JULY 13, 2021
RICHMOND, BC (PGA of British Columbia) – After a year away, the PGA of BC Assistants’ & Seniors’ Championships presented by Natera Sport & Arbor Memorial are making a welcomed return to play next week. So, too, is the most successful player in the history of the Assistants’ Championship.
After both tournaments were wiped out in 2020 for precautionary measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Association is pleased to be welcoming 99 players between the two events on Monday and Tuesday at Kamloops Golf & Country Club. Last year marked the first time the PGA of BC had not crowned an Assistants Champion since the inaugural tournament in 1948, while the Seniors’ Championship wasn’t contested for the first time since it was added to the Association’s championship calendar in 1995.
The Assistants’ & Seniors’ Championships are making their second appearance at Kamloops Golf & Country Club, having also been staged at the facility five years ago. The 36-hole, individual stroke-play events run concurrently, with the Assistants’ Championship open to PGA of BC Professionals not serving in a Head, Executive or Head Teaching Professional role, and the Seniors’ Championship open to all members aged 50 and older.
“Everybody at our golf course and all of our members are super excited about it,” said club Head Professional and General Manager Alec Hubert. “There are a lot of people we had back in 2016 who volunteered or just came out to watch, and it’s a great opportunity for people at our club to see some of the best players from across the province.”
Now that the tournaments are returning from the one-year hiatus, both have seen shakeups to the fields that last contested the two titles at Seymour Golf & Country Club in 2019.
Neither of next week’s events will have a defending champion – reigning Assistants Champion Andrew Rasmussen won’t be in the field, while Senior Champion Philip Jonas has since left the BC Zone – or many past winners included. But that hardly means the fields will be short on talent.
The two past Assistants Champions in the field are among the PGA of BC’s greatest all-time champions and have seven victories in the tournament between them: five-time Assistants’ Championship winner Bryn Parry (Seymour Creek Golf Centre) and two-time titlist Matt Palsenbarg (Point Grey Golf & Country Club). Palsenbarg is making his first start in the event since 2014, having returned to eligibility after several years spent in the Head Teaching Professional category.
Parry, meanwhile, is making a return to competition in general after stepping away from tournament golf for almost all of 2020, instead making the most of golf’s resurgence during the pandemic from the lesson tee.
“I’ve been put in a good place where our facility is so busy that I decided to take advantage of that to work a ton,” said Parry. “To take advantage of that opportunity, I’ve had to really limit how much I play.”
But the schedule is starting to ramp up for the 49-year-old, who collected his first Assistants’ Championship win in 2000 and his most recent in 2017. Parry played at Talking Rock Golf Course in last week’s PGA of BC Pro-Assistant Championship alongside James Legault, and the twosome played their final 25 holes of the tournament in 12-under-par to earn a top-15 finish.
“Previous to going up to Talking Rock, it had been since October of 2019 that I’d last played golf two days in a row,” said Parry. “It took us a while but when we got going – I think we were 29 on the back the second day – it got to be a lot of fun again.”
With the Assistants’ Championship among several individual events now coming up on Parry’s calendar in the weeks ahead, he’s more than happy for the relapse to what he called a “tournament addiction.”
“I really enjoy it and it was missing from my life for the last year-and-a-half, and that’s been strange and hard. It’s like you’re missing a friend of yours,” said Parry. “So to get back out and compete at Talking Rock was a good way to shake some rust off, and now to play on my own ball and keep score on my own ball and see how I can do, if I can get up to the top of the leaderboard and compete a little bit, I think I’ll be pretty fired up for that and I hope that’s the way it works out.”
They may be the only past Assistants Champions, but Parry and Palsenbarg are just two of several past winners of the PGA of BC Championship in the field, including reigning champ Keith Martin (Tower Ranch Golf Club). Kevin Stinson (Cheam Mountain Golf Course) is still seeking an Assistants’ title to go along with his 2018 PGA of BC Championship win and has yet to record a finish outside the top five in any Association championship. John Shin (Northview Golf & Country Club, 2017) and Mike Haraguchi (Capilano Golf & Country Club, 2005) are other PGA of BC Champions set to compete in Kamloops.
But this year’s field will also feature a cohort of talented players making their Assistants’ Championship debut who could figure into the mix immediately. They include a trio of Chilliwack Golf Club Professionals: Zach Olson and Jake Scarrow, who both tied for second at this past weekend’s Chilliwack Open, and Connor O’Dell, a top-10 finisher in the 2020 PGA of BC Championship. Former China Tour player Max Cohen (Langley Golf Centre) and Interior PGA Tour winner Lionel Taylor (Talking Rock Golf Course) are also making their first starts in the tournament.
Kamloops Golf & Country Club hosted its annual stop on the Interior PGA Tour on Monday, which saw Stinson travel up from the Lower Mainland to secure a victory in a playoff over Brett Burgeson after both players carded 5-under-par rounds of 67. Hubert had Parry, Palsenbarg and Stinson among his shortlist of Lower Mainland players he expects to contend, but added that many from the Interior have a strong track record at his facility through the yearly IPGA Tour event.
“Finlay Young, Ethan Danish and Keith Martin are all great players that are certainly capable of shooting good scores here and will probably contend,” said Hubert.
The Assistants’ Championship that year served as a key moment in Hubert’s career, not just because he managed a top-five finish that week. Then affiliated at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, Hubert fell in love with the place and within weeks had been hired as the club’s new Pro Shop Manager. He ascended to the Head Professional role the following season and then became General Manager in 2019.
“I think after the first round I was chatting with (PGA of BC Executive Director Donald Miyazaki) and said, ‘This golf course is amazing… I can’t believe it’s not more well-known,” said Hubert. “I really didn’t know that Brice (MacDermott, former club GM) had a job posted at the time.”
Bringing things full circle, the same opportunity exists for players in next week’s events with Hubert currently seeking a new Pro Shop Manager.
“It’s eerily similar,” said Hubert, who welcomes conversations with competitors in the event who are interested by the role.
Hubert said superintendent Travis Olson and his team have done an “amazing job” keeping the course in pristine condition despite the oppressive heat that has hit Kamloops over the past month, so he’s excited to showcase it to competitors in the two tournaments.
“We’ve done some pretty extensive bunker work in the last few years and the fairways and greens are outstanding right now,” said Hubert. “I think what makes our golf course great is it kind of keeps everyone in it because there’s not a whole lot of trouble out there.
“Unless somebody goes super low and runs away with it, I would expect that players will stay bunched up on the leaderboard, which is always fun for tournaments and that certainly the way it was back in 2016.”
Hubert added that Olson will keep the greens running at a quick pace as he did for the facility’s club championships and IPGA Tour event over the past week.
Like the Assistants’ Championship, the Seniors’ Championship is wide open with a number of first-time competitors involved. Most notably, Kelowna Golf & Country Club Head Professional and three-time PGA of BC titleholder Rob Anderson will make his debut in the event.
Other first-time notables include 2002 Assistants’ Championship winner Jeff Buder (University Golf Club) and the newly eligible Larry Park (Seymour Creek Golf Centre). Two-time Senior Champion Norm Jarvis (Sunshine Woods Golf Course) and 2013 winner Roy Abbenbroek (Seymour Golf & Country Club) are the past champs set to compete, while 2019 runners-up Alan Kristmanson (Whistler Golf Club) and Scott Rodgers (Morgan Creek Golf Course) will both return to the field.
Hubert cautioned against counting out his “sentimental favourite” for the event and the host facility’s lone representative in either field next week, which is Kamloops Golf & Country Club Professional Cameron Code.
“A lot of guys may not be really familiar with him but Cam plays our golf course great, and we’ll see how he does,” said Hubert. “He doesn’t hit it far but he’s deadly accurate.”
Meanwhile, Life Professional Harold Simkins, who spent more than 35 years at Kamloops Golf & Country Club as a Golf Professional and GM before his 2015 retirement, will make his return to the facility to compete in the event.
ASSISTANTS’ CHAMPIONSHIP FAST FACTS
- 2016 Rewind: Oliver Tubb won his second Assistants’ Championship title by one stroke at Kamloops G&CC over Shingo Akizuki and Darren Griff, finishing at 8-under-par with rounds of 69 and 67. Hubert and Shin tied for fourth at 6-under.
- If Palsenbarg were to win for a third time, he’d join an elite club of players owning three titles or more that includes Parry, Tubb, Gerry Chatelain, Doug Reid and Bob Cox.
- The Assistants’ Championship is the PGA of BC’s longest-running tournament, with a history that dates back to 1948. Click here to look back on all past editions of the event.
SENIORS' CHAMPIONSHIP FAST FACTS
- 2016 Rewind: Philip Jonas won his second consecutive Seniors’ Championship, beating the field by three at Kamloops G&CC at 8-under-par. His rounds of 65 and 71 held off runner-up Murray Poje, while Keith Vandenbrink placed third at 2-under.
- Greg Pidlaski is the tournament’s most successful player, having won four titles between 2001 and 2009.
- A victory for Jarvis would make him just the third player with three or more wins in the Seniors’ Championship, a distinction currently belonging only to Jonas and Pidlaski. Jarvis is also the most recent champ in the field, as the 69-year-old captured his second win in 2018 at Bear Mountain Golf Resort.
- Click here to explore more of the history of the PGA of BC Seniors’ Championship.
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