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Relentless rain cuts short Alberta Open at Sundre Golf Club

Mixture of pros and amateurs from across the province competed in Sundre

SUNDRE — Top golf talent from across the province came to compete at the Sundre Golf Club last week during the return of the Alberta Open Championship, which on the third day of final rounds was cut short on account of relentless rainfall.

Last hosted at the local course in 2017, the Alberta Golf event that ran June 21-23 was the first to go ahead since the start of the pandemic without having to factor in restrictions.

John Burns, an Alberta Golf field manager, said last year’s Alberta Open at Wolf Creek Golf and RV Resort in Ponoka accommodated all of the public health measures that were in place at the time, which substantially impeded the ability to properly interact with the players and public.  

“COVID shut us down for two years in our competitions,” said Burns. “And this feels like a fresh start.”

So, it wasn’t only the organizers who were looking forward to this year’s tournament, but also the competitors, he said.  

“Sundre’s an awesome venue, it always has been. And they’re really great hosts – they do something every year for us,” Burns told the Albertan at the course when asked his thoughts on returning to Sundre. “The course is in great condition – a little wet after a couple of days of rain, but other than that, the players love it.”

While it wasn’t the first time the Sundre Golf Club hosted the province’s main golf championship of the year, it also certainly won’t be the last.

Responding to a query about what has over the years brought the Alberta Open back to Sundre, Burns said, “Well, the course for one thing, and proximity for players. We like to move it around the province so that everyone gets an opportunity to play.”

Burns also praised Sundre Golf Club head pro Scott Shouldice.

“He’s kind of a go-to. Whenever we need something or whenever we offer it, he’s more than willing,” said Burns.  

Shouldice was also among the 120 competitors who played in the tournament, as well as one of four locals, including Matt Bean, Leighton Bearchell and Dane Thorogood.

“It is the biggest golf tournament of the year in Alberta, so we are very excited to be hosting it at our course,” he said, adding the talent was largely comprised of pros, but that there were some amateurs as well.  

The tournament got started on June 21. Following two days of play, there was a cut resulting in the top-60 and ties proceeding to compete in the June 23 final round.

“It’s my first time in the Alberta Open,” Shouldice said on the opening day of competition, adding he did not have the opportunity in 2017 to play in the tournament at the time.

“I have competed lots in tournaments before, but this is my first Alberta Open,” he said.

Speaking as the course’s head pro, Shouldice expressed enthusiasm for once again being able to provide the venue to host the tournament as well as Alberta’s top players.

But the championship event didn’t just offer the Sundre Golf Club some great exposure. The tournament also created an economic ripple effect that benefited the larger community with many of the players finding local accommodations and spending money at restaurants in town.

“It’s great for the economy to get people out here and spend some money in our community,” he said. “It's great for for the golf course, the restaurant, and great for the town.”

From his perspective as one of the contenders, Shouldice said ahead of his tee-off time when asked how it felt to be competing that he felt “a little bit of extra pressure maybe with having the home-course advantage.”

But for the most part, he was just eager to get back into the swing of things.

“It’s really exciting, lots of fun,” he said. “Everyone seems to enjoy the course a lot and I think everyone really loves coming here.”

As for what he most enjoys about the sport, Shouldice said he relishes the opportunity to test his mettle.

“I mean, I just love competition,” he said. “It’s one thing to go out and just play a round of golf for fun with your friends. But it’s another thing to play in a serious competition tournament – it’s a totally different game. You’re focusing more and there’s a lot more pressure.”

While he of course hoped to give the competition a good run for their money, Shouldice candidly confessed he’d recently had plenty on his plate that had prevented him from preparing as extensively as he otherwise might have preferred.  

“It’s been a little busy. So, my game’s maybe not as sharp as I’d like it,” he said. “I’ve been trying to get out and practise as much as I can.”

Final round cut short on account of rain

By noon on June 23, the final round was cut short on account of relentless rainfall that just wasn’t easing off.

“Solid rain all afternoon washed out the final round,” reads a portion of an Alberta Golf press statement announcing the finalists.

Since the players were not all able to complete nine holes, the champion was determined based on the leader after the second round on June 22.

Taking the top two spots were, respectively, amateur Ethan Choi, from the Lethbridge Country Club, who just came out ahead of professional Stefan Cox from the Calgary Golf & Country Club by one stroke.

Shouldice was among four players who tied for 20th place overall, but he finished 10th in the pro division. Thorogood was among five players tied for 24th place, while Bean ended up among eight players tied for 52nd pace. Bearchell did not make the cut to the final round.

“Obviously, it was pretty disappointing that we didn’t get the final round in,” Shouldice told the Albertan on June 24. “But there’s nothing you can do about Mother Nature.”

While some players managed to finish their rounds, Shouldice said he was out on the course's hole number 10 when the organizers pulled the proverbial plug.

“When they called everyone in, it was just raining too hard,” he said. “The course was getting a little unplayable with all the rain.”

So, there was little choice other than to make the decision to cease and desist, he said.

“But it was still a very successful tournament. The first two rounds went really well,” he said, calling the event and the conditions “a very good test for all the players. And I think everyone still enjoyed their tournament.”

Shouldice felt he fared rather well, all things being considered.

“I was pretty happy with it. The first day, I played very well – just made a couple of mistakes that I wish I could have back,” he said. “But other than that, I played pretty solid the first day.”

While he struggled a bit on the back nine during the second day, Shouldice said that he was under the circumstances nevertheless pleased with his finish.

The head pro also extended gratitude to the club’s members who pitched in to help ensure the tournament ran smoothly by tackling a variety of tasks such as scoring, spotting and helping with registration.  

“A lot of our members really stepped up.”

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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