With five wins and three runner-up finishes

With five wins and three runner-up finishes

Taylor’s time: Abbotsford golfer appears poised for breakthrough

Nick Taylor has absolutely dominated the Vancouver Golf Tour, registering five wins and three runner-up finishes.

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When Nick Taylor turned pro in 2010 following a spectacular amateur career, Canadian golf fans may have anticipated a quick ascension to the PGA Tour.

The Abbotsford youngster had, after all, had claimed the No. 1 spot in the Royal and Ancient’s world amateur rankings in 2009, and he’d won the Ben Hogan Award as the NCAA’s top male golfer in 2010.

But the reality is, golf is a fickle sport and the pro game is a grind. As such, the link between potential and success is rarely a case of immediate gratification.

“There’s such a high number of people trying to make it to the PGA Tour, it’s harder than people understand,” noted Fraser Mulholland, commissioner of the Vancouver Golf Tour. “The guys that are that good will eventually get there, just not necessarily in their first or second years.”

In the early going of his third full season as a pro, Taylor is showing signs he’s poised to take a major step forward.

The 25-year-old has absolutely dominated the Vancouver Golf Tour, a local developmental circuit. Taylor reeled off five victories in a row in one stretch, and also had three runner-up finishes where he fell in a playoff.

Last week at the Saputo Vancouver Open, the tour’s flagship event, Taylor finished at 14 under par through three rounds, only to fall in a three-man playoff which saw South Carolina’s Chris Epperson emerge victorious.

In all, he collected over $24,000 in VGT winnings this spring, plus a $3,500 bonus for finishing atop the order of merit in the six-tournament major series.

His scoring stats have been even more impressive. In 14 rounds during the VGT majors, he finished a total of 72 under par – an average of 5.14 strokes under par per round, with a scoring average of 66.4.

“I don’t care where you’re winning – if you’re winning or coming close, you’re obviously going to be gaining confidence in whatever you’re doing,” Taylor acknowledged.

“This week I made some putts, but each round could have been at least a couple lower if I made some putts I have been making.”

The way Taylor separated himself from the pack on the VGT was impressive, but Mulholland said it’s hardly a surprise.

“We all kind of figured he would be doing this,” he said. “It’s just sort of taken him maybe a little bit longer than guys would have expected after his amateur career. I just think he’s back on track with where people thought he would get to, and it’s just incredible to see him get there.”

Taylor now aims to continue his VGT momentum as the PGA Tour Canada schedule heats up. This is his third year on the circuit, formerly known as the Canadian Tour, and he turned in a solid performance in 2012, finishing 11th on the order of merit with a trio of top-10 finishes.

He’s got bigger dreams this season, though, after a host of sweeping changes to the tour.

With the PGA Tour now overseeing things – hence the name change – the circuit will now award its order of merit champ with fully exempt status on the second-tier Web.com Tour. The second- through fifth-place finishers will receive highly placed status on the Web.com Tour, while sixth through 10th place will advance directly to the final stage of Web.com qualifying school in the fall.

Having a clearly defined path of tour progression – from PGA Tour Canada to the Web.com Tour to the PGA Tour – is a departure from the process in years past, when Q-School was the primary means of advancement.

Taylor, who failed to make it through Q-School in three attempts, believes the new system is better-suited to his strengths.

“You can move up to the next level by playing well for a season, where before it was essentially one event at a time (at Q-School),” he explained. “You had to play well in October and November, and if you weren’t playing quite well enough, you had to wait another year, which sucks.

“I like having more events (to decide things). I feel I’m more of a consistent player, where over time my results will come. When this (new format) came out, I was pretty pumped.”

Taylor attributes his recent hot streak to his putting. He’s had a good vibe on the greens since playing an NGA Pro Golf Tour event in South Carolina back in April.

“In the second round, I actually started to click,” he said. “I ended up missing the cut by one, but I was starting to make some putts. My putting has been really solid since then.

“It’s kind of a feeling, just a small thing that I can’t really describe,” he added. “When I haven’t been hitting it great, I’ve been able to salvage rounds with my putter. When I’m hitting it well, I’ve been able to shoot some low scores.”

Taylor got his PGA Tour Canada campaign off to a solid start with a T4 finish at the season-opening Times Colonist Island Savings Open in Victoria two weeks ago. The second event, the ATB Financial Classic at Country Hills Golf Club in Calgary, runs this week.