Yorkton’s Johnson earns third straight top ten finish
By his own admission, the 2021 season has been a strange one for Ange-Gardien, Que.’s Raoul Menard.
The 29-year-old has spent most of the year based out of Florida and competing in Monday qualifiers for PGA Tour, Korn Ferry Tour and Forme Tour competitions before making his way up to the Elk Ridge Resort this week to compete in the Mackenzie Tour’s Elk Ridge Open.
“I hadn’t played a three or four-round tournament in a while so I was really curious as to how this week was going to go,” Menard said.
The decision to travel to Saskatchewan turned out to be a great one as Menard captured his first Mackenzie Tour title with a total score of nine-under-par for the 54-hole event to defeat Toronto’s Sebastian Szirmak by four shots.
“I’ve been working hard for a while now and I’m really happy to have had a week like this and cap it off with a win,” Menard said. “I’m looking forward to the future already as I’ll be heading out to Calgary for next week’s event with the tour and then going to the Korn Ferry Tour qualifying event in West Palm Beach, Fla. after that.”
While Menard had a five-shot advantage going into Saturday’s final round, he bogeyed three of the first four holes, which allowed Szirmak to close the gap down to two strokes.
Menard returned to form however on the back-nine as he birdied the par-five 10th hole to regain a three-shot edge and also birdied the par-five 16th and par-four 18th to finish the event with a nice one-under-par round of 69.
“I got off to a slow start and I just told myself to keep up with the game plan and be patient,” Menard said. “That approach worked as I found my rhythm and achieve my goal of finishing off the tournament with an under-par round.
“I wasn’t trying to pay too much attention to what was going on with the other golfers, but that’s always in the back of your mind. With that said, I know that I really had to focus on what I was doing and not what the other guys in my group or the guys in front of me were doing.”
Although Menard’s previous competitive golf experience in Saskatchewan was during a junior event at the Riverside Country Club in Saskatoon several years ago, he was able to use a recent experience in his home province to his advantage at Elk Ridge.
“I was able to play at a course called Owl’s Head (which is located in Mansonville, Que.) and it is very similar to here,” Menard said. “It’s hilly and in the woods and you have to hit straight as you can’t go too far to the left or the right.
“I also like to walk the course before I play any practice rounds and I was able to do that as soon as I got here. I think that really helped me as I was able to see the subtleties of the course and where I needed to hit the ball.”
Travis Fredborg of Selkirk, Man. and Franklin Huang of Poway, Calif. were in a tie for third place and ended up five shots behind Menard, while Meridian, Idaho’s Taeksoo Kim and Yorkton’s Kade Johnson came in fifth place.
Johnson’s result was his best to date on the Mackenzie Tour circuit and his third top ten result in as many events since he turned pro last month.
“This has been a pretty surreal experience,” Johnson said after birding the last three holes of the day received a huge round of applause from the crowd in the process. “I’ve never had this many people cheer me on or support me before.
“This just shows how much everyone in the province loves local sports and it means a lot to me to be part of a number of Saskatchewan guys that were close to the top of the leaderboard this week.”
The other Saskatchewan golfers that made the cut this week were Brennan Rumancik of Swift Current (tied for 32nd), Jerry Christiansen of La Ronge (tied for 36th), Josh Nagy of Saskatoon (tied for 40th), Tayden Wallin of Humboldt (tied for 40th), Clint Schiller of Lloydminster (tied for 43rd) and Alex Swinnerton of Saskatoon (tied for 53rd).
The Mackenzie Tour is slated to return to Waskesiu for the second Elk Ridge Open from June 20-26, 2022.