Bryce Kopec has big golf cleats to fill.
The 17-year-old was part of the Hunting Hills Lightning provincial golf championship team, but he makes no bones about the role he played on the squad, leaning more heavily on the now graduated Logan Hill and Grant Numrich. This summer is all about improving to the point where he can carry that mantle.
On Wednesday he tied Lacombe’s Jeremy Rietze with a 6-over-78 for the junior boys division title at the Lacombe Golf Club stop on the McLennan Ross Junior Golf Tour. They both finished two shots back of Calgary’s Justin Loro for the tournament championship, firing a 76 to win the overall title out of the 15-16 boys division.
“I thought I played fairly well, especially with how I started with a few double (bogies) — was pretty nervous and thought I’d play a little worse than I did,” said Kopec, who golfs out of Alberta Springs. “I cleaned up a lot of stuff, particularly with my putting … Overall I’m not disappointed with my round, especially looking at the leaderboard now, I’m pretty happy with my performance, I don’t think I could have played too much better.”
Kopec is coming off a third place finish in the division on Tuesday in Innisfail, firing a 3-over-75, but was six shots behind Numrich who won that tournament.
He was not surprised to see his former high school teammate win, and says he has learned a lot from Numrich and Hill over the years.
“I’m really looking forward to the next high school golf season and seeing how much Jordan (Lumsden) and I can contribute to the team for next year’s provincials, if we make it,” said Kopec. “I learn a lot from (Numrich and Hill), I go out and play with them all the time … and try to improve my game based on how they’re playing.”
Rietze will be in Kopec’s shoes next year as a teammate of Numrich’s at Red Deer College this fall.
He finished in second at Innisfail on Tuesday with a 1-under-71, but the shorter Lacombe course gave him troubles on Wednesday.
“It wasn’t that easy out there, it was tough,” said Rietze, 19, who will be taking engineering at RDC before transferring to the University of Alberta. “The greens are rolling really nice out there, they were fast and the conditions didn’t leave scoring at a premium out there.”
He will be spending his summer fine tuning his game for the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference season, but is looking at a fairly competitive team assembling at RDC.
“We’ve got a really good core group of guys going there next year and we could have a lot of fun if we all play well at the same time,” said Rietze.
Rocky Mountain House’s Brandon Maxwell (Pine Hills) finished third in the junior division with a 7-over-79.
Clare McMahon (Balmoral) was the only golfer in the girls division and shot an 89 to qualify for the tour championship.
Chris Otto of Edmonton was second in the 15-16 boys division with an 82 and Nish Pillay of Edmonton was third with an 85.
Sylvan Lake’s Jordan Cooke won the U15 boys division with an 82 while Lacombe’s Brady McKinlay was one shot back with an 83. Cole Bergheim (RDGCC) rounded out the top three with an 87.
The final scores were substantially higher than the day before in Innisfail, despite Lacombe being a shorter course.
“This is a tricky golf course, small greens, fast, and if maybe players haven’t played Lacombe before if they get their ball on the wrong side of the hole you can three-putt here in a heart beat,” said tour director Dunc Mills.
Other Central Alberta scores from the junior division included Jordan Williamson (Balmoral) with an 85 and Brayden Bystrom (Sylvan Lake) with an 88.
In the 15-18 boys division, Chase Broderson (Lacombe) shot 87, Tanner Smith (Alberta Springs) 88, Taylor Dobbs (Innisfail) 89, Brody Kopec (Balmoral) 92, Matt Parton (Lacombe) 98 and Liam McKeen (Gull Lake) 99.
In the U15 boys division Brendan Grabo (Lacombe) 88, Taylor Watt (Innisfail) and Jordan Siwak (RDGCC) 94, Blair Korver (RDGCC) 97, Mark Janes (RDGCC) and Clay Pederson (RDGCC) 100, Daniel Nieth (RDGCC) 104, Denver Smith (Alberta Springs) 108 and Chase Giannioudis (RDGCC) 109.
The tour makes a stop at the Ponoka Golf Club on Monday and then is at Whitetail Crossing Golf Club in Mundare on Tuesday, Montgomery Glen Golf Club at Wetaskiwin on Wednesday and then the Camrose Golf Club next Thursday.
“I think we will see fields start to pick up next week, these are sites that traditionally have drawn good fields, are courses that are very central to kids from Edmonton and Calgary,” said Mills.