COURTENAY, British Columbia—It wasn’t the most stress-filled day of Riley Wheeldon’s career. With a five-shot lead when the day began, Wheeldon played a clean front nine, with three birdies and six pars and eventually saw his advantage balloon to seven strokes before he finally settled on a five-shot win over China’s Yi Cao to capture medalist honors at PGA TOUR Canada’s seventh and final Qualifying Tournament.
Wheeldon was clearly the best player at Crowne Isle Resort and Club all week, opening with a pair of 67s and never looking back. He trailed by one after the first round but took control and played flawless golf on a course he grew up playing. Wheeldon joins six other medalists this season, with Cao, Jared du Toit, Max Sear, Andrew Harrison, Brendan MacDougall, Jimmy Jones, Austin Ryan and Marc Bourgeois all picked up exempt through the first half of PGA TOUR Canada’s Fortinet Cup schedule. An additional 22 earned conditional status.
“It’s definitely a great week, a storybook week for me. I played it off all week, but it means a lot to me to get back out here and prove that I can still play for people who maybe haven’t seen me play in a while,” said Wheeldon, who, like a lot of players, has been competitively idle due to the global pandemic. “I definitely appreciate all the support I had this week. I was just glad to play four solid rounds and basically choose my schedule this year.”
That will be the rub for Wheeldon now. With a job working at Desert Forest Golf Club in Carefree, Arizona, and with the ability to play a full PGA TOUR Canada season in the first year of the Fortinet Cup, leaves the 31-year-old with some decisions to make, especially after his tour de force performance the last four days.
“Coming into this week, I wasn’t planning on playing a full schedule. I was going to see how this went. I saw a lot of good things this week and was able to get full status,” he added. “We’ll see. I’ll have to have a couple of conversations with my bosses, my first boss being my wife and then the bosses at the club where I’ve been working.”
Whatever he decides, Wheeldon can always look back on what turned out to be an exceedingly enjoyable week. Particularly noteworthy was the way he dominated Crowne Isle’s four par-5s. He was 12-under on those holes, with 10 birdies and an eagle. He birdied No. 15 every day and had three birdies and the eagle on No. 1.
“I’ll basically see where I stand with everything, and if my game continues to feel good, I’ll be up here more than I thought I would,” he continued.