Mackenzie-Tour(1)Valuable experience on the Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass propelled Dalton Ward and amateur Jorge Garcia into a share of the first-round lead at the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada’s third Qualifying Tournament.

Both players carded a 7-under 65 Tuesday, one shot clear of Alfredo Garcia-Heredia and five others in a tie for fourth.

“I’ve had some success here at this course before,” said Ward. “I did good last year in the qualifier here. I’m comfortable here. There’s trouble on pretty much every hole, but as long as you can just stick to it and hit the fairways, you’ll have good looks at birdie. It’s kind of a short course, but really tight.”

Ward, a native of Sumter, SC, earned conditional status on the same course last year after finishing fifth, three shots behind winner Dawson Armstrong. He went on to make 11 starts on the Mackenzie Tour in 2018, highlighted by a T17 at the GolfBC Championship.

Garcia, meanwhile, has estimated that Tuesday was his ninth career round on the Dye’s Valley Course. Before transferring to Barry University, he played in a pair of tournaments here with the University of Florida and also competed in the Junior Players Championship.

That familiarity has paid off, so far.

“I picked this place because I’ve played well out here before,” said Garcia. “I really like golf courses where you know what you’re going to get. You know the greens and fairways and stuff like that. knowing that is why I picked this week.”

Eight Canadians help comprise the 119-man field, and Austin James leads the way after the first round. The Bath, ON, native, who played at Charleston Southern University, birdied four of his last five holes to end up T9.

How the Tournament Works

There are 120 players competing this week with hopes of earning Mackenzie Tour membership for the 2019 season. Below is a breakdown of the status available at each of the six Qualifying Tournaments:

FinishPosition Status
Medalist Exempt for the 2019 season
2nd through 14th Fully exempt for the first six tournaments and subject to the re-shuffle
15th through 40th (plus ties) Conditionally exempt

-Chris Cox, Mackenzie Tour