By RYAN MCCRACKEN on July 24, 2020.
Michael Valk was simply untouchable Thursday at Medicine Hat Golf and Country Club.
Entering the third and final day of the Alberta Men’s Amateur Championship in a three-way tie for the lead, Valk matched the course record with a 6-under 65 to clinch the provincial title with a five-stroke edge on runner up Hunter Thompson.
“It definitely ranks No. 1 for me,” said Valk, who finished the three-round tournament at 9-under par. “Obviously being no spectators, it’s a little bit of a different feeling, but to be able to do this at home in Medicine Hat, my favourite place on earth, it’s unbelievable.”
Despite the lack of fans, the 21-year-old Desert Blume golfer still had a small section of supporters around the 18th green – mostly composed of other locals in action at the tournament – and when he finally sank his last putt and handed in his scorecard, his phone started to buzz.
“My mother called me,” said Valk. “She’s at work right now and couldn’t make it.”
Valk (69-70-65) kicked off Thursday with a pair of pars and a birdie, but he found another gear after draining a long birdie putt to close out the front-9. Valk then birdied 10, dropped in an eagle on 11, hit par on 12 and followed it up with back-to-back birdies for 6-under over a six-hole stretch.
“I wasn’t hitting bad shots early. I actually hit a lot of good ones, didn’t make a few putts, then when I got to 9 I made a longer one and they sort of all started falling in,” he said. “I just kept rolling them in. It was nice to get that going at that point of the round and kind of separate myself early.”
Valk added that he truly felt the pressure of a hometown favourite entering Thursday’s final round, but one good swing was all it took to shake off the jitters.
“First tee today was the most nerves I’ve ever felt on a tee, but I hit my first tee shot exactly how I wanted to so I knew right from there I’d be able to handle it,” said Valk, who will look to carry his pace into the Alberta Open Championship at Ponoka Golf Club next weekend.
Thompson (71-69-69), of Calgary’s Glencoe Club, climbed two spots to finish behind Valk with a 2-under Thursday, while Red Deer’s Chandler McDowell (66-79-66) shook off an 8-over in Wednesday’s second round and rallied to finish third with a 5-under performance Thursday. Valk, Thompson and McDowell each earned a place on the honorary interprovincial team.
Medicine Hat’s Matthaus Taylor (74-69-70) also finished inside the top 10, shooting 1-under Thursday to find himself in a tie for sixth at par. Fellow Hatter Mitchell Kurtz (73-70-75) struggled on the greens Thursday, falling five spots to finish 14th at 5-over.
“I’m pretty happy with how I played, just couldn’t put the ball in the hole at the end of the day,” said Kurtz. “I started off hot. I hit most of the fairways, hit a lot of the greens – the putter just let me down all week basically. But I really enjoyed playing here, it was a great environment and I had a great time.”
MHGCC golfers Nolan Burzminski (74-73-75) and Ryan Hodgins (72-76-76) finished the week at 28th and 32nd, respectively, while Desert Blume’s Ryan Werre (76-75-76) and Medicine Hat’s Sam Bratvold (76-72-79) finished tied for 40th.
Medicine Hat’s Will Wood (78-75-76) and Desert Blume’s Jordon Forsythe (75-76-78) finished in a tie for 49th, while fellow Desert Blume golfer Lanny Seefried (74-80-77) took 55th.
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