Kimberley native Jared du Toit is wasting no time making a name for himself on the PGA Tour stage.
Competing in his first ever PGA Tour event at the RBC Canadian Open — thanks to a tournament exemption — du Toit fired a 5-under 67 on opening day at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont., to stake out a share of second place Thursday afternoon.
The 21-year-old Arizona State University (ASU) star sits one stroke back of Seattle product Luke List, who is alone atop the 156-player leaderboard at 6-under par (as of ~2:20 p.m. Mountain time).
“I think my start maybe surprised me a bit, there are definitely some birdie holes out there but I was birdieing a couple holes that are kind of tougher around here,” du Toit told Golf Canada Thursday afternoon.
“I fought hard all day and then finished up with a couple nice ones.”
Tied with du Toit in second place are 29-year-old Chesson Hadley (Raleigh, N.C.) and 27-year-old Kelly Kraft (Denton, Texas). Hot on their heels are longtime PGA pros Brandt Snedeker, Brendon de Jonge, Cameron Tringle and Jerry Kelly, who share a hold of sixth place at 4-under par.
Du Toit splashed his scorecard with blue on the front nine, securing four birdies offset by only one double-bogey to hit the turn at 2-under. After keeping a clean card on on the back nine, the Sun Devils’ phenom made his move on the final two holes of the day.
“I was pretty disappointed with myself for not birdieing 16 there,” du Toit said. “I followed that up with a very poor drive on 17.”
Facing a 436-yard par-four 17th, du Toit hit a 283-yard tee shot in the left side fairway bunker, leaving himself with a difficult 155-yard shot out of the sand to get to the green in regulation.
Long fairway bunker shots can provide a challenge even for the most experienced professionals, but du Toit made it look easy, firing a 155-yard dagger from the beach, holing out for eagle to move to 4-under par.
“My caddy gave me a good yardage and I hit a good shot,” du Toit said. “It came out just how I wanted. I didn’t even know it went it. Someone by the green yelled, ‘It’s in!’ It was awesome.”
With momentum on his side and the clubhouse in sight, du Toit crushed a 368-yard drive — his longest of the day — off the tee at the 524-yard 18th, setting himself up with a chance to score.
After sticking his second shot, du Toit was left with a lengthy putt for eagle, ultimately leaving it just shy before tapping in for birdie to finish his day with a 5-under 67.
“It’s the first time I’ve had to sign autographs after a round, so that was awesome,” du Toit said with a smile. “It’s definitely a lot of fun. It’s definitely in the top-three rounds I’ve played in my career — just in terms of feeling wise, atmosphere.
Second-round play at the RBC Canadian Open is slated to begin Friday morning, with du Toit teeing off at 12:25 p.m. (Mountain) alongside Andrew Landry and Garrett Rank.
Other notable Canadians at the PGA Tour event include Adam Hadwin (even, T47), Graham DeLaet (1-over, T66 after nine holes), David Hearn (2-over, T96) and Mike Weir (6-over, T148).
Du Toit, who is a member of the Canadian National Amateur Squad, was also joined at the prestigious event by two of his Team Canada teammates — Hugo Bernard (9-over, 154th) of Mont St-Hilaire, Que., and Blair Hamilton (5-over, T145) of Burlington, Ont.
The RBC Canadian Open is the third-oldest national golf championship in the world, behind only The Open Championship and U.S. Open.
First played in 1904, the RBC Canadian Open has seen a host of phenomenal names grace its greens, with Jason Day having won the event in 2015. After 18 holes of play Thursday, Day was 3-under and in a share for ninth.
The par-72 Glen Abbey Golf Club stretches 7,253 yards from the championship tees. This year marks the 28th time the elite club has hosted the RBC Canadian Open.
The 2016 RBC Canadian Open features a prize purse of $5.9 million USD, with the winner taking home $1.062 million USD.
Doug Sanders (1956) is the only amateur in history to win the RBC Canadian Championship, claiming the title at Beaconsfield Golf Club in Pointe Claire, Que.
Only four Canadians have ever won the RBC Canadian Open, with Pat Fletcher (1954) being the most recent. Charles Murray (1906 and 1911), Albert Murray (1908 and 1913) and Karl Keffer (1909 and 1914) are the only other Canadians to have won the national title.
The summer of 2016 continues to be one to remember for du Toit, who won the 2016 Glencoe Invitational in Calgary after finishing third at the Monroe Invitational in Pittsford, N.Y.
In his first year of action with the Sun Devil’s NCAA golf program, du Toit secured a top-five finish at the NCAA New Mexico Regional Championship along with four other top-10 finishes throughout the season, helping ASU to its seventh regional title in program history.
— Golf Canada (@TheGolfCanada) July 21, 2016