Day 1 of the Alberta Open Golf Championship was all about survival as howling winds had Wolf Creek Links Course baring its teeth.
Wes Heffernan and defending champion Riley Flemming are tied for the lead at 1-under-70.
Red Deer’s Matt Codd was one of many who struggled in the gusty conditions firing an 11-over-82 (39-43-82), thanks to a disastrous start to the Back 9, in which he shot 7-over-par through the first six holes.
But that was a common theme on Tuesday afternoon, as the wind picked up, the scores sky rocketed.
“The wind was just ridiculous out here and the greens were so firm that you couldn’t stick pitches from 100 yards,” said Codd, 18, who had close friend Mitch Morrison on his bag as caddie. “It was tough, but tomorrow’s another day.”
Tournament director Rob Forshner said the course was in great conditions despite the wind making it tough on everyone.
“I don’t think we expected this type of wind on Day 1,” he said. “There’s certainly some high scores, some pretty frustrated people and tired players.”
Codd has not had a great start to the summer, but right now his biggest concern is to get ready to make the jump to the NCAA ranks when he joins the University of Denver at the end of August, where he will pursue a business degree.
The five-foot-11, 162-pound right-hander settled on the school over Purdue and the University of Texas-San Antonio a few months back after taking a trip to visit Denver.
“I was back and forth between a couple, but I got a real good feeling when I went down to Denver,” said Codd. “The coach was really a big helping hand and sounded like a great guy and the guys on the team are awesome.”
He drew the attention of these schools as one of the top young golfers in the province, winning the Alberta Junior Masters and the McLellan Ross Tour titles in his Grade 12 season.
But he discovered he was not yet ready to go to school. He had no idea what he wanted to pursue as an education and, as a then 17-year-old, was not ready to trade his home for a full-time secondary education plus 20-hours of practice every week.
He needed to figure out life.
Codd did leave home eventually — sort of. He spent a lot of time in Phoenix at the family’s home there and spent a lot of time on the golf course. He also entered several tournaments as a member of the Alberta Golf Development team, before coming back North.
“It was great for me, it gave me the ability to do some other things and just try to prepare myself mentally and physically for school because I feel it’s going to be a grind for the first little while,” he said.
Since his return to Alberta, he has been working hard on his game with coach Paul Horton out of Heritage Point in Calgary, but still has a lot of work to do to get his game into shape for the college level.
At the top of his list is improving his ball striking and his wedge game.
“I hit the ball pretty well off the tee, for the most part, and chipping and putting is one of the strongest parts of my game, so it’s just that 140-and-in that needs to get dialed in,” said Codd.
He is not sure yet if he does want to go pro eventually, an education is taking priority, but he does not rule out the possibility if he has success at the college level.
He does not have far to look for inspiration with Canadians like Graham DeLaet and David Hearn making successful jumps to the professional ranks in recent years.
“They demand 20 hours of practice a week down there, so who knows after four years of that how good a guy could get or where I could go with my game,” said Codd.
“It would be nice to make a living playing golf, it’s a pretty tough goal, especially for a Canadian kid, but I’m just going to have fun while I can and enjoy the whole university experience.”
First, though, he’ll have to conquer Wolf Creek Golf Club this week. The three-round tournament continues through Thursday.
Other notable Central Albertans include Stettler’s Troy Butterfield (Alberta Springs) tied for 11th at 6-over-77, Ponoka’s Jared Nicolls (Wolf Creek) tied for 18th at 7-ver-78, Red Deer’s Zak Griffiths (E-Club of Reno) and Ponoka’s Jared Nicolls (Wolf Creek) tied for 25th at 8-over-78, Sylvan Lake’s Colby Albert (Sylvan Lake G&CC) tied for 33rd at 9-over 80, Innisfail’s Rod Harder tied for 31st at 10-over-81, Ponoka’s Tim Boston (Wolf Creek), tied for 44th at 11-over-82, Sundre’s Dane Thorogood tied for 53rd at 13-over 84, Lacombe’s Chad Cargill (Lacombe G&CC) tied for 75th at 17-over-88, Ponoka’s Colby Vold (Wolf Creek) tied for 83 at 19-over-90, Ponoka’s Clinton McAllister (Wolf Creek) tied for 88th at 22-over-93 while Red Deer’s Brett Pasula (Red Deer G&CC) withdrew from competition.