Teeing off in last Thursday’s final round of the Canadian Men’s Amateur, Josh Whalen was blissfully unaware how close he was to the top of the leader board at the Toronto Golf Club.
That approach served him well, as he was able to focus on his game and post a final round score of 69, which ultimately landed him third overall, three back of champion Zach Bauchou of the U.S. Whalen finished at -5 for the tournament.
“This year earlier in the summer I was in the hunt a couple of times and I learned from those experiences,” Whalen said of his strategy of tuning out the leaderboard. “One time back in June at the start of the day I was in a similar spot, I think four back, and I tried to push maybe a little too hard and ended up falling off he pace. I learned to stick to what I do and don’t really look at what other guys are up to.”
It wasn’t until he noticed the crowds growing around him as he entered the back nine that the Napanee native began to suspect he was in the hunt. At the 15th he finally broke down and asked the scorekeeper where he stood.
“I figured at that point it was a good time to know what was going on ahead of and behind me,” said Whalen.
He entered the final round in fifth overall but quickly began climbing the leaderboard with a fast start, including back-to-back birdies on the first two holes. He made par over the next five before posting his first bogey on the ninth. He played well down the back nine, offsetting two birdies with two bogeys while achieving par on the remaining five holes. His final round of 69 tied for his second best round of the tournament. He opened with his best at 67 and scored 70 on his third trip through the course.
“I felt like I played really solid,” Whalen said of the tournament. “I didn’t have too too many mistakes out there all week and didn’t make too many bogeys. It was pretty stress-free for the most part all week.”
Though he’d ultimately finish three strokes offthe pace, he says he had fun being in the hunt right down to the wire.
While a first place finish would have earned him a spot in the 2018 Canadian Open, his third place finish did allow him to earn an invite to this weekend’s Mackenzie Tour event at the Hylands Golf Club in Ottawa, which will be his final major tournament of the season.
It will wrap up a busy season for the 22-year-old, who helped the Kent State Golden Flashes to an 11th place finish overall in the NCAA Division I rankings in his final year before embarking on his amateur season.
“School was a lot of fun, not just because I played well myself and had some good finishes, but at school it’s a team game and our team did really well and that was fun to be a part of,” said Whalen. “Then the start of the summer I had a few good events and certainly this past week would be one of the highlights of my year for sure. Overall I’m really happy with how the year went, I learned from some experiences and had some good finishes against some really good players. I can play with some of the best amateurs in the world, which is nice.”
Bath’s Austin James, fresh offhis strong showing at the 2017 Canadian Open, also took part in the Amateur Championship in Toronto. He finished tied for 36th overall, +7 for the tournament.