Wiggins ties for 20th at club pro championships

Mountain View Golf Club's pro Jeff Wiggins is putting Yukon golf on the map. Wiggins capped the season tying for 20th.

Mountain View Golf Club’s pro Jeff Wiggins is putting Yukon golf on the map.

Wiggins capped the season tying for 20th at the Titleist & FootJoy Club Professional Championship of Canada at the PGA Golf Club’s Ryder Course on Wednesday in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

“It’s a pretty decent finish,” said Wiggins. “It was a good tournament, it was well put together, it definitely had the national championships feel to it. The course was really well set-up all three days.

“I felt I could have been a few shots lower each day. But it is what it is – in golf you take what you can get.”

Not only did Wiggins finish tied for 20th in a field of more than 100 of Canada’s top club pros, he broke new ground by simply competing. It was the first time the Yukon was represented at the championship.

“This year’s championship was probably the deepest field that the club pro championships have had,” said Wiggins. “The scores were a little bit lower than they have been for the last 30 years. But that’s good; it means the event itself is well supported.

“The winner (Roger Beale from Royal Westermoreland) finished at -14, which is extremely impressive.”

At the three-round championships Wiggins hit a 72 Monday, a 71 Tuesday and a 73 Wednesday to end at even par. It was all pars, birdies and bogeys in the first two rounds, but, going for a little more with his shots on the final day, Wiggins ran into some trouble on the front-nine.

“Today was a little more erratic, because when you get in that position I was in – 24th, or whatever I was going into today – you really want to make a jump,” he said. “You have to start firing at everything. And every final round they’ll set up the course a little more difficult.”

On Wednesday, Wiggins pocketed a pair of birdies in the first six holes, but ran into in trouble on Holes 7 and 8 with a double bogey and bogey. He then settled back down in the back nine, staying on par with two birdies and two bogeys.

“It’s going to be more erratic than the first two rounds because you have to go out there and try for birdies,” said Wiggins. “It’s not about placing top-20 or top-10, it’s about trying to go out there in the final round and shoot that 67 or 65 and move up on the leaderboard.”

The club pro tourney was the second breakthrough for the Yukon Golf Association this season. Through Wiggins, the Yukon saw first-time representation at the PGA’s Rogers Canada Cup, held at Valle De Richelleux Golf Club near Montreal in August.

There Wiggins reached the goal of making the first cut, but slipped 20 spots in a bad round to finish 51st.

“I made the cut, which was the goal, first and foremost,” he said.

His performances have earned Wiggins invites back to both tournaments again next summer.

“It’s a big deal for us,” said Wiggins. “Next summer I have two national events to play in.”

Originally from Saskatoon, Wiggins spent a decade as a club pro in BC before moving to Whitehorse four years ago. So what allowed this season to be a breakout year?

“The first couple years I was up there I just didn’t have the time; I had to manage the golf course,” said Wiggins. “The club was struggling a bit, so the focus was staying there, making sure the day-to-day operations were being taken care of.

“This year I had a good assistant, Graham (Frey), and Graham was reliable. Actually, all the staff. My good staff allowed me to get away.”

Not only showing golfing talent can exist so far north, Wiggins is bringing talent back with him. Living and playing in Whitehorse is a great conversation starter for his fellow pros, and those conversations often turn to the annual Skookum Asphalt Charity Pro Am at Mountain View.

Such discussions may result in the largest, deepest field at the third annual event next summer.

“It’s kind of a subsidiary point of going to some of this stuff,” said Wiggins. “A lot of guys get interested in where I am, what we’re doing in the Yukon, how well the economy is, what the golf course is like.

“We’re a little bit isolated, so when we get out to these events, everyone is like, ‘Wait a minute, Whitehorse? You guys even have a golf course up there?’

“The more local guys, from BC and Alberta, they’ll say, ‘You’re the one with that pro-am, right? How do I get on that list? Can I get on that list for next year?’

“It exposes us. Over the last couple years, running that pro-am has done wonders. Everyone who comes up goes home with nothing but good things to say about the golf course, about the event.”

In the week prior to the club pro championships, Wiggins and Mountain View members Terry DeForrest and Dan Jordan, along with Jordan’s brother Greg from Wynyard, Saskatchewan, competed at the Navigator ProAm in Scottsdale, Arizona. After placing third the previous two years, the foursome shot their way to second among 25 other teams from throughout western Canada.

Wiggins also had some success on the pro side of the tournament, finishing third overall, one stroke behind two players who tied for first and went into a playoff.

“I represented the Yukon, I think, pretty well,” said Wiggins of Florida. “I made the cut, made the top-20 and got an invite back for next year. This gives me a few reasons to practice over the winter when I can and maintain my game.”

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