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Whistler's Walker making the jump

Fifteen-year-old shines at Whistler Open
TEEING OFF Stewart Walker makes a shot during his Maple Leaf Junior Tour win at Hazelmere Golf and Tennis Club on July 30 and 31. Photo courtesy of Rhona Walker

For Whistler golfer Stewart Walker, taking on the junior ranks is old hat.

He’s now setting his sights on the adult levels.

At last week’s Whistler Open, held at his home Nicklaus North Golf Course on Aug. 4 and 5, Walker came away with a tie for fourth in the amateur division, equalling Whistler Golf Club’s Jordan Matheson and finishing four strokes behind champion Taylor Seidel

Even in the pro side, the three-over would’ve been good for a tie for 16th, and besting the Whistler reps in action.

The 15-year-old didn’t put too much stock in those results, though.

“I know everybody had a tough day out there. I don’t think anyone played as well as they normally would, which is unfortunate,” he said. 

Walker noted that even as a regular at Nick North, there are ways to make it look like a whole new course.

“The biggest difference for me was they had the pins in places where I’d never really seen [them] before,” he said. “That really caught me off guard and, I’m sure, a whole lot of others.”

The strongest section for Walker came mid-round, after missing a gimme on seven.

“On eight and nine, I went birdie, birdie to go even on the front nine, so those three were my string of holes,” he said.

Walker entered the Whistler Open after pulling off a heck of a comeback at the Maple Leaf Junior Tour stop at Surrey’s Hazelmere Golf and Tennis Club on July 30 and 31.

Walker trailed Vancouver’s William Tu by five shots after Day 1, but ran away with the win on Day 2.

“I didn’t play very well the first day, and I don’t think really anybody did,” he said. “I’d rather be one or two strokes behind going into the second day rather than having to lead it.”

Walker made his hay early in the second round, turning the five-shot deficit into a one-shot lead over the first nine holes. Shooting three-under on the back nine helped him open up his margin of victory to five over both Tu and Langley’s Caleb Davies.

This week, Walker took 21st at the B.C. Juvenile Championships at Duncan’s Cowichan Golf and Country Club.

Holmes wins pro category

In the pro category at the Whistler Open, Vancouver’s Evan Holmes used a late charge to earn the win.

Holmes trailed Langley Golf Centre’s James Allenby by two strokes with two holes to go, but parred both while Allenby posted a combined three over.

“I kind of figured it was going to be between me and James. We knew that it was a tough day and he was having a great round,” he said.

After gaining a stroke on 17, Holmes was within one going into the final hole.

“I hit into the hazard on 18, so I was pretty mad,” he said. “James laid it up, he got a bad lie in the rough and he hit it into the creek. He unfortunately made double [bogey] and I chipped in for par to make a two-shot swing on the last hole, which is kind of nice.”

With five birdies against two bogies, Holmes enjoyed a fairly consistent day.

“It was mostly wedges and putting. The greens were so good,” he said. “The putter was rolling and I was lucky enough to stick a few wedges in close. I got off to a good start on the front nine before it got too windy.

“I just held on and kept going in that tough finish.”

After playing in the event last year, Holmes was thrilled to return, explaining that Nick North plays to his strengths.

“It’s pretty easy off the tee,” he said, “but you have to hit a lot of good second shots, which I’d say is probably my strength.”

While happy to win and claim $1,500, Holmes certainly would have preferred his original 2020 plan of competing across Europe.

Holmes, however, started the Canada Life Series this week and stayed hot, leading the tour’s first tournament after two rounds as of Aug. 11.

Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s Padraic O’Rourke was the top local, tying for 21st at five-over, while Nicklaus North’s Andrew Smart (tied for 26th) and Whistler Golf Club’s Alan Kristmanson (29th) also teed up. 

Nicklaus North general manager Jason Lowe was pleased with how the two-day event went off, as COVID-19 precautions such as outdoor registration were implemented.

“The nature of the event, and just the structure of it, made it easy COVID-wise,” he said. “There’s no real need for a large gathering or congestion through the whole event, so there were no real big shifts needed to make sure it was COVID-friendly.”