LITCHFIELD PARK, Arizona —The wind blew all day at The Wigwam during the first round of the PGA TOUR Canada Qualifying Tournament on Tuesday. Amateur Viraj Garewal and third-year pro Jack Trent had to endure the wind like everybody else. But teeing off early for their opening 18 holes of the 72-hole tournament, they had calmer-than-what-came-later conditions, and they took advantage, both players shooting 3-under 69s to forge a two-stroke advantage over four players, Aman Gupta, Henry Lee, Griffin Wood and Ethan Brue.
Only six players broke par, with another seven shooting even-par on a difficult scoring day. By contrast, a year ago—53 weeks to be exact—under much calmer conditions, 31 players broke par in the opening round.
“I was hitting it very solid. I was in control of my trajectory, so I wasn’t letting [the ball] get up in the wind. I was making adjustments off the tee based off of if it was downwind or into the wind,” observed Garewal of his four-birdie, one-bogey performance. He pointed to his play on No. 18, his ninth hole of the day, as a difference-maker in his round.
After a solid tee shot that carried the fairway bunkers, Garewal hit an approach shot that he thought would put his ball close. “I hit a good wedge in, but it took a big bounce off the slope,” he said. The ball settled 18 feet from the cup, but from there Garewal poured his birdie putt into the middle of the cup.
“It was nice to see one go in because before that I was stuck in neutral. The only bridie before that (on his fifth hole) was a tap-in, and I had a bogey right after.”
Garewal already has some PGA TOUR Canada experience, playing in three events a year ago, Monday-qualifying into the Quebec Open and tying for 19th, a top-20 finish that earned him a start in the next tournament, the Manitoba Open in Winnipeg, where he again made the cut (tied for 51st).
In 2022, Trent played in this Qualifying Tournament and earned conditional status, tying for 17th but missed earning guaranteed PGA TOUR Canada starts. The Las Vegas resident who graduated from UNLV in 2021, elected not to travel to Canada and stayed in the States to work on his game.
Trent was at 4-under with a hole to play but bogeyed No. 18 to fall into a tie with Garewal. He hit his approach shot into a bunker and couldn’t get up and down for par.
“The first three holes weren’t too windy, but from there on it was. But everybody was playing in the same conditions. I was trying to play simple,” he said. “I felt like a few of my pars were like birdies.”
Brue, one of the quartet at 1-under 71, had an interesting opening day. After four bogeys in his first 12 holes, three of them coming in a seven-hole stretch, Brue turned it on. After he parred No. 13, he made four birdies in succession before finishing his round with a par. He went from 3-over to 1-under.
Did you know Viraj Garewal, a native of Raleigh, North Carolina, played the first four years of his college career at Davidson? For his final collegiate season, Garewal transferred across the country to the University of Santa Clara. While at Davidson, he was a first-team all-conference member in both 2021 and 2022. The Broncos of the West Coast Conference are currently No. 101 in the latest Golfstat rankings.
How the Tournament Works
PGA TOUR Canada, along with PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, are international PGA TOUR-sanctioned tours that provide access to the Korn Ferry Tour and are part of the pathway to the PGA TOUR. Since its inception in 2013, PGA TOUR Canada has held 32 Qualifying Tournaments across the U.S. and Canada. This event is the fourth of six 2023 PGA TOUR Canada Qualifiers scheduled in advance of the 2023 season. Each qualifier is a 72-hole, no-cut event, with playoffs, if necessary, for the medalist position and for the 10th and final position available.
One-hundred-twenty-six players started the tournament Tuesday. Below is a breakdown of the various PGA TOUR Canada membership statuses available this week.
|Medalist||Exempt membership for the 2023 season|
|2nd through 10th (no ties)
|Exempt through the reshuffle, which will occur approximately halfway through the season|
|11th through 30th (plus ties)||Conditional membership|
- Players in this week’s field come from 13 countries or territories: Australia, Canada, China, Costa Rica, England, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Puerto Rico, Sweden, Thailand and the United States
- Germany’s Alex Herrmann had two completely different nines Tuesday. After playing bogey-free golf on The Wigwam’s front nine, with birdies on the first, fourth, fifth and seventh holes, he added but one more birdie on the back nine, on No. 14. He also made a double bogey-7 on the 10th and bogeys on Nos. 12, 13, 15, 16, 17 and 18. He shot 32-43 for a 3-over 75. He’s tied for 37th.
- Amateur Spencer Tibbits opened with a 3-over 75, with four bogeys during a six-hole, back-nine stretch. He’s tied for 37th. The former Oregon State star had a standout college career, finishing his time in Corvallis with a 71.61 career stroke average, second-best in school history. His 14 top-10 finishes is also the second-most all-time.
- A year ago, Alex Herrmann won the Qualifying Tournament in Weston, Florida, and had a solid first PGA TOUR Canada season. He suffered disappointment, though, tying for 56th in his final full-field start of the season to finish 61st on the Fortinet Cup standings to not only miss qualifying for the 60-player, season-ending Fortinet Cup Championship but to lose his playing privileges. Hermann’s twin brother Maximilian Herrmann shot a 76 Tuesday, and he has a share of 51st.
- A year ago, Max Marsico came from behind on the last day to edge Cooper Dossey to capture medalist honors at this Qualifying Tournament. After an injury-plagued 2022, Marsico is back looking to earn PGA RTOUR Canada membership. He opened the tournament with a 2-over 74 and is tied for 22nd.
- Canadian amateur Peyton Callens had a tough, two-hole stretch to complete his opening round. With only a bogey against three birdies through 16 holes, Callens was at 2-under standing on the 17th tee. He made a double bogey there and followed that with another double bogey to drop four strokes. He finished at 2-over and shares 22nd place with 14 others
- Through four holes, Chris Francoeur was 3-over, and with only one bogey and four pars after that, he made the turn at 2-over. He then proceeded to make four birdies in his next seven holes to get to 2-under until he finished bogey-bogey for a roller-coaster, even-par 72 that leaves him tied for seventh.
- Another former Qualifying Tournament winner is in this field. Costa Rica’s Luis Gagne was the champion at the Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida, event in 2021. Gagne, who has eight career PGA TOUR Canada starts on his resume, shot a 1-over 73 and is tied for 14th.
- There are 10 Canadians playing this week. The top finisher among that group is Henry Lee, a naturalized Canadian who lives in Coquitlam, British Columbia. Lee, originally from Seoul, South Korea, opened with a 1-under 71, an up-and-down day that included five birdies and four bogeys to go with nine pars. He’s tied for third, two back of the leaders.
There are 26 amateurs playing this week. After 18 holes, leading the way is Viraj Garewal, at 3-under and tied for the overall lead. Here are all the amateurs’ results and where they stand:
|T1||Viraj Garewal (U.S.)||69 (-3)|
|T7||Jordan Lee (U.S.)||72 (even)|
|T7||Jason Hong (Australia)||72 (even)|
|T22||Jack Madden (U.S.)||74 (+2)|
|T22||Jack Boulger (U.S.)||74 (+2)|
|T22||Peyton Callens (Canada)||74 (+2)|
|T22||Roberto Nieves (Puerto Rico)||74 (+2)|
|T37||Colin Sikkenga (U.S.)||75 (+3)|
|T37||Hector Barnetche (Mexico)||75 (+3)|
|T37||Youssef Guezzale (U.S.)||75 (+3)|
|T37||Spencer Tibbits (U.S.)||75 (+3)|
|T51||Chase Sienkiewicz (U.S.)||76 (+4)|
|T57||Steve Sugimoto (U.S.)||77 (+5)|
|T57||Luke Gifford (U.S.)||77 (+5)|
|T57||AJ Ott (U.S.)||77 (+5)|
|T70||Jakob Craft (U.S.)||78 (+6)|
|T86||Carson Lundell (U.S.)||79 (+7)|
|T94||Calvin McCoy (U.S.)||80 (+8)|
|T94||Joe Neuheisel (U.S.)||80 (+8)|
|T94||Chaz Aurilia (U.S.)||80 (+8)|
|T104||Zach Lambros (U.S.)||81 (+9)|
|T123||Kirk White (U.S.)||86 (+14)|
|T127||Jackson Wolfe (U.S.)||87 (+15)|
|T127||Colin Gibson (U.S.)||87 (+15)|
|T129||David Buttner (Canada)||88 (+16)|
|T129||Shane Muldowney (U.S.)||88 (+16)|
From the practice green
“I was thinking about it. I committed to doing this fifth year at Santa Clara, and it felt right to go to get prepared for another year and focus more on golf than being a student-athlete. Although I’m still doing both, I feel like I’ve had more time to develop myself and (learn) how to be physically better and mentally better working on my game.” –Viraj Garewal on his decision to remain an amateur for one more year
“I felt like I learned a lot from that summer stretch. I think it was great preparation and exposure to, one, if I wanted to play at the next level learn what it takes to sustain a high level of golf. I’m just happy to keep trying to improve and see where the journey takes me.” –Viraj Garewal on his takeway from his limited playing opportunities on PGA TOUR Canada in 2022
“I had a lot of birdie opportunities that were scaring the hole. I figured if I kept giving myself straightforward chances, if not to leave myself in a good shot and avoid the big numbers. If one falls, it falls.” –Viraj Garewal
“It was very steady. I played consistent golf in the sense that I kept it in front of me. I was trying to get it in play off the tee. If I miss, (I wanted) to miss on the side of the fairway for me to fit my shot shape and have an angle to the green.” –Viraj Garewal
“I’ve made a lot of swing changes. I feel like I’ve made 15 small changes but more mental changes than anything. I’m trying not to take this game too seriously.” –Jack Trent
First-Round Weather: Sunny and cooler, with a high of 63. Wind NNW at 12-15 mph, with gusts to 18 mph.