THUNDER BAY, Ontario – Set to compete in the Staal Foundation Open presented by Tbaytel for the fourth time beginning on Thursday, 2017 Newberry graduate Evan DeGrazia is hoping for the breakthrough that could jumpstart his professional career.
“If I can make the cut, it’ll look great to [potential sponsors],” remarked DeGrazia by phone two days before he tees off in Thursday’s final grouping. “If I finish in the top 20 it’ll get me into the next tournament. I’m trying to make the cut and get myself into next week.”
The tournament is the fifth of 12 on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada this season. DeGrazia will be playing as a professional for the first time, no longer needing to compete as an amateur for NCAA purposes after graduating in May.
Advancing into the weekend, something DeGrazia has yet to do in this event, will be a challenge, but DeGrazia has the advantage of experience. He has three previous Staal Foundation Open appearances under his belt and has played the course at the Whitewater Golf Club hundreds of times.
With the tournament taking place in his hometown on a course that he knows so well, DeGrazia isn’t concerned about nerves playing a factor.
“I’ll be nervous on the first shot,” he said, “but after that, it’ll just be, ‘Let’s play some golf.’ These guys are really good and I’ve got to be better.
“You don’t want to expect too much out of yourself but you want to improve on what you’ve been doing, not make any big numbers, stay out of trouble and make a few birdies, make the cut, and get to the top 20.”
The Thunder Bay, Ontario native has experienced pressure-packed events at Whitewater Golf Club before. He won a qualifying tournament for the Staal Foundation Open by shooting a one-under 71 on June 10, securing the only slot up for grabs by two strokes.
DeGrazia was a key member of Newberry’s men’s golf team this season, which tied its own record for the highest-ever finish by a South Atlantic Conference team at the NCAA Championships by tying for fifth nationally in late May.
"Evan is a great player," said Newberry head coach Howard Vroon. "He is highly skilled, very knowledgeable, and a very hard worker. This comes as no surprise to me. Our program is designed to train every player to be ready to compete at any level. Evan has taken full advantage of that during his time as a Newberry Wolf.
"We are very excited for this opportunity for him, and we can’t wait to watch this event, and his professional future, unfold. He was a very important part of everything our program accomplished while he was here."
He played every round for the Wolves all season, averaging 75.5 strokes per round and finishing fourth of 72 golfers at October’s Matt Dyas Invitational. At the NCAA Division II Men’s Golf Championships in May, he fired a seven-over 217 to tie for 23rd out of 108 competitors to help Newberry advance into match play.
Fans can follow along with live scoring of the event at this link. DeGrazia will tee off at 2:00 p.m. Thursday and 9:00 a.m. Friday.