To play in a PGA event was a dream come true for Red Deer’s Mitch Evanecz, but the RBC Canadian Open proved to be more of a trip back to school.
“It was a great experience. It was the first time I had ever been to a PGA tournament and I end up playing in it.
“It was a neat experience — seeing all the big names and how they set up a golf course for a PGA tour event and the Canadian Open. It was a great test of golf and there were just a bunch of learning experiences out there.”
But Evanecz was off his game and it cost him. He struggled to a 79 in the first round and then shot a 77 in the second round, missing the cut at 16-over par.
“It was frustrating,” he said.
“I just didn’t hit the ball off the tee and that rough was very penal. You had to keep it in the fairway there and the greens were very small and you had to hit them too. Your ball striking had to be on and I just didn’t quite have it that week.”
The talk heading into the Open this past weekend was how tough the course was set up. Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver is a tough course to begin with, but it really showed its teeth when PGA officials got a hold of it.
It was so difficult that the winning score with some of the best golfers in the world in attendance was just four-under — shot by both Sean O’Hair and Kris Blanks, with O’Hair winning in a playoff.
“A lot of guys were talking about how difficult it was and how difficult it was in compared to other majors,” said Evanecz.
“With the winning score being four-under it’s a testament to how they can set up that golf course. They had the conditions for how they wanted to set up the rough and the rough was very difficult to get through — 95 per cent of the time you had a bad lie.
“It was an awakening and it just showed me how I needed to improve and the areas I need to improve.”
The big comparison point for set up would be Uplands Golf Club — the home course for the University of Victoria where Evanecz starred at for four years. Both were similar in design, but Shaughnessy was just at another level in difficulty.
“In Victoria we played Uplands — it’s kind of similar, it’s a little more flat, and the greens are a little bigger, but it has the same big trees — it’s tree lined, and you have to be straight there too. Shaughnessy had the small greens and some well placed trees and you had to work around the dog legs a little bit more.”
Evanecz, 25, has come a long way since he picked up the game at 10 years old. He started playing at Riverbend Golf and Country and then moved on at age 12 to the Red Deer Golf and Country Club, where he continues to be a member.
After taking up the game seriously around Grade 12, he eventually landed at Montana Tech in Butte, Mont., but after just one year there he transferred to the University of Victoria. It is there where his game truly developed.
His resume as an amateur is quite impressive, including back-to-back Glencoe Invitational titles, a Central Alberta Amateur championship, a second place finish at the Canadian University Championships in 2010, a second and a third at the Alberta Open Championships in 2010 and 2009, a third-place tie at the Mexican Amateur Championship in 2010, and it just goes on from there.
His track record helped put him in position to be selected to Golf Canada’s (formerly the Royal Canadian Golf Association) national team.
The financial impact of being on Team Canada has been huge, as it has helped him on his travels as an amateur this year.
“It helps a lot to lighten the load on the bank account. It’s expensive to travel around as an amateur and play certain events,” said Evanecz. “The golf associations do their part to have some teams and try to pay for some expenses, but it is a high cost for being an amateur.”
Evanecz is currently playing the Pacific Coast Amateur in Truckee, Calif., and it looks like he may have his touch back. He opened the tournament by tying the course record with a five-under 67, he dropped back the second day with a two-over 74, but on Thursday he shot a two-under 70 and sits in a tie for second place at five-under par heading into today’s final round.
His amateur career, though, is coming to a close.
After the Pacific Coast Amateur, he heads to Los Angeles for the U.S. Amateur Qualifier, then just the Canadian Amateur and the U.S. Amateur remain.
Then the world of professional golf waits.
“My plan right now is to go to the PGA Tour Q-School and take it from there,” said Evanecz. “If that doesn’t work out then there is Asian Tour qualifying in December and then the Canadian Tour has some in the spring. It’s just a matter of getting the experience and putting in the time and the hard work.”
It is a dream that is so close, but will be his biggest challenge in golf yet.
“It’s another step, another level and it just takes that much more commitment and focus to get to that next level. I just got to prepare mentally and physically for that and I am just looking forward to playing professionally.”