Calgary-born du Toit captures ATB Financial Classic crown
Jared du Toit had a good look at the names etched on the trophy he hoisted Sunday afternoon at Country Hills Golf Club.
One stands out in fellow Canadian Graham DeLaet, who earned it here in Calgary.
And then there’s the two-time winner Dustin Risdon of nearby Strathmore.
“It’s pretty special,” said the Calgary-born du Toit of adding his name alongside the locals and Canadians on the prized hardware after winning the 2021 ATB Financial Classic. “I think at any level, it’s hard to win, so to get it done means a lot, and it’s going to be big for my confidence.
“So I’m very happy to throw my name on this,” continued the 26-year-old. “It’s a thrill for sure, and being in Calgary and having people cheer me on this week, it meant a lot for sure.”
His biggest thrill was saved for his final shot of the city’s Mackenzie Tour – PGA CANADA Tour stop.
Owning a two-shot lead and playing in the penultimate threesome, du Toit lined up a 20-foot birdie putt and hit it into the heart of the cup to cap a 4-under round and count an 11-under-273 total.
He celebrated with a fierce fist-pump and then waited for the final group to hit uphill to the par-4 18th green. With Wes Heffernan’s ball landing safely 30 feet to the left of the hole, the talent who grew up learning golf in Kimberley, B.C., knew the title was his.
But good thing du Toit jugged that putt because Calgary’s Heffernan did the same — from that spot further away — to finish just a single stroke back on the leaderboard.
“I asked my caddie (cousin Scott Walker) on the 18th green, ‘What do you think? Do you know where everyone else is?'” said du Toit before knocking in the distance putt. “He didn’t want to tell me and said, ‘Just hit a good putt.’ I he did that, and I had good speed.
“One of biggest putts of my career so far, so it’s awesome.”
It netted him the coveted title and the $18,000 first-place prize from the $100,000 event — that after coming into the final round of the 72-hole tournament three strokes back of Day 3 co-leaders Heffernan and Australian Will Barnett.
“I just stayed in there,” said du Toit of his five birdie-one bogey Sunday. “Obviously on a day like this, you want to get off to a fast start. I felt like I played pretty well early but just couldn’t get anything to go. I started to get frustrated, but I stayed patient. Later in the round, I was rewarded for that with a couple of nice putts. When I got a couple of green lights, I took advantage.
“I had a bad three-putt on nine,” he continued. “It could’ve went south, but I stayed in there and made a couple of tough pars and then got birdies on 12 and 13 and then just stayed the course on some of the tougher holes and then was fortunate enough to see one go in for birdie on 18.”
Meanwhile, Heffernan had his second-straight roller-coaster round with an eagle, three birdies and five bogeys that had him rising and falling on the board throughout the round.
“It’s cool to see someone from Calgary ending up winning — unfortunately, it wasn’t me,” said Heffernan, a teaching professional at Dynamic Motion Golf Performance Centre who was also runner-up of the 2017 ATB Financial Classic at Country Hills. “I just didn’t make any putts, and that’s usually what happens to me if I don’t usually shoot the kind of score that I want to. It was frustrating in that I was hitting putts on my line that I thought were good putts but weren’t going in. I just didn’t pick the right line.
“I made a couple of good putts coming in, but I gave four or five shots away in the first 11 holes by just not making the putts,” Heffernan continued. “I’m happy with the way I played this week, but I’m just a little disappointed that I didn’t pull it out, for sure. Especially (Saturday), I felt like I gave away a lot of shots and could have come into (Sunday) with a lot of cushion and didn’t do that, so I ended up chasing.”
After just one birdie through the first 11 holes, Barnett succumbed to three consecutive bogeys and tumbled from top spot to finish third at 9-under 275.
Joining him there was another Calgarian in Mitchell Fox, who rocketed up the board with a 6-under-65 Sunday.
Ontario’s Sudarshan Yellamaraju rounded out the top five, finishing at 8-under.
But the day belonged to du Toit, who earned 500 points for the triumph to shoot him up to seventh on the Mackenzie Tour’s points list and more importantly took another step forward in trying to fulfil his dream of someday playing on the PGA Tour.
“Obviously you always wonder after a while if you’ve got a chance, and this is kind of a big step in validating yet, so I’m excited about the future,” added du Toit, the first Canadian to put his name on the trophy since 2012 winner Michael Gligic.
“And it’s been a while since I made a putt on the 18th green that meant something, so to have people around to see it is awesome.”
The top-five players on the final points list at season’s end earn 2022 PGA TOUR Canada membership. The highest golfer on the points list, currently held by Ontario’s Noah Steele, will receive fully exempt status for the 2022 PGA TOUR Canada season, while those in the second-through-fifth positions will earn exempt status up until the first reshuffle based on player performance . . . The 2022 ATB Financial Classic will take place at Edmonton Petroleum Golf & Country Club as the event begins a rotation between Calgary and Edmonton . . . The Calgary Golf Association crowned its best-ball winners Reef Caulder and Ken Kajita. The team of Rick Heenan and Howard Smith earned the senior crown.