Thunderbirds Bickell, Lafayette Top Leaderboard After First Round of B.C. Amateur Championship

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf •  ABBOTSFORD (July 9, 2024) — They are college teammates and good friends, but Mackenzie Bickell and Hudson LaFayette are always trying to beat one another. Nothing has changed now that school is out for the summer.

The two University of B.C. players set the stage for what they hope could be a battle of the ‘Birds at the 122nd playing of the B.C. Amateur Championship at Ledgeview Golf Course in Abbotsford Bickell (shown above) fired the low round of the day, a six-under 64, and LaFayette is just one shot back, alone in second place.

“We battle a lot, so it’s not like I am not used to trying to catch up to him,” said LaFayette. “He’s pretty good.”

Bickell, a Richmond native, seemed surprised when told in the scorer’s tent that he had shot 64. “I thought it was a par 72 and I knew I wasn’t eight-under today,” he said with a laugh.

“It was a good day, I started off well with a birdie on No. 1 and kind of kept it going until the seventh hole. I hit it to within 15 feet, gave it a run for birdie and lipped out. Then I missed a three-footer. I think that brought me back to two-under and kind of killed the early momentum. But I tried to stay in the present and kept it going.”

Bickell and LaFayette are among five Thunderbirds playing at Ledgeview. The UBC men capped off their season by winning the Canadian University Championship this spring in Sudbury, Ont., where Dylan MacDonald also won the individual title.

Bickell, who captains the UBC team, had a nice start to his summer when he finished second in the amateur division at last month’s Glencoe Invitational in Calgary. “I have been feeling really good about the game, but at the same time I have been working on some pretty big swing changes, so it has been a little uncomfortable the last week or two. But when I get to a tournament I just forget about those changes and just try to hit the golf ball. I was hitting it okay today.”

That hiccup on No. 7 was the only bogey on Bickell’s card. He sunk a 12-footer for par on the par 5 18th after chunking a couple of chip shots from in close.

Hudson LaFayette Sits Alone In Second After A 5-under 65 - Image Credit Bryan Outram/BC Golf

Like Bickell, LaFayette is heading into his senior year at UBC. “I hit a lot of wedges pretty close, so I didn’t have to worry about the putter, which is usually my enemy,” said LaFayette, a North Vancouver native.“Other than that, I kind of figured out a feel for my driver that I like, so I kind of trust it. I just had fun out there with the guys.”

LaFayette knows Ledgeview quite well. “In my first year of school, I actually went to University of the Fraser Valley, so I frequented this place. They have always got the greens going and it’s always fun.” As a left-hander who can’t hit a draw, LaFayette said he’s handcuffed on a couple of holes at Ledgeview.

“On hole 9 and 18 I just kind of take my medicine,” he said. “On 9 I hit a 5-iron off the tee and I think every other person in the field is probably hitting driver. You just have to course manage your way around this place because it can get you.”

Alex Walker of Chilliwackand James Fahy of Vancouver share third after both shooting 66. “I was coming off a tough weekend,” said the 26-year-old Walker, who is a former junior member at Ledgeview. “I played in the Chilliwack Open and shot 76 and 79. I did not see this coming today.”

Fahy, a 32-year-old Vancouver investment adviser, hadn’t played Ledgeview in a long time. “I was hitting the ball well and the swing felt good,” said Fahy. “I didn’t try to do too much with the greens as small as they are. I just tried to play it safe. I think the last time I played here I was about 12.”

At just under 6,200 yards, Ledgeview is shorter than lot of the tournament courses many players in the field compete on. Defending B.C. Amateur champion Cooper Humphreys of Vernon just retuned from playing the Mickelson Invitational in Calgary — where he was low amateur — and noted that it was set up at about 7,500 yards.

“It’s a big adjustment, especially given that these greens are fair bit slower,” he said. “At Mickelson, they were probably running at 12. They were quick. It was a lot more wide open than this place. A lot less trees.”

Defending Champion Cooper Humphreys Is 3 Back After An Opening 67 - BC Golf Photo

Humphreys, who won last year’s championship at Morningstar in Parksville by six shots, opened with a three-under 67. “I feel okay with it,” he said of his round. “I didn’t feel awesome out there, but I kind of scrambled around and shot a number. That was kind of the plan, not shoot myself out of it and just post a number in the first round and see how it goes.”

Humphreys, who is heading to the University of San Diego later this summer to begin his collegiate golf career, said he’s been thinking about about defending his championship. “I am just a little more excited than normal,” he said. “I want to defend.”

Maxim McKenzie of Chilliwack, Andy Robb of Vancouver, Ethan Posthumus of Coquitlam and Matthew Wilson of Nanaimo also fired three-under 67s.

Click HERE for complete first round scoring.

CHIP SHOTS: The field will be cut to the low 70 and ties following Wednesday’s second round. . .Christina Lake’s Austin Krahn, who won last week’s B.C. Junior Boys Championship at Gallagher’s Canyon Golf & Country Club in Kelowna, opened with an even-par 70.