Thursday, May 6, 2021

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9 to Watch this Week

The Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada took a one-week break last week after conducting three consecutive Qualifying Tournaments, with two in Florida and one in Alabama. During the short hiatus, staff moved 2,000 miles west, with the Tour taking up residence in California this week for the first of two Qualifying Tournaments in the Western U.S. Soboba Springs Golf Course hosts 108 players who are all vying for status on the 2021 Tour, which returns to action in early June after a one-year absence to due the COVID-19 pandemic. The 72-hole tournament begins Tuesday, March 23. Here are nine players to keep an eye on this week. 

Shintaro Ban (United States)

At the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Ban won three tournaments during his final year as a Rebel, in 2018, and was one of the nation’s top amateurs, reaching as high as ninth on the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He turned pro and joined the Mackenzie Tour for the 2019 season but didn’t retain his playing privileges. Ban regained his membership for 2020 at the Qualifying Tournament but didn’t play due to the pandemic. He has also seen action in five PGA TOUR tournaments, his best finish a 72nd-place showing at the 2019 Mayakoba Classic. 

Grant Booth (Australia)

The former captain of the New South Wales Junior State team played college golf at the University of Nevada in Reno, where he was an All-Mountain West Conference first-team selection. He set a single-season scoring average for the Wolfpack then bettered that mark during his senior year, with a 70.61 stroke average. He received an exemption in the 2018 Barracuda Championship in Reno and made the most of his opportunity, making the cut and tying for 64th. 

Blake Cannon (United States)

Cannon last held PGA TOUR-affiliated Tour membership in 2019 when he played on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica, appearing in six tournaments and positing quite an unusual season. He missed five of six cuts, but in his lone made cut, he contended at the Puerto Plata Open in the Dominican Republic, eventually tying for fifth with four par-or-better scores at Playa Dorada Golf Course. That season, he also made the cut at the Korn Ferry Tour’s Pinnacle Bank Championship, tying for 30th. 

Rak Cho (South Korea)

The former Oregon Duck played in the inaugural PGA TOUR Series-China season in 2014 and added two more full campaigns in China. He played in 11 tournaments in 2015, with three top-10s, including a runner-up finish. Cho had another close call in 2016, making 12 starts and closing the year with four consecutive top-10s to finish 13th on the Order of Merit. One of those top-10s was also a second-place showing, at the season-ending Buick Open in Guangzhou. He joined three others, a stroke behind champion, China’s Huilin Zhang.  

Jeffrey Kang (United States)

Kang played one full season on PGA TOUR Series-China and half of another. He won the season-opening tournament, the 2018 Chengdu Championship, and made another run at victory in Macau, shooting three 67s to tie for third. He eventually finished the 2018 campaign on the Order of Merit. Besides 11 starts on the 2016 Mackenzie Tour, Kang also has made cuts on the Korn Ferry Tour and Japan Golf Tour. 

Norman Xiong (United States)

The celebrated consensus All-American from the University of Oregon has nine PGA TOUR starts under his belt, including a tie for 26th at the 2018 Sanderson Farms Championship. Among his four individual victories during his senior year, three came in succession—the last in the streak the Annual Western Intercollegiate where he shared top honors with current PGA TOUR player Colin Morikawa and Korn Ferry Tour and Mackenzie Tour alum George Cunningham. 

Mitchell Schow (United States)

Earned conditional PGA TOUR Latinoamerica status for the 2020 season, shooting a 66 in the final round of the Qualifying Tournament in Mexico. With that season delayed due to the pandemic, he returned to the University of Utah for his senior year then took advantage of an additional year the NCAA granted college athletes. Schow had a great stretch in his native Utah in the summer of 2020, winning the Utah State Amateur, the world’s oldest continuously running event and earning a top-10 in his state open. 

Peter Kuest (United States)

During his final two seasons at BYU, he won seven tournaments, including three during his senior year. He reached as high as No. 39 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, and since turning pro he has made six PGA TOUR starts, his best finish a 65th-place showing at the Barracuda Championship in his native California. He also won the 2020 Utah Open by a whopping seven strokes, coming up short of former Mackenzie Tour player Patrick Fishburn’s record-setting nine-stroke margin in 2017. 

Yung Hua Liu (Chinese Taipei)

Liu played college golf at the National Taiwan Sport University, graduating in 2019. That same year, at China’s Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, home to the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions, he shot rounds of 68-71-69-71 to finish at 9-under, one shot out of the Yuxin Lin-Takumi Kanaya playoff that Lin won that earned him a Masters Tournament invitation. Still an amateur, this week will be Liu’s first start in any PGA TOUR-affiliated Tour event.

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