Michael Blair of Ancaster, Ontario and Gavin Hall of Pittsford, New York both fired rounds of seven-under-par, each carding a 63, to get out to the lead at the PGA Tour Canada’s inaugural event of 2022, the Royal Beach Victoria Open presented by Times Colonist, at Uplands Golf Course in British Columbia.
Blair is no stranger to the top of the leaderboard, having won a playoff to medal at the Prince Edward Island Open in 2021. The former Eastern Michigan University golfer has been on a roll lately, placing first at US Open local qualifying at the Pulpit Club in Caledon, Ontario.
“Now I have sectional qualifying on June 6th, I will be taking a red-eye back to Toronto to play that on Monday,” said Blair after yesterday’s round.
Crediting his low round to strong ball-striking and firm conditions, Blair said “I was hitting it solid overall, hitting it in the fairway. I only missed one fairway, that was a big help.”
“The greens are so smooth out there, you see a few go in and they start pouring in one on top of the other.”
Hall, who, at age 18, was the youngest competitor in the US Open at Merion in 2013, is a former Texas Longhorn. Despite having equal scores and sharing the lead, the two men, who both started on the 10th hole, had very different rounds. While both golfers birdied their starting hole, a short par-four, Hall went on to par each hole before making the turn, carding a 34 on the back side at Uplands.
On the other hand, Blair had birdies on hole-12 before putting together four additional birds over each hole between 14 and 17, turning with a 29.
“I was able to find a good rhythm,” Blair said of the stretch of birdies, “In general everyone in the group was playing well, so you’re seeing some good shots. It seemed like every time you looked up you’d see a birdie chance, and I got a few to go in.”
On the front side, it was Hall who found his range having two separate three-hole strings of birdies, the first coming on holes one through three and another string on holes six through eight. Hall’s front side equalled Blair’s back nine at 29 strokes.
For his part, Blair birdied the third hole and, when he carded another bird on seven, he went to eight-under. Unfortunately for Blair, he had a blemish when he had a bogey on his final hole of the day, carding a 34 on his final nine.
“You never want to end on a bogey,” said Blair. “On hole nine, it was a par-three, the pin was kinda tucked on the front left… I pulled it and it rode the wind and wound up in the bunker on the left… in a depression, and I had a bit of a tough lie.”
“But, still,” Blair said in recapping the day, “to finish tied for the lead was great.”
The two men featured in 13th Man Sports’ tournament preview piece and both also came in under par on day one of the four-day, 72-hole Championship. Former Duke Blue Devil Evan Katz carded a three-under-par 67 to place him tied for 21st, while BC’s own Riley Wheeldon also kept his score in the 60’s. Wheeldon’s one-under, 69, left him tied for 58th.
The PGA Tour Canada is an official affiliate of, and development tour for, the PGA Tour. The Royal Beach Victoria Open presented by Times Colonist, teed off with 156 competitors in the field including 38 Canadians, 99 from the US and 19 international competitors.
The purse for this weekend is $200,000 Canadian. The charity for the event is the Salvation Army, Victoria.
Play is scheduled to resume Friday and continue through Sunday.
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