Calgary golfers Keck, Love teeing off at Tour Q-School
Calgary’s Craig Keck certainly hasn’t been slacking on his studies.
The 27-year-old was among the first birdie-seekers to arrive at Carlton Oaks Country Club near San Diego, site of this week’s Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada QSchool.
On Friday, four days before the start of the four-round card-quest, Keck spent eight hours walking the course — and charting his course — with his caddy.
“The biggest thing that eases my mind is a good game plan,” Keck said. “If we can get a great idea of how to beat this golf course better than everybody else, then I love putting in the time. I think the time is the most important thing to winning the golf tournament. That’s the thing that can give you a leg up on the other competitors, because we all know how to swing a golf club and we all know how to putt.
“The only difference between everybody is how well you can manage your stress and how much homework you did.”
Keck is one of three golfers from the Wild Rose Province in the 132-player field this week at Carlton Oaks, a list that also includes Calgary’s James Love — the winner of the 2015 Alberta Open at Carnmoney — and Matthew Whittaker of Lethbridge.
A relative unknown even on the local golf scene, Keck also teed it up at a Mackenzie Tour qualifier last spring but didn’t earn a passing grade.
“I did the same amount of homework last year, but I was a bit more raw of a player,” Keck said. “Mechanically, I wasn’t as good as I am this year. And I was struggling with some mental demons last year. I would let stress pretty much take over my entire golf game, but we were able to work through that.
“I believe that at the end of last year and this year, I feel like I belong a lot better than I did. I don’t feel like there’s too many people out there that can beat me anymore.” Love knows that he belongs. The 32-year-old has nearly a decade of professional experience under his soft-spikes, including a triumph at the 2009 Canadian Tour Championship. He was three shots better than his close buddy, Graham DeLaet, that week.
Love has been limited to only 10 starts on the Mackenzie Tour over the past two summers, but he proved with an emotional victory at the 2015 Alberta Open — his father and biggest fan, Rod, died less than eight months earlier — that he is fully recovered from a nagging neck injury and can still make birdies in bunches.
“Obviously I haven’t played my best to have to be at Q-School, but I just want to get back out there and have a full schedule,” Love said. “I’ve gone through a lot over the past few years, and I know if I can just get the opportunity to prove myself for a full year and get myself into a rhythm and play a lot of events ... I’ve always been more of a rhythm golfer, where if I’m playing four weeks in a row, I always seem to play really well in the last couple, but I just haven’t had that opportunity.
“So I’d love to get through this next week and have an opportunity to play really well in June, July, August and September.”
The medallist at Carlton Oaks will secure a full card for the upcoming season, while the next 15 finishers will be exempt through the first re-shuffle and the rest of the top-40 will settle for conditional status.
“I’m super excited,” Keck said. “The last three weeks, I’m starting to peak right at the right time — mentally, physically and mechanically. That relieves a lot of negativity and puts a lot of positives my way. I just feel like I can go out there and swing the club and let it happen.”
The fourth and final Mackenzie Tour Q-School is slated for May 3-6 at Crown Isle Resort on Vancouver Island. Calgary’s Mitchell Fox, Zejun Ni and Scott Stiles are all on the tee-sheet for that entrance exam.