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Jones, Dinsmore tied for lead through 36 at Crown Isle

Jimmy Jones Jimmy Jones - PGA TOUR Canada

COURTENAY, British Columbia—There’s something about Crown Isle Resort and Golf Club that truly appeals to Jimmy Jones’ eye, not to mention Callum McNeill’s steely view.

Maybe it’s the fact that Jones’ legendary mom, Canadian Golf Hall of Famer Dawn Coe-Jones, hailed two hours south of here, in Lake Cowichan, that brings it all together for the Tampa-born golfer, who is following in his departed mom’s footsteps.

Jones, now 27, and McNeill, 29, both caught fire in round two of the sixth and final PGA TOUR Canada Qualifying Tournament for the 2023 Fortinet Cup.

Jones is tied for the lead at 9-under with Tyson Dinsmore, who was a co-leader after his first-round 66 and turned in a 3-under 69 on day two.

Jones upped his game with a 9-under 63 as one of the early rounds Wednesday before McNeill trotted his way in with a course-record, 12-under 60 to sit another shot back, at 136.

The three will play together in Thursday’s third round in the field of 116 players remaining. All are attempting to earn one of 10 playing spots for the Tour, which begins in earnest next week, at the Royal Beach Victoria Open in the provincial capital of Victoria.

Jones, who tied for seventh at the Crown Isle Q-School last year, is picking up right where he left off. He was nine strokes better in the second round than his opening offering.

“We scored well today, made a few putts, key putts,” said Jones, who gave a lot of credit to his caddie Mark Valliere. “Made an eagle on 10 that kept the train rolling. The putter was hot today, I’d say ‘el fuego,’ but you’re going to need that to shoot a score like that. Everything came together, I just happened to keep my mind on straight and kept plugging.”

He did so in a big way, learning from past performances since turning pro in 2018. He has played in 19 Tour events, making the cut in nine, so he realizes he must get better and has challenged himself.

“It’s all a learning curve. Every round you can pick something that you can learn from. Every time you get a chance to step on a tee and it matters, you can pick something from learning. These last two years, having a schedule, learning how to travel, learning how to live on the road and pinch a dime down—that’s where that self-belief comes in. I’ve done it before, and nothing says I can’t do it again,” said Jones. He’s worked on the mental side of the game and it’s prepared him for what’s to come.

Of course, playing on Vancouver Island—the birthplace of his mom, who passed away from cancer in 2016—makes him that much more at home. He still calls Lake Cowichan one of his homes.

“I’ve been coming here since I was 12 or 13 years old. I played a B.C. Junior out here in 2011 or 2012, and I think (now PGA TOUR pro Adam) Svensson won that one. My caddie, Mark, has shot 60 and 61 around this place, and he has some good insight and I’m sure I had some good reads today from him,” the very personable Jones said of Crown Isle.

“It’s comfort. I know the holes, it’s a nice fader’s course for a guy who likes to drive it left to right. It’s a nice, comfortable environment here. A course I know I can play well on; I have in the past. Actually, the first time I ever broke 80 was here, probably in 2009, eighth-grade-ish. First time in a tournament, I think I went 74 breaking 80 for the first time. It’s just a level of comfort here and it takes some self-belief after that.”

It’s opposite for McNeill, who had conditional Korn Ferry Tour status last season and is in Canada for the first time. The Hawick, Scotland, resident—born in Edinburgh—now resides in Houston, where he was a student of the Hal Sutton Academy.

McNeill went from an opening-round 76 to the 60.

“I’ve never been close to a 59 watch, but it was exciting the last four or five holes, knowing you’ve got a chance. You just have to keep your foot down,” said McNeill. “Especially after (Tuesday). I really struggled; just never felt comfortable and made some bad swings.

“This place is in great shape, but it’s tight, so there are certain shots if you’re not comfortable and don’t know where the ball is going it’s going to make you feel really nervy. It was nice to go out there and just play solid. I hit it close all day, didn’t do anything spectacular.”

He also credited his caddie Alan Dack, a Crown Isle member.

“I spoke to Alan before and said, ‘Let’s just try to hit 18 fairways and 18 greens and take it from there.’ I know I’m putting good right now, so it’s a case of get on the green as quick as possible and see what happens.”

The 60 is a personal best by three shots for McNeill, who has the words Vincere Vel Mori written on his leather score case. It’s a heraldic motto that translates to “Victory or Death.” He’d certainly take the former.

“It’s the McNeill clan motto,” said the Houston resident since 2013.

He and Jones both kept their foot on the gas all day.

McNeill recorded 30s on his front and back nines with identical six-birdie performances. Jones was 4-under at the turn then eagled No. 10 and birdied 11, 15 and 16 on his way to a personal-best 63.

“I’ve been playing a lot of golf at home with members, giving some strokes, so that puts you in the mentality of, ‘I have to make a birdie, or this guy is going to go 4 for 3 on me and I’m going to lose the hole,’” said Jones.

“Mark and I just kept playing the game of just getting one more birdie. One more look, one more fairway and tick it off, step by step. When you know where you’re at, you can get a little guidey out there, which is something I’ve learned from in the past.

“You can get into uncomfortable spots sometimes,” he added, “but coming down the stretch I made a great par putt on 17 from about eight feet and got right back on the horse, telling myself we’ve got 15 more minutes of work here, two more swings and keeping the pedal down.”

The same went for McNeill.

“I said to Alan on the third fairway, ‘Let’s just try and go 1-under every three holes and reset.’ But with what happened (Tuesday, with his 76), I knew with it being a little quirky and tight, you’ve got to stay fully committed. You can’t take your foot off the gas,” he said.

He recorded two turkey-trots—three birdies in a row—from holes 5 to 7 and 13 to 15, and it was the latter that gave him a crack at 59.

“I said to Alan that we need two (birdies) in the last three holes (for a 59), but I felt really calm the whole time, which is strange probably because of preparation and confidence coming in,” he said.

He rounded it out with two pars to miss the magical 59 mark, but he also lipped out for eagle on his very first hole or that would have written another story.

As for Dinsmore, the Los Altos Hills, California, native, who played at Southern Methodist University, has been Mr. Consistency, following his first-round 66 with a 69. The 18-hole co-leader, along with fellow American Carr Vernon, is in a great position.

Asked if someone would have told him he’d be tied for the lead halfway through, Dinsmore replied, chuckling: “I would have been pretty shocked, pretty surprised, but I wouldn’t have any complaints.”

Dinsmore admitted he had “no real goal,” coming into the qualifying school. “Just make good swings and keep it in play. If you do, you’re going to have chances.”

The quiet, unassuming 23-year-old actually was the solo leader, at 11-under, after 11 holes, but he ran into a string of bogeys at Nos. 3, 7 and 8. He bounced back with a birdie on 9, his last hole of the day as he started his round on the easier back nine.

“I had it going pretty good for a while,” said Dinsmore, who was 3-under 33 on his first nine.

Canadian Max Sear recorded a 3-under 69 to go with his opening 67 to sit tied for third at 136 with McNeill and fellow Canadian Lawren Rowe a shot back in fifth after rounds of 70-67. Sear does play out of Royal Colwood in Victoria and Rowe is a former University of Victoria Vike.