Golfer topples Whitewater course

Thunder Bay's Jeff Hunter tees off during the first round of the PGA Tour Canada's Staal Foundation Open on Thursday at Whitewater Golf Course. (The Chronicle-Journal/Brent Linton)
Thunder Bay's Jeff Hunter tees off during the first round of the PGA Tour Canada's Staal Foundation Open on Thursday at Whitewater Golf Course. (The Chronicle-Journal/Brent Linton)

By Gary Moskalyk
For being so far away from home, Brandon Harkins put his feet up at Whitewater Golf Club on Thursday.
The Scottsdale, Ariz., native set the course record at the Thunder Bay course, shooting a 64 to take the one-round lead at the PGA Tour Canada Staal Foundation Open.
Brandon Harkins of Scottsdale, AZ shot an 8-under 64 in round one action. Somewhat predictably, he enjoyed the course along with Thursday’s perfect weather.
“Love it,” said Harkins. “If there’s any course on tour that suits me it’s this one. It’s long. You have to get it in play with some distance, and I like that. Couldn’t have asked for a better golf course.
Harkins, currently in his fourth season on the tour, leads by one shot over last week’s The Players Cup champion and Timothy Madigan of Rio Rancho, N.M., and Californian Joshua Stone, who each shot a 65.
Joel Dahmen, the leader on the tour’s Order of Merit, carded a 68 to sit in a tie for 12th.
Tour regular Jordan Krantz from Vermilion Bay, Ont. (near Dryden) fired a 72 to sit in a tie for 71st. Thunder Bay’s Jamie Depiero was the top city golfer at 76 with Robbie Untinen following at 78.
Untinen had held the previous course record at Whitewater.
Other locals near the bottom of the leaderboard are former tour pro Walter Keating Jr. (79), Evan DeGrazia (79) and Jeff Hunter (80).
Only the top 80 golfers proceed to the third and fourth rounds after today’s action. Depiero needs more than a few birdies to advance.
“I started off pretty solid,” Depiero said on his front nine. “On the back nine I started to feel the nerves a little bit more. Overall, I’m actually pretty happy with the way I played. A few bad breaks.”
“(Today) I’ll probably play a little more aggressive on some shots,” he continued. “Today I was playing to the middle of the greens, kind of avoiding the trouble shots. Tomorrow, I’ll go for a few more pins.”
Depiero was the top golfer in a field of 22 players out of Strathcona over 18 holes to qualify for the Staal Open in June.
“I forced myself not to think too much about it,” said Depiero of the build-up towards the biggest golfing experience of his life. “Just treat it like any other tournament I’ve played in. Obviously, there’s a lot of hype around it. When you tee it up it’s just golf again. It’s just another round of golf.”
Meanwhile the 28-year old Harkins score birdie five times during a seven-hole stretch on the front nine.
“Not a lot of mistakes. Kept the ball in front of me out there,” he said. “When I did miss I kept it in a spot where I could get it up and down. I didn’t have to scramble all that much, which was nice. It was pretty easy out there.”
Langley, B.C., native James Allenby, 29, joined half the field on the bubble with his even par 72.
“It leaves me with an opportunity (today) to play a good round and get back in it. There’s low numbers that can be had,” he said.
Allenby’s hometown boasts one of the better climates in Canada, making golf a natural spot to take up.
“We can play all year round,” said Allenby of his hometown. “I don’t necessarily do that, but it’s possible to. There’ll be a week or two when we get snow. Sometimes it takes a week or two to go away.”

NOTES: Madigan’s 65 marked the 20th time he has broken par in 26 rounds so far on the tour. . . . Thunder Bay is the sixth stop of 12 of PGA Tour Canada. . . . Adam Long eagled his final two holes to sit at 67, including draining a 60-footer on No. 17 and nailing a 30-foot putt on the No. 18.