Okanagan Golf Club assistant pro Conner Kozak will play in the GolfBC Championship at Gallager’s Canyon for the second time. -Image: Warren Henderson/Capital News

Second chance for Kozak at GolfBC Championship

Okanagan Golf Club assistant pro will play on an exemption at next week’s Mackenzie Tour event

In 2016, Conner Kozak missed the cut in his debut at the GolfBC Championship.

Two years later, with some confidence and experience under his belt, the 25-year-old Kelowna golfer will have considerably higher expectations for next week’s tournament at Gallagher’s Canyon.

An assistant pro at the Okanagan Golf Club, Kozak is one of three local golfers to earn an exemption for the third stop of the season on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada.

“If you tilted the leader board upside down, you’d see my name,” the Vernon-born Kozak said with a laugh, making light of his performance two years ago. “It wasn’t that great of a week, I didn’t quite have as good of an opportunity to prepare myself for the event that year, being that it was my first year working at the Okanagan Club, it was a very busy time for me.”

In addition to having had more and better quality preparation time this spring, Kozak is fresh off a solid effort at the BCPGA Assistants Championship last weekend at Bear Mountain. Kozak’s two-round total of 2-under par (73-67) 150, was good for a tie for third place.

“This year, the game looks really good, really sharp, so I’m hoping to finish a little bit better than I did that first year,” said Kozak, a former member of the UBC Thunderbirds’ program. “The goal is to play all four rounds, see how it goes.”

Kozak is grateful to be getting a second chance to play on the Mackenzie Tour, a launching pad for players looking to make their way on to the Web.com Tour and, eventually, the PGA Tour.

RELATED: Kelowna marks breakthrough for Robby Shelton

The Mackenzie Tour has helped produce PGA champs such as Canadians Adam Hadwin and Mackenzie Hughes, Tony Finau and Aaron Wise.

“It’s really cool,” Kozak said. “I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that. It’s the ultimate measuring stick, it’s probably the biggest event I’ll play all year, no doubt about that.

“To be out here on a tour where those guys have come up and to see what they’ve done from that and the success they’ve had on this tour, is pretty cool.”

For Kozak, playing at home in a familiar environment comes with both benefits and expectations.

“It’ll be nice to sleep in my own bed, hopefully get a couple of buddies to come out and watch,” said Kozak. “There’s definitely going to be a little bit of pressure along with that..it’s just about kind of enjoying the week, having fun, that’s probably the biggest thing.

“The fact I get to have a home tournament is going to be a good opportunity for me to showcase my game, and hopefully play well.”

Among other players to earn exemptions for the Golf BC Championship is Kelowna’s Garrett Kucher, last year’s winner of the Ogopogo Invitational at the Kelowna Golf and Country.

The winner of the Zone 2 Junior Tour’s Order of Merit—to be determined this weekend at Gallagher’s—will also receive an exemption. Last year, that honour went to Matt Hopley, the son of Gallagher’s Canyon general manager Peter Hopley.

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The GolfBC Championship, from June 14 to 17, will feature a 156-player field and a $200,000 purse, with $36,000 going to the winner.

For tournament or ticket information, go to golfbcchampionship.com.

Long drive competition…

The GolfBC Championship’s Long Drive Challenge is set for next Wednesday, June 13 at 3:30 p.m.

The annual charity event, which benefits the BC Cancer Foundation, is open to anyone who can hit the ball a long distance off the tee.

The cost is $25 for three shots and includes Adidas Golf Prizes.

To register, go to golfbcchampionship.com.

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