A four-year member of the Canadian Professional Golf Tour Kris Wasylowich knows what it’s like to play under pressure.
But the native of Lethbridge felt even more pressure as he teed off for the 12th annual Red Deer Golf and Country Club Skins Game Tuesday afternoon.
“I don’t know what it is but I feel more pressure here than I do at normal (tour) events,” he said. “I got over some shots and I was pretty nervous. But a good nervous. because if you’re not nervous it’s not good.”
Wasylowich calmed some of those nerves when he drained a six-foot birdie putt on the 205-yard par-three fifth to pocket $3,000.
“When I made that putt it felt great as I was shutout last year,” said Wasylowich, who was up against Canadian Tour rivals Wes Heffernan and James Love of Calgary, Mike Mezei of Lethbridge and RDGCC host and head pro Ken Frame.
Wasylowich added another $2,000 on the par-four ninth in a chip-off with Heffernan.
The two had the only birdies on the ninth, sending them back to the 100-yard marker. Neither came that close on the chip, but Wasylowich finished a yard closer.
“I’m not sure who hit the worst shot,” he said with a smile. “But overall it was a lot of fun. It’s something I look forward to every year, so I hope they ask me back next year.”
Wasylowich went home with $5,600 overall, including $100 for each of five birdies and a $100 for closest to the pin on No. 5.
His total was$ 173 more than he’s won on three stops of the Canadian Tour this season.
“I haven’t had my best stuff this year as my timing and alignment has been off, but I’ve scraped together a couple of decent finishes. I’m trying to build on that as I’m playing OK without my best stuff. I just have to go from here.”
Wasylowich tried to qualify for the PGA Tour a couple of years ago, but said he wasn’t ready.
“My short game was lacking,” he said. “I hit it OK, but you have to have a short game.”
Mezei won the only other skin, pocketing $1,750 when he chipped in from the edge of the green on the 398-yard par-four seventh.
Mezei also had $300 for birdies and $100 for closest to the pin on the par-three second hole.
Love had $200 for winning both long drives and $200 for birdies. Heffernan had a pair of birdies.
Heffernan hasn’t had a great year on the Canadian Tour as he’s won only $1,745 in three starts. But he more than made up for that as he won $16,539 for his 71st place finish in the US Open at Congressional in Washington, DC. two weeks ago.
“That was a lot of fun,” he said. “It was nice to finally make a cut on the PGA Tour.”
The US Open was Heffernan’s ninth PGA event and the first time he’s made a cut.
He did that by shooting a sparkling 31 on the back nine Friday when he shot a 71.
“I played well into the weekend. I didn’t play well on Sunday, but until that point I thought I played well and was pleased with that.”
What he hasn’t been pleased with is his game since returning home.
“I’ve worked on some changes in the off season and they started to feel pretty good at the US Open, but lately they’ve went the other way and I’ve been terrible since the Open.”
But some of that is getting over the pressure of competing at a major event.
“By Sunday (of the Open) I was fried mentally,” he said. “You have to be into every shot, even on the driving range they have 10,000 people watching and you need to hit a good shot or they wonder ‘who’s that guy and why is he here’. You’re completely focused on every shot all week. It’s a weird situation. I’m sure once you’re into it more often you’d be better, but it’s draining and I returned home last week and played in Fort McMurray and I just couldn’t focus. The Open took so much out of me.”
However, Heffernan can look back at the 31 he shot Friday and know that he can play with the best of them.
“I was also in the top 10 after 13 holes. I had a couple of bad holes thrown in, but I had a lot of stretches where I was hitting the ball well, which felt good. And the 31, especially at the US Open, has to give anyone confidence.”
It was the second time Heffernan played in the Open, missing the cut in 2001.
“It was my third pro event and I was a wide-eyed and nervous. That really didn’t help me this year. I think what helped more than anything was playing in the World Cup with Mike Weir in 2007 and with Graham Delaet in China in 2008. The crowds in China were huge, bigger than at the Open and I was comfortable there. It’s not a major, but it’s on a big stage.”
The 34-year-old hopes to get his game back and will attend the PGA Q school.
“Because I made the cut at the Open I can skip the first round of qualifying. I did that once before when I finished in the top two on the Canadian Tour, but I didn’t play well. Hopefully I can get it done this year and get my card, or at least play on the Nationwide Tour. There’s more events and more money.
“The Canadian Tour is good and a good place to play, but I’m looking to take the next step up.”
The Canadian Tour stops in Calgary beginning Thursday.