Reed On The Greens: Tyson Tour Eyes Strong 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reed On The Greens July 24, 2020
Tyson Tour Targets Strong Comeback In 2021

by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioGolf.com

When the Junior Tyson Tour cancelled its 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 17-year-old Ben Landers of London said he was shocked and sad.

But as a testament to his maturity, the 2019 Tyson Tour overall champion said he felt just as badly for his golf buddies who also compete on Canada’s longest-running junior loop. And he said he felt sad for Jillian Friyia, who last year captured her record-tying third-straight Tyson Tour Girls overall title and was gunning for a record fourth-straight title.

But if there’s one thing about junior golfers that you can bank on, it’s that they’re resilient. And when you have the talent and mental toughness of young Landers, you find another way to succeed on the links.

“When the Tour announced (on May 19) that it was cancelling the season, I was really upset,” said the Medway Cowboys senior high schooler who is eyeing a U.S. college scholarship. “I mean, playing on the Tyson Tour is what I’ve done for the past few summers. I play in other events on other tours, but my summers have mainly focused on the Tyson Tour.”

2019 Junior Tyson Tour overall champion Ben Landers. Photo: Jeffrey Reed/LondonOntarioGolf.com.

With the pandemic gripping society this spring, Tyson Tour director Steve Bennett made the announcement that the 1968-established Tour would sit out the 2020 season. It was the only decision to make.

“The Tyson Tour committee is heartbroken over its decision, but the well-being of our junior golfers is our only concern at this time,” Bennett said in May. “Tournaments, from junior golf to the PGA Tour, have been cancelled around the globe, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Logistics for tournament golf are unclear at best at present, so the committee will now focus on delivering the 2021 season.

“For more than half a century, the Junior Tyson Tour has provided junior golfers in Southwestern Ontario with an opportunity to compete in a tournament setting, while learning life’s lessons through golf,” Bennett added. “We are the oldest tour in Canada with organized competitive golf for kids. It’s a grassroots development to get kids introduced to competitive golf.”

For junior golfers like Landers, filling the 2020 golf season comes with new physical distancing rules, but it also comes with other new challenges – mostly challenging themselves. Golfers are like that. And for Landers, it has meant working hard on the finer points of his game while maintaining his focus.

“I’ve played even more this summer, almost every single day. I feel like I’ve been more consistent this year. I’ve posted some really low scores and have a +5 handicap at my home course (The Oaks Golf Club in Delaware),” he said.

On Father’s Day at The Oaks, Landers posted an 8-under 64 which included seven birdies and an eagle, while his father, Paul, was 1-under for the day. On another occasion, while golfing with his junior golf buddies at The Oaks, he posted a 7-under 65 – he was 7 under after nine holes.

Next Monday and Tuesday, the 2020 Les Thomas Memorial Tournament – the only two-day event on the Tyson Tour schedule – was set for Thames Valley and Fanshawe golf clubs, but no more.

First staged in 1981, the two-round Les Thomas tourney is named in honour of the former Golf Ontario director and commissioner of London’s Public Utilities Commission in the 1970s. Thomas was a big backer of junior golf in London and area.

Thames Valley’s Kevin Frehner, 19, captured the 2019 Les Thomas overall title, while Landers finished second but was crowned Junior Boys champ.

But this summer, when he’s not playing almost daily at The Oaks or working with his swing coach, Len Foran, Landers is building on his 2019 season when he captured nine tournament wins. Those included TVRA Central and WOSSAA high school individual titles, and a win at the CJGA’s FireRock Golf Club (Komoka) U19 event,

Landers, as are a handful of other local juniors, is competing in a few Maple Leaf Junior Golf Tour events. Next week, from July 27-30, he’s in the field at Golf Ontario’s Ontario Junior (U19) Boys’ championship at Saugeen Golf Club in Southampton. Landers recently finished second in a tourney qualifier at Cambridge Golf Club.

Two weeks later, from August 11-14, he’ll compete in the Ontario Men’s Amateur championship at Otter Creek Golf Club in Otterville. Landers finished eighth in a qualifier at Tangle Creek Golf and Country Club.

2019 Junior Tyson Tour Junior Girls champion Jillian Friyia. Photo: Jeffrey Reed/LondonOntarioGolf.com.

Friyia, 16, who also works with Foran, is coming back nicely after suffering a concussion early last fall and is filling her golf schedule while seeing her handicap index sit at +1.6. She has a win and a tie for first place on the Jamieson Junior Tour, and is gearing up for Golf Ontario’s August 4-7 Ontario Women’s Amateur championship at Dalewood Golf Club in Cobourg, and August 18-21 Ontario Junior (U19) Girls’ championship at Shelburne Golf Club.

Like all loops that are staging events, the GAO has strict policies and procedures in place. Landers said he feels 100-per-cent safe competing during the pandemic.

“If there is any sport that is safe today, it’s golf. At events, we’re wearing masks when we go inside anywhere at a golf course. (GAO) is doing a great job,” he said.

This year was to mark the Tyson Tour’s 53rd consecutive season. In 1968, former London Free Press sports writer, Bev Tyrrell, established the Tour which borrows its name from the Ty in Tyrrell, and the son part from his twin boys, Tim and Tom. When Tyrrell left for Winnipeg in 1978, he handed the Tyson Tour reigns to retired, long-time Thames Valley head professional Fred Kern. He operated the tour until 2009. Andy Shaw, now manager and director of operations at head pro at Tarandowah Golfers Club, was convenor before Bennett took over in 2016.

Ten events were scheduled for this year, launching with the July 6 Ingersoll Open, and finishing with the Tyson Tour Invitational championship at Sunningdale Golf and Country Club on August 26.

A trio of Pee Wee introductory events were scheduled for July and August, but those were cancelled, too.

Landers, with two straight Tyson Tour Juvenile Boys overall titles in 2017-18 prior to last year’s overall title, will be back to make history in 2021. So will Friyia, who can win a record fourth-straight Girls title.

Said Bennett, “We’ll all get through this together, and we’ll come back even stronger in 2021.”

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Jeffrey Reed has covered the game of golf for print, broadcast and new media since 1980. A three-time writing award winner with the Golf Journalists Association of Canada – and only back-to-back winner of its Best Website Feature Column award – Reed is author of the 2018 book, The Canadian Seniors’ Golf Association, Celebrating 100 Years of Seniors Golf 1918-2018. Reach him at jeff@londonontariogolf.com.

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A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989.