Whistler will welcome some of the Lower Mainland's top golfers as the Sotheby's Whistler Open Golf Championship is set to come to Nicklaus North Golf Course for the fourth time.
The 36-hole tournament will run next Tuesday and Wednesday, May 29 and 30, and serves as one of the Vancouver Golf Tour's (VGT) major tournaments for the season.
One golfer who will take on the challenge is Kevin Stinson, a two-time VGT Srixon/Cleveland Order of Merit overall champion, including last season. With a small lead on James Allenby on this year's chart, Stinson hopes to win the event for the first time.
"Points are doubled in all the majors, so if you can play well in those bigger events, it really helps toward your Order of Merit," he said. "(Topping the Order of Merit) is the goal at the beginning of the year. It shows consistency, and you've got to be consistent throughout the whole year and continue to have good finishes."
Though he's only played the course three times, Stinson said he always enjoys coming up to take on Nicklaus North.
"Nicklaus North is always a treat to come up and play," Stinson said. "It's a great test. It's a strong golf course. It gives you a little bit of ring off the tee and it's challenging into the greens. That's the kind of style I like to play and I think a lot of guys like going up there and having that experience on a championship golf course."
Stinson noted the higher elevation forces the competitors to adjust their approaches slightly as golf balls fly a little bit further in slightly thinner air. It's especially pronounced for him as a self-professed "valley boy," as he was raised on lower courses like those in Chilliwack and Abbotsford's Ledgeview Golf and Country Club.
"The ball tends to stay in the air a little bit longer, which is fun. You get to see the long ball really fly," he said.
Another major part of Stinson's strategy is to survive the first hole, where golfers can find themselves falling behind early if they're not careful.
"The first hole is a pretty tough little peek-out where you've got houses down the right and trees down the left. You just want to get off to a good start and keep it in play," he said. "It opens up a little bit after that."
Stinson noted the event will serve as a warmup for the national Mackenzie Tour's Freedom 55 Financial Open at Point Grey Golf and Country Club starting May 31.
"It's going to be a quick turnaround, but I'm looking forward to it," he said.
The Whistler Open starts at noon on May 29 and at 8 a.m. on May 30. In addition to Stinson and Allenby, former Web.com Tour competitor Riley Wheeldon is also confirmed to tee off next week.
Local professionals who are set to take part are Andrew Smart and Shiro Nakajima of the host club, as well as Fairmont Chateau Whistler's Padraic O'Rourke and Jordan Rourke.
For more information, visit vancouvergolftour.com/event/whistler-open.