Vernon’s Conner Kozak (right), a pro at the Okanagan Golf Club in Kelowna, gets a congratulatory hug from fellow Vernonite, former junior playing partner and competitor Brady Stead of Abbotsford’s Ledgeview Golf Club, after Kozak’s first PGA of BC title. Kozak shot 10-under-par over 36 holes to win the Assistants’ Championship at the Kamloops Golf and Country Club. (PGA of BC photo)

Vernon’s Conner Kozak (right), a pro at the Okanagan Golf Club in Kelowna, gets a congratulatory hug from fellow Vernonite, former junior playing partner and competitor Brady Stead of Abbotsford’s Ledgeview Golf Club, after Kozak’s first PGA of BC title. Kozak shot 10-under-par over 36 holes to win the Assistants’ Championship at the Kamloops Golf and Country Club. (PGA of BC photo)

Okanagan golfers collect PGA of BC wins

Conner Kozak and Rob Anderson take home top honours at Assistants’/Seniors’ championships, respectively

Back-to-back 67s propelled Vernon’s Conner Kozak to the PGA of BC Assistants’ Championship at the immaculate Kamloops Golf and Country Club Monday and Tuesday, July 19 and 20.

Kozak, a teaching pro at Kelowna’s Okanagan Golf Club, finished at 10-under par 134, two shots ahead of Keith Martin of Kelowna’s Tower Ranch Golf Club and Zach Olson of the Chilliwack Golf Club to claim the $3,000 first-place cheque.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Kozak said of winning his first PGA of BC title. “I didn’t really think that this was an option coming into the week. I haven’t golfed a ton (this year) so I’m just as surprised as anyone else is. It’s awesome and it’s a great feeling.”

Tuesday’s final round was wide open for much of the day, with 10 players within two shots of the lead at one point early on the back nine. Starting on Kamloops Golf and Country Club’s 10th hole both days, Kozak had played his first 28 holes of the 36-hole championship without a bogey before suffering setbacks at his 11th and 13th holes Tuesday. He bounced back in a big way with birdies at the 14th and 15th before adding another on the par-5 18th.

“I knew there was going to be a point where there might be a little bit of adversity,” said Kozak. “At that point, you’ve just gotta keep on doing what you’ve been doing and get after it as best you can. I was really happy with the way I responded after a couple of bogeys on the back nine and closed out really, really well.”

Tuesday’s final round was only Kozak’s eighth time playing golf in any setting in 2021, as the 28-year-old’s schedule is mostly consumed with teaching juniors at The Okanagan Golf Club – efforts that earned him the PGA of BC’s Jack McLaughlin Junior Golf Leader of the Year Award in 2019.

“I’d been playing well in the rounds that I had played, which was nice,” said Kozak, whose previous best finish in a PGA of BC event was a tie for third in the 2018 Assistants’ Championship at Bear Mountain Golf Resort. “My goal was just to give myself as many opportunities as I could and keep it really simple, which I think I did a good job of.”

Kozak’s longtime friend, former Vernon junior playing mate and competitor Brady Stead, a pro at Abbotsford’s Ledgeview Golf Club, finished in a tie for seventh at 5-under following rounds of 68 and 71. Stead earned $575. Among those in at 5-under was Ethan Danish of Gallagher’s Canyon in Kelowna.

Cody Bell from Kelowna’s Sunset Ranch was in a four-way tie for 11th place at 4-under 140, good for a $390 cheque. Lionel Taylor of Chase’s Talking Rock Golf Course won $295 for finishing in a tie for 16th place at 1-under (73-70). Finlay Young and Ryan Sturgis, both of GolfTEC Kelowna, tied for 23rd at 2-over-par. Each earned a $215 payday.

Austin Bosquet of Vernon’s Hillview Golf Course won $180 for ending up in a tie for 27th with a 3-over total of 147 (74-73).

Clay Stothers of the Okanagan Golf Club was out of the money at 6-over 150 (74-76). Clubmate Steven Coulthard finished at 8-over 152. Jake Pilon of Gallagher’s Canyon shot rounds of 74-82 and Matt Hardman of Sunset Ranch came in at 13-over (78-79). Brody St-Martin of Shuswap National had rounds of 85-83 and Jeff Liddle from Talking Rock fired rounds of 87-83.

Kelowna’s Rob Anderson, head pro at the Kelowna Golf and Country Club, won the PGA of BC Seniors’ Championship, making four birdies over his last six holes to secure a five-stroke victory over Peter Kenneford of Creston. Playing the event for PGA of BC Professionals aged 50 and older for the first time, Anderson took home $1,400 and will have his name etched on the Ben Colk Trophy.

“It feels very good to finally post a good round. I haven’t played a lot of great golf so far this year, so it was nerve-wracking and fun to be out here,” said Anderson.

Keith Vandenbrink of the Vernon Golf and Country Club finished tied for eighth at 3-over par (75-72). Vandenbrink pocketed $232.50.

Shuswap Lake Golf Course at Blind Bay pro Brian O’Keefe finished out of the cash in 21st place at 13-over (78-79).

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