Alex McDonald acknowledged it was a shock coming back to snow-covered Northwestern Ontario.
The 18-year-old Devlin golfer just returned from Phoenix, Ariz. earlier this week after competing at the Maple Leaf Junior Golf Tour’s Boston Pizza National Championship over the weekend.
He said the weather at The Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa was perfect for golf the first day and for much of the second—until rain and high winds kicked up late in the round.
McDonald finished the two-round event tied for sixth place in the boys’ 17-19 division with a score of 155, seven strokes behind champion Kevin Piper of St. Albert, Alta. and just two out of the top three.
He was consistent, carding a 78 on the first day and then a 77 on the second.
His rounds got off to challenging starts on both days, however, as the 13th hole was one of the toughest on the course.
“There’s sand on the left and there’s water on the right for the whole hole,” McDonald described.
“You’ve basically got to hit the fairway,” he stressed.
McDonald didn’t achieve that the first day en route to a quadruple bogey.
“The ball just went straight right, right into the water,” he recalled.
“It was the second-hardest hole on the course.”
But McDonald finished at six-over-par for the day, meaning he rebounded nicely.
McDonald was able to handle the 13th hole much better in the second round.
“I ripped it down the middle and made birdie on the second day,” he enthused.
After chugging through his rounds in the early part of the day, McDonald said he started to really put things together around the latter third of the day.
He described No. 8 as the hole that really helped him to get going.
“It’s a hole where you can either play short of the bunkers or you can gamble and go over,” he noted.
“Each day, I just gambled. I went right over the bunker.
“I birdied it both times. I even birdied it in the practice round,” he remarked.
“When you have confidence going into a hole, you’re pretty sure you’re not going to make a high number.”
McDonald acknowledged the gambling strategy was one he tended to employ throughout the tournament, although he was forced to amp it up on the second day in an attempt to make up some ground.
“The first day, I said shoot around 75-ish and you’ll be close,” he recalled.
“I shot 78 and said, ‘Tomorrow, I’ve got to go for it,’ so the second day, I went for everything.
“I played a more aggressive kind of game because I had to catch up,” he reasoned.
“I took more drivers out, I went for more pins instead of hitting it to the middle of the green.”
The plan was especially important given McDonald had golfed with first-day leader, and eventual winner, Kevin Piper in practice.
After seeing the St. Albert native’s play, McDonald knew he had to boost his own as Piper wasn’t going to let his slack.
“I golfed with him during the practice round, and he was a pretty solid player so I knew he wouldn’t blow it,” he said.
There was only one occasion where McDonald’s aggressive tactics backfired as he double-bogeyed the first hole.
“On the double bogey, I hit my drive and then I just nicked this tree and it went straight down,” he sighed.
McDonald did win some recognition at the event as the only player to birdie the feared ninth hole, garnering him a $50 gift certificate to Golf Town.
As well, he won a closest-to-the-pin contest on the second day.
“On No. 7, I had 189 on the pin. I took out my six-iron,” he recounted.
“The MJT president was right there, and that was the hole where it’s [a] closest-to-the-pin [contest].
“I had a nice, hard draw right to the hole and I put it to about six feet away,” he continued.
“I won the closest-to-the-pin, and ever since then my game just started getting better.”
McDonald admitted it was difficult to get practice time in leading up to the tournament, but improvised the best he could to get prepared.
“I couldn’t really practice because there was nowhere really to practice,” he noted.
“Every day I would grab some junk balls, go in the front yard, and hit them across the road, and then go in my basement and chip and putt.
“Before my round, I was hitting lots of balls, and then during my round, I started getting confidence, and then after the round I went back to the practice facility,” he continued.
“I practised about six-and-a-half hours that day just getting myself ready for that tournament.
“I had to get confidence and it’s hard to get that when you haven’t hit a ball in two months,” he reasoned.
With McDonald still having a year of eligibility, he plans to compete on the Maple Leaf tour again next year—and hopes to qualify for the national tournament once again.
He wrapped up by thanking friends and family for supporting him throughout the year.