Local champ duelling with top golfers

Monday was a busy day for local golfer Greg Ward as he prepared for the 16th-annual Canadian Club Champions Championship tournament this week in Calgary.
In addition to playing 18 practice holes at Spring Bank Links and attending a tournament reception, his room was flooded with phone calls all evening.
By late evening, both hotel receptionists recognized his name and quipped he was quite the popular fellow.
But this week, Ward isn’t looking for popularity–just a chance to make the cut and hopefully make some noise during the final rounds.
“It’s a good learning experience,” Ward said from his hotel room Monday night. “A top 10 finish would be great.”
The tournament, which features more than 140 champions from their respective clubs, is one of the country’s top amateur events. Craig Doell from Victoria, B.C. is the defending champ and a leading contender to repeat.
Thunder Bay Country Club champion Rob DeGagne is the only other golfer from Northwestern Ontario.
Ward, 23, earned the invitation by claiming the Kitchen Creek club title last September–his third in the last four years. And he’s looking to improve on his 25th-place finish last year in Nova Scotia.
“Once I went last year, I couldn’t wait to get back to this tournament again,” he enthused. “My whole year was geared towards the club championship so I could get back.”
Action in the 72-hole tournament got underway yesterday, with the top 70 scores to make the cut after today’s second round. The third and fourth rounds go tomorrow and Friday.
Ward has been keeping sharp leading up to Calgary, travelling to Grand Rapids and International Falls to get a taste of different courses. But he admitted Spring Bank–a par 72–is in another league.
“It’s a beautiful golf course, a little tougher than ours,” noted Ward, who had last played there when he was 11 years old.
Ward said this is a tournament every future club champion should consider playing. “There’s an opportunity for the champion to go every year,” he said. “But it hasn’t always been fulfilled.”
Kitchen Creek club pro Steve Wood said it’s always a good opportunity for amateurs to play against their top peers.
“It represents the club well and gives them a chance to compete with great golfers from across the country,” he noted. “Everyone is of equal or similar in skill so it’s usually a good tournament.”
Wood added the club did some fundraising to help Ward with his expenses.
Ward is at the tournament with his brothers and girlfriend, and has been getting advice from fellow members and club staff. He’s confident he can do well this week.
“I feel good about making the cut,” he said.