Chilliwack native Connor McLellan is heading for the experience of a lifetime, traveling to Southern California for a prestigious junior golf tournament.
The 17-year-old will tee off at the Callaway World Junior Golf Championships, taking place July 15-19 at one of North America’s most famous courses.
McLellan will tackle Torrey Pines in La Holla, CA, annual site of the PGA Tour Farmers Insurance Open.
It’s also the course where Tiger Woods, severely hobbled by a bad knee, famously beat Rocco Mediate in a sudden-death playoff at the 2008 US Open.
“That’s the one where Tiger won on one leg,” McLellan said. “It’s going to be cool being on that course that I’ve watched on TV and knowing all the people who’ve played and won there. Playing some of the holes Tiger birdied is going to be pretty cool.”
McLellan is in select company at this tournament.
He played in a spring-break qualifier in Squamish, one of six or seven that the Canadian Junior Golf Association held across the country.
He shot rounds of 69 and 71 on the par-72 layout at Squamish Valley Golf and Country Club, finishing three shots off the lead.
“I was beating the other kid with seven or eight holes to play, and I was right in there until the last holes.” McLellan recalled. “I didn’t blow up. He just out-played me in the last stretch. That kid is going to the University of Washington next year, so he’s pretty good.”
McLellan’s score was good enough to put him near the top of the heap in the 15-17 year old boys division.
Out of 100+ golfers who played in those CJGA qualifiers, he was in the top six.
“I’m pretty proud of myself,” he said. “This is going to be the biggest tournament I’ve ever played in.”
McLellan will get onto Torrey Pines for two or three practice rounds before teeing off for real.
“I’m looking forward to the 18th hole, a par-five over water that has been disastrous for some PGA guys in terms of holding leads and losing,” he said. “At one tournament, someone made nine (four over par) to lose by one stroke. The other hole I’m looking forward to is the third, which is a tough par three over the ocean.”
McLellan has two goals heading into the tournament, which has been won in years past by Woods, Phil Mickelson, Corey Pavin and Craig Stadler.
There is a cut after three days that pares the field from 140 to 60. He’ll look to survive that cut, then focus on a top-10 finish.
“The last couple years I’ve had big goals and dreams, and I’m starting to accomplish some of the goals,” McLellan said. “I think if I play well here, it will be a stepping stone for my confidence for the rest of the season and playing in other big tournaments.”