KITCHENER — Wil Bateman is very much in pursuit of the PGA Tour Canada’s biggest prize.
The Edmonton native continued his run in the Player of the Year awards with a bogey-free round of 5-under 65 at Deer Ridge Golf Club on Friday. Bateman, the only Canadian with a shot at winning the points race of the season, is three shots behind leader Thomas Walsh of High Point, NC, entering Round 3 of the Fortinet Cup Championship.
“I’ve had a really good year and try not to put too much pressure on myself to move forward. I’m in a great place and that’s where you want to be so I’m looking forward to (the weekend) so just be patient and see what happens,” said the 29-year-old Bateman, who opened tournament Thursday with a straight par 70.
“I love the test (playing Deer Ridge); it reminds me of my home course in Arizona, Desert Forest. I play there a lot and it’s one of those places that you really can’t let go of all day. Up to 18 you have to hit tee shots and good shots, so I feel pretty comfortable here.”
Heading into Saturday’s third round, a whopping 13 players are chasing the Fortinet Cup, which goes to the season’s overall winner. In addition to Player of the Year honors, the champion will receive membership to the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour, a $25,000 bonus and a seat at next year’s RBC Canadian Open at Toronto’s Oakdale Golf and Country Club.
First place finisher at Deer Ridge will receive 600 points and a check for $40,500. Second place gets 330 points, third place gets 210.
Walsh bogeyed his last hole on Friday and scored his second straight round of 66 for a two-day 8-under 132 total and a one-shot lead over Scott Stevens (66-67) of Birmingham, Ala.
The two will play in the final group for the second straight game on Saturday and Walsh, who notched an eagle on the par 4 15th and came close to a hole-in-one on the par 3 16th, is pleased on it.
“It’s going to be a fun weekend. He’s a good guy to play with. He’s cool and relaxed. We’re having a lot of fun out there,” Walsh said.
“I think it’s good. I’ve built on that. I rode it phenomenally and felt just as good today (like the first lap). I didn’t iron it that well today, but from 150 yards and inside I wedged it really well .”
Étienne Papineau of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., is tied in third place and is the top Canadian after rounds of 69-65, two shots behind Walsh and one ahead of Bateman. Joey Savoie, also from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, is tied in 12th after shooting 69 for the second straight day.
Bateman started the tournament No. 2 overall, 40 points behind leader Jake Knapp, and is expected to return after Friday’s round, which saw two putts of about 8 feet to hold par remain in place. Stevens is expected to lead the standings while Knapp has shot rounds of 71-73 and is expected to finish 3rd.
Bateman missed a pair of putts from approximately 8 feet to preserve his bogey-free round and later credited his 16-year-old caddy Adam Cotter for being an asset in his first two rounds. Cotter is a student at Grand River Collegiate in Kitchener and works in the Deer Ridge bake shop and practice area.
“He’s played a lot of golf out here and knows his way around, so it’s nice to just get a few ideas from him,” Bateman said. “He was great.”
Cotter smiled when Bateman mentioned his name and said it was an “honor” to work for the well-travelled golfer, who turned pro in 2013 after attending San Diego State University.
“I’m a sponge this week, learning from him and trying my best to help. I know the pitch pretty well, I play here all the time and help when I can,” said Cotter.
“It was actually incredible to see him recovering from difficult shots and how he plays the course. It’s just unreal.”
Bateman won the PGA Tour Canada tournament in Edmonton earlier this year and became the first Canadian to win the PGA Tour Latinoamérica in 2015. He is a former Junior No. 1 in Canada and is poised to return to the Korn Ferry Tour, a circuit he played on in 2016.
Players placed second through five in the overall standings for the season will receive conditional status at the Korn Ferry Tour 2023, and players placed sixth through tenth will be able to skip all stages of the Korn Ferry Tour qualifying tournament and advance directly to the finals scheduled for Savannah, Georgia. in November. The top 60 players of the Fortinet Cup will all retain their gaming privileges for the 2023 PGA Tour Canada.