He’s had a rather chilly start to the 2014 PGA Canada Tour season, but Mitch Evanecz feels he might be starting to warm up.
Winning over $5,000 in Tuesday’s Red Deer Golf and Country Club Skins Game would seem like a good start.
“It wasn’t a terrible day. I hit some good drives and ended up making a good putt on the third hole,” said the Red Deer native, in reference to his 15-foot birdie putt from just off the green that earned him a $4,500 skin. “I didn’t finish a few holes today, but that’s the way a skins game goes.”
Evanecz has played in three PGA Canada Tour events this season and has yet to make a cut, so Tuesday’s performance and ensuing financial rewards were encouraging and much appreciated.
“There have been signs that my game is starting to come around,” he said. “It’s just been a really difficult year with the approach shots. It’s kind of a second-shot game. Most of the guys are going to put it on the fairway and then it’s just a matter of getting it close. I haven’t been able to do that this year. My game has been inconsistent so hopefully I can turn it around real quick.”
Evanecz is a fourth-year pro and admitted that the play-for-pay game is a different animal than amateur golf.
“Absolutely, if you’re not playing well someone else is going to be right there,” he said. “You have to be playing really well. You can’t play conservative out there because somebody is going to shoot 18- to 20-under-par every week. You have to fire at things.”
Evanecz, whose earnings Tuesday — counting bonus hole and team prizes — totalled $5,450, has every intention of moving forward despite the fact he hasn’t pick up a cent this year and last season earned a total of $1,200 on the PGA Canada Tour.
“You have to try and work through all the bumps in life and this is just one of them,” he said.
Evanecz played second fiddle to James Lepp Tuesday. Lepp, from Abbotsford, B.C., successfully defended his Skins Game title by sinking a three-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole and earning a cheque for $11,250.
Lepp, who last year shrugged off the competitive advantage of winning the Skins Game crown, admitted Tuesday that he felt a bit of inner heat.
“For sure, there’s a lot of money on the line so you feel the pressure. I had to make that last putt,” he said, after setting himself up for little more than a kick-in birdie with a superb 154-yard shot from the rough.
He added that Mother Nature aided his winning putt, with rain starting to fall and lightning on the horizon.
“It helped that there was lightning. I had to get out of there,” said Lepp. “I didn’t want to think about it too much . . . just right edge and putt it and let’s go.”
While his putting stroke was spot-on at precisely the right time, Lepp’s approach shot on the tough par-4 ninth hole was the key to victory.
“It was one of those shots where you just had to guess on the wind and how it was going to come out of the rough downhill,” he said. “It just came out exactly how I wanted it to.”
Lepp earned a total of $11,850 with bonus money, a total that will come in handy considering he doesn’t foresee playing a lot of events on the PGA Tour Canada this summer.
“I’ve played the Vancouver Open and some pro-ams, but not much on the Canadian Tour,” said the former contestant on the Golf Channel’s NFL Big Break.
“It’s tough to get into events these days just because there are so many players and not as many sponsors exemptions.
“I’ve been off the tour long enough where I don’t really have any status. I have champions status (from winning the 2003 and 2007 Vancouver Charity Classic), but that doesn’t do anything now.”
Lepp has a good idea of where he will be at this time next year.
“I have to be back here to defend this,” he said.
The other three golfers — Mike Mezei, Steve Lecuyer and RDG&CC associate pro Roy Hide — in the 15th annual event failed to record a skin, although Lecuyer’s drive of 302 yards on the par-5 sixth was good for $250.
The teams of Mezei/Evanecz and Lecuyer/Lepp also split the $500 money for the winning duo.