*Image credit: Chuck Russell/PGA TOUR Canada
Vancouver, British Columbia (VIGolf.ca) – It’s the start of a new season! The 2017 Mackenzie Tour – PGA Tour Canada tees off it’s fifth season Thursday in Vancouver at the Point Grey Golf and Country for the Freedom 55 Financial Open…and like every new season, it’s an opportunity for redemption – a chance to redeem yourself.
For Comox’s Riley Wheeldon specifically, it’s an opportunity to get back to his winning ways. His 2016 Mackenzie Tour season by his standards was not one of his best. It was not only plagued by injuries and other on and off course challenges, but he was unable to retain his Mackenzie Tour card.
As last season wrapped up, Wheeldon made his way down south, in an effort, to keep his competitiveness juices flowing by playing on the Dream Chaser tour in Phoenix. His trip would fair well as he would earn one victory, and capture another top five on top of that. When he made his way back to Canada, Wheeldon participated in the some Vancouver Golf Tour (VGT) events, where in March, he won the Bard Garside Open at the Beach Grove Golf Club.
“I spent the off season in Phoenix. I played in some mini tour stuff down there to remain competitive and try to re-gain a bit of the confidence I lost last summer. Last summer was difficult in a few regards both on and off the course. Losing my status for the first time was humbling but I think I will be better in the long term because of it”, said the 26-year old Wheeldon who turned pro in 2010 and has been a regular on the Mackenzie Tour ever since.
As 2017 rolled around and no tour card with his name on it, Wheeldon was forced to go back to Q-School, in an effort, to regain Mackenzie Tour status for the 2017 season. He entered the Mackenzie Tour Canadian Q-School at Crown Isle – a course in which he was comfortable playing as he has played it many times growing up.
With his experience and knowledge of the course, Wheeldon finished in solo 6th and earned exempt status for the upcoming season. His exempt status guarantees him entry into the first four tournaments, however, he could be subject to the first re-shuffle depending on how well he fairs in those events.
As hard as he worked on his game over the winter months, Wheeldon believes he still has some work to do on his game to get back to where he feels comfortable and fully confident in what he’s doing.
“My game is coming along, it’s not where I think it can be or once was but I believe I’m moving in the right direction again and with a better mental approach I think my best golf is still ahead of me. There are so many fantastic players on this tour now that I’m just trying to handle my business and if I do that effectively I think I’ll be happy no matter where I end up on the order of merit at the end of the summer”.
As Vancouver is set to host the Freedom 55 Financial Open, Wheeldon is no stranger to the Point Grey Golf and Country Club. He has played the track numerous times before being a part of the Vancouver Golf Tour (VGT), but also the last couple of years since the event has been held on the course. He says he is going to stick with his game plan, and just play golf at the end of the day. If he can do that, he believes everything will fall into place as it should.
“Point Grey is a familiar venue for me. I’ve had success there before, so I’m just going to try to be patient and attack the course where it allows. Whichever course we are playing on that particular week is the same for everyone, and I just do my best to embrace the unique challenge that each venue presents”.
Following the Freedom 55 Financial Open this week, Wheeldon will make his back home to Vancouver Island for the Bayview Place Cardtronics Open presented by Times Colonist at the Uplands Golf and Country Club in Victoria, before heading to Kelowna for the GolfBC Championship to wrap up the ‘B.C. Swing” portion of the schedule the following week.