This week is turning into a pretty momentous time for Kimberley’s Jared du Toit.
Prior to first-round action at the 113th B.C. Amateur Golf Championship, it was revealed du Toit had been granted his release from the golf program with the University of Idaho Vandals in order to sign with the Arizona State University (ASU) Sun Devils and renowned coach Tim Mickelson, brother of PGA Tour star Phil Mickelson.
If that news wasn’t exciting enough for the former Selkirk Secondary School student, he carded an opening-round score of 68 (four-under par) at Fairview Mountain Golf Club in Oliver to launch his name to the top of the leaderboard at the 113th B.C. Amateur Golf Championship.
“ASU has always been a dream school of mine,” du Toit said over the phone from Oliver on Tuesday.
“The whole [Mickelson] family…in the blood there, they’ve got a lot of golf experience. If I can take advantage of all the opportunities down there — they’ve got so much golf knowledge down there — hopefully I can better my game and take it to the next level.”
The Sun Devils men’s golf program has a long and successful history, with 20 NCAA conference championships to its name, along with six NCAA regional championships and two NCAA Division I Championships.
Notable alumni of the program include Phil Mickelson, Paul Casey, Bob Gilder and Billy Mayfair.
Head coach Tim Mickelson was named the Pac-12 Conference Men’s Golf Coach of the Year in 2015, his fourth year with ASU.
In addition to its deep list of alumni, ASU boasts a deep active roster, including the world’s top-ranked men’s amateur golfer, Jon Rahm-Rodriguez.
“The team is pretty deep,” du Toit said. “Qualifying for that team won’t be an easy guarantee. There’s going to be competition left, right and centre.
“It’s going to be exciting. When I do load up for that first event, there’s going to be a lot of excitement.”
du Toit is ranked 162nd in the world men’s amateur golf rankings as of this week. Within Canada, the Kimberley native is ranked fourth on the men’s amateur list.
He spent two seasons with the Vandals and though he’s excited to join the Sun Devils’ program, leaving the University of Idaho wasn’t an easy decision.
“I’ve got a lot of good friends on and off the golf team,” du Toit said. “It’s definitely going to be tough not going down there in September. But when one door shuts, another one opens.”
In celebration of his transfer to one of the NCAA’s most prestigious golf programs, du Toit walked through an open door at Fairview Mountain Golf Club on Tuesday afternoon, firing a first-round score of 68.
“A lot of ups and downs today,” du Toit said. “It was a pretty big struggle on the front nine and then on the back nine things started coming around. I’ll take that into tomorrow.”
The freshly-minted Sun Devil dropped back-to-back eagles on the 11th and 12th holes en route to a sparkling six-under 30 on the back nine at Fairview Mountain.
On the 540-yard, par-five No. 11, du Toit hit a long iron to the green with his second shot before draining the putt for an all-too-easy eagle.
On the 365-yard, par-four No. 12, the feat wasn’t quite as simple.
“They had the tees up, but I still needed driver to get there,” du Toit said. “I hit the nicest shot I’ve hit in a while — this high, soft-landing driver — I hit it to eight feet and was fortunate enough to make that putt.”
The back-to-back eagles jump-started du Toit, who had opened his round with a two-over 38 on the front nine, including a nasty double-bogey on the 544-yard, par-five fifth hole.
From there, du Toit rounded out his day with back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17, which helped vault him to the top of the leaderboard as of print deadline on Tuesday afternoon.
At the end of the day, du Toit came into the clubhouse with two eagles, three birdies, 11 pars, one bogey and one double.
“They’ve got it set up pretty easy, I think,” du Toit said. “They had the tees up today and a lot of the pins were pretty open. The scoring average…will be pretty low.
“Later on in the week, you’ll definitely see some low numbers…When the wind gets up it plays tougher, but there wasn’t much wind today.
“If you keep the blood off the card, you’ll definitely have your chances to make birdies and if you’re lucky, make some eagles. Play pretty smart and I think you can eat this place up.”
With a number of competitors still on the course as of print deadline Tuesday, du Toit found himself sharing a tie for the lead with Ian Kim of Vancouver’s Hazelmere Country Club.
Second-round action gets underway Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. (Mountain), with du Toit slated to tee off at 2:50 p.m. (Mountain).
du Toit isn’t the only East Kootenay local in competition at the 113th B.C. Amateur Golf Championship.
His younger brother, Russell, carded a four-over par 76 to sit tied for 37th.
Hailing from the Creston Golf Club, Karson O’Keefe fired an even-par 72 and is tied for 12th on opening day.
Scott Merriam, of the Cranbrook Golf Club, scored a first-round 78 (six-over) and remains tied for 48th after 18 holes.
Bryan Smithson, the only other representative from the Creston Golf Club, came into the clubhouse at eight-over (80) and tied for 61st.
Justin Sawley, of the Kimberley Golf Club, registered a 10-over 82 and sits tied for 67th.
Jacob Bowes, of Trickle Creek Golf Resort, pencilled in an 11-over 83 and is tied for 72nd heading into day two.
All scores and rankings are as of print deadline Tuesday. Approximately half the field was still on the course as of 5 p.m. (Mountain).