Toronto's Choi leads Can Am championship

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:24 PM ET

LONDON - Albin Choi was successful avoiding one challenge Saturday. Sunday he'll have a more substantial one to overcome.

The 18-year-old from Toronto is leading the Canadian Men's Amateur Championship, shooting a four-under par 68 Saturday to take a one-stroke lead into the final round.

He leads North Vancouver's Eugene Wong by one shot. Wong had the best round of the day at the London Hunt and Country Club, shooting five-under 67.

It was a tenuous lead for Choi. After coming off a birdie at 18 to take that lead, Choi and his group of Jeff Clarridge of Barrie and Marc-Etienne Bussieres of Gatineau, Quebec, were told they were in danger of being penalized a stroke for slow play.

The group appealed and no penalty was given, but it created the only tension Choi showed all day.

RCGA rules committee chair Dean Ryan said Choi's threesome was warned after the fourth and 13th holes for slow play. What saved them from a penalty stroke was the fact they got back on time and were then delayed by extenuating circumstances out of their control, including two ball searches.

Even without the penalty though, when a golfer is warned he is on the clock, it can affect his game.

"It's the final group and you're trying to save every shot," Choi said. "When you running in-between shots, you are rushed in taking your shot and it can cause you to hit a few bad ones and miss some. You have to stay focused ... pre-shot routine, everything should be the same."

Part of that routine includes carrying his own bag. Some golfers in this tournament use caddies and others pull carts.

Choi carried his bag until the 14th when his group was issued its second warning.

Jerry Snowden, a volunteer at the tournament who played with Choi earlier this week, offered to carry his bag the rest of the way and Choi accepted the offer.

"I'll have to carry my bag through college tournaments, although had someone help me out the last few holes because of speed of play," Choi said. "Hopefully he will help me out (Sunday) because we had some good shots."

Snowden says indeed he will be on the bag for what promises to be a battle of young guns on Sunday.

Choi has won several CN Future Links tournaments.

Wong, 19, is at the University of Oregon and won the NCAA's Jack Nicklaus Award, the equivalent of football's Heisman Trophy.

While they are busy watching each other, they'd better keep an eye on two-time defending champion Cam Burke from New Hamburg. Burke came back from a bad front-nine to shoot two-under. He's at six-under overall, five back to Choi and tied with Lion Kim of Ann Arbor.

"I've never played Albin in a competition but we've played together," Wong said. "I just have to play like I did (Saturday). I played bogey free. I played solid, didn't get into too much trouble. When I did, I was able to get up and down."

Watching the two young stars go at it in the same group will prove interesting. Neither gave any sign of the nerves one would expect them to show being in the hunt for a national championship.

"This is Canada's national event to see my name on that trophy would mean a lot to me but there is still 18 holes to go, still too early to say anything but I will play my best tomorrow, Choi said. I treat every tournament the same. No tournament is more important than the other. Treat it the same way as I treat a provincial tournament or junior tournament.

Players may have to contend with bad weather Sunday. The forecast has caused organizers to change tee times. Groups will start on both No. 1 and No. 10. The final group will tee off on No. 1 at 9:31 a.m.

Not even bad weather seemed to trouble the golfers.

Ill just bring my rain gear, Wong laughed.


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