Ponoka's Jared Nicolls hits his approach shot on the 18th hole at the Ponoka Golf Club during the Ponoka Junior Open on Monday. He fired the low round of the day to win the junior boys' 95-97 division with a 73.

Nicolls tops at Ponoka

PONOKA — Logan Hill is turning qualifying for championships into a bit of a habit.

PONOKA — Logan Hill is turning qualifying for championships into a bit of a habit.

The Red Deer Golf and Country Club member qualified for the Golf Canada Junior Nationals on Friday at Bearspaw Country Club in Calgary. On Monday he qualified for the McLennan Ross Championship at Wolf Creek Golf Resort after finishing second in the 1995-97 junior boys’ division at the Ponoka Junior Open.

He fired a 3-over-75 at the Ponoka Golf Club, finishing two shots behind Jared Nicolls of Wolf Creek.

Grant Numrich of the Red Deer Golf and Country Club (RDG&CC) finished fourth with a 79 and Layne Bensmiller of Rocky Mountain House Pine Hills was fifth with an 80.

Hill, 17, will now spend the next six weeks preparing for the national championship in Niagara Falls, Ont., from Aug. 28 to Sept. 2.

“I’m just spending a lot of time practising putting and learning how to read greens better and working on my speed,” said Hill.

He qualified for the nationals by winning a three-way, two hole playoff, beating out Wolf Creek’s Kolby Vold and Edmonton’s Noah Lubberding for the 15th and final spot out of Alberta.

It was a little more straightforward on Monday in Ponoka, earning a wild card birth to the Ross MacLennan championship.

But Hill thinks he could have done better.

“I hit the ball really well, I’ve just been struggling for the last month on putting,” he said. “I’m happy with (75), considering (the wind).”

Hill has one more year left at Hunting Hills to grab the attention of colleges in the U.S., his ultimate goal for golf.

It is a mission that Nicolls, 17, is neck deep in right now.

The Ponoka Secondary Campus male athlete of the year will be heading to Palm Springs, Calif., in a few weeks to play on different tours to try to earn a scholarship to a Div. 1 school.

“I’m still at a young age so I’m still looking for something that will fit with me here,” he said, adding he also played basketball, badminton and volleyball while in high school. “It’s tough to go down there (without a scholarship) but there’s tons of good schools that are always looking with roster spots, so hopefully if I play well, they’ll like what they see and maybe I’ll get a chance to go down and play some good golf.”

If he plays the way he did on Monday, it should be only a matter of time before he lands at a school.

He was dialed in for most of the day and was able to attack the course.

“There’s a couple of tough par-4s on the back nine, they’re demanding off the tee and if you don’t hit a smart tee-shot there, you’re not going to be in good position to make a birdie,” said Nicolls. “That’s all I was trying to do today, make a ton of birdies. The greens were rolling good so you could be aggressive on a ton of shots today.”

A pair of RDG&CC golfers rounded out the local contingent in the oldest boy’s flight as Tanner Shapka shot an 88 and Coleman Koivisto shot a 94.

The junior girls title went to Clare McMahon of Red Deer Balmoral, who won a rare two-hole, four-way playoff with Shaye and Daria Leidenius of Wolf Creek and Celine Copeland of Calgary after they all finished the round with an 85.

“This is our 19th year and I don’t ever remember having a four-girl playoff for the overall title — that was a first today,” said tour director Dunc Mills. “(McMahon’s) leading the Srixon Order of Merit for the year, so she’s doing very well. It was a good playoff today with lots of excitement.”

Innisfail’s Courtney Dickson was sixth in the junior girl’s division with a 94.

Edmonton’s Nish Pillay won the 98-99 boy’s division with a 79, one shot ahead of Jordan Williamson of Balmoral and Brandon Maxwell of Pine Hills.

Cochrane’s Scott Shugg took first place in the boy’s 2000+ division with a 79, one shot ahead of Stettler’s Samuel Hamelin. Lacombe’s Chase Broderson was sixth in the division with an 88 and Ponoka’s Adam Quinton was seventh with a 93. Noah Hackett, also from Ponoka, was eighth with a 95 and Lacombe’s Brendan Grabo was 11th with a 112.

The MacLennan Ross Tour stops in Mundare today.

NOTES — Sylvan Lake’s Jaxon Lynn also qualified for nationals in a tie for seventh after finishing the four-day Alberta Junior Boys’ Championship at 13-over-297 (81-66-71-79).


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