Idaho native tops the PGA Tour Canada money list and is a leading candidate to earn his way onto the Web.com Tour next year. He’s had four straight top 15 finishes, turned pro in 2010 and is in his fifth year playing in Canada. Tee-off time: Thursday: 8:30 a.m., first hole.
Robert Karlsson – If he's good enough for Bob Weeks, he`s good enough for me. Karlsson is fourth on the PGA Tour Canada in scoring average at 69.11 and the Swedish native is sixth on the money list and in the hunt for a spot on next year's Web.com Tour. Weeks, Score Golf's guru, made Karlsson his expert's pick this week in Thunder Bay. Tee-off time: Thursday: 12:40 p.m., 10th hole.
Matt Harmon – A winner already this year on the PGA Tour Canada, taking the SIGA Dakota Dunes Open two weeks ago, the Michigan State grad has made one cut in four attempts on the big and is third on the 2014 money list. He spent most of 2012 on the Web.com Tour, with a runner-up finish and two top 10s. Tee-off time: Thursday: 8:50 a.m., first hole.
Timothy Madigan – The No. 2 leading money-winner on tour this year, he won in Winnipeg, finished second and has three top 10 results in his first five events since joining the PGA Tour Canada. The New Mexico native turned pro in 2011. Tee-off time: Thursday: 8:40 a.m., first hole.
Then, of course, there are plenty of Canadian players in the field:
Matt Hill – The Sarnia, Ont. native spent most of last season on the Web.com Tour, making seven cuts in 17 tries, good for 132nd on the money list. He’s made three cuts in 12 PGA Tour events, and has played the weekend all three times on the PGA Tour Canada in 2014, including a second-place finish last weekend in Winnipeg. He’s 10th on this year’s order of merit. Tee-off time: Thursday: 1:40 p.m., first hole.
Jordan Krantz – Northwestern Ontario’s lone representative on the PGA Tour Canada this year, and the first regular tour member since Walter Keating Jr. in 2003, Krantz earned his card earlier this year with a two-shot victory at the tour’s Florida qualifying tournament at the Reunion Golf Resort and Community. He’s made three cuts in five events this season. This is his fourth year playing on tour, a career that’s seen him make 11 cuts in 25 events, including last week in Winnipeg. Tee-off time: Thursday: 12:10 p.m., first hole.
Eugene Wong – In the top 10 on the 2014 money list, Wong is a two-time winner on the PGA Tour Canada (then known as the Canadian Tour), both victories coming in 2012. The North Vancouver native boasts a second-place finish this year and is a former British Columbia amateur champion who was ninth a week ago. Tee-off time: Thursday, 7:40 a.m., 10th hole.
Ryan Yip – A semifinalist at the U.S. Amateur in 2006, he’s a former Canadian Tour winner who spent 2012 on the Nationwide Tour and finished 31st on the PGA Tour Canada money list in 2013. He's 13th after a top-five finish in Winnipeg.Tee-off time: Thursday: 12:10 p.m., first hole.
My prediction? Matt Hill by two strokes over Robert Karlsson.
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