KITCHENER, Ontario—Ryan Gerard first stepped foot on Deer Ridge Golf Club on Monday, and he proceeded to play the back nine, getting his first look at the site of the Fortinet Cup Championship, PGA TOUR Canada’s season-ending event.
Gerard, one of 58 players in this week’s field, is currently No. 5 in the Fortinet Cup standings. It’s at Deer Ridge where he will write the final chapter to his 2022 PGA TOUR Canada season. He liked what he saw during his first practice round and was still impressed Tuesday when made his way around Deer Ridge again, playing it for a second time, especially the holes he didn’t get to Monday.
“From what I can see, this course reminds me a little of Olympia Fields, outside Chicago,” he said of the club that has hosted four major championships as well as the 2015 U.S. Amateur. “Deer Ridge is a little wider off the tee, but the green complexes are similar with how small they are, how sloped they are and with the grass and the way the fairways roll. It has that feel of a Chicago-style golf course.”
The Thomas McBroom design, consistently listed among the top 50 golf courses in Canada by any number of publications and rating services, will play as a par-70 this week, with the first and 18th holes, par-5s for Deer Ridge’s members, reduced to par-4s for the Fortinet Cup Championship.
“It definitely feels like a real, PGA TOUR-level golf course, with how the rough is set up and a couple of really long par-4s. The first and 18th holes are tipped out at 495-yard par-4s, so you definitely have to hit it far,” said Jacob Solomon, No. 36 in the Fortinet Cup standings. “There are also some gettable holes, where you can make a bunch of birdies, so it’s going to be a good test.”
Gerard is No. 5 in the Fortinet Cup standings and in solid position to move to the 2023 Korn Ferry Tour if he can at least maintain his current position. He completely understands everything that is riding on this week as Deer Ridge hosts PGA TOUR Canada players for the first time.
“The golf course is different this week, but I don’t think my goals are any different,” Gerard stated. “I think there is going to be more of a premium on well-struck golf shots here, which is what you want for a Tour championship.”
Solomon played his Monday practice round in steady rain and then saw a dried-out course Tuesday when he toured it again. He’ll get one more look at Deer Ridge in Wednesday’s pro-am before the tournament gets underway Thursday. With limited rain forecast, a dry 72 holes is the hope.
“By the end of the week, I think it could be a lot firmer and faster. Even [Monday] with the rain, [balls] were still bouncing out, and 9-irons were bouncing out 10 or 15 feet, so it looks like the course holds up pretty well even with some water,” Solomon concluded.
Eric Lilleboe arrived at Deer Ridge a day early and played his first practice round Sunday. He loves what he’s seen and acknowledged it’s the kind of course he expected to culminate the PGA TOUR Canada season.
“I think it’s a great golf course, a great Tour championship golf course. It’s exactly what everybody was hoping for because it’s going to separate guys quickly,” said Lilleboe, No. 26 in the standings. “You can’t really fake it out here. You can’t be missing nine fairways a day and shoot under par here. You just can’t do it.”
While recognizing the fairway rough will be an issue, Lilleboe seemed more concerned about what he saw as he examined the grass surrounding Deer Ridge’s greens.
“The rough around the greens is laying in a lot of different directions, it’s pretty long and you’re going to be pretty lucky to get a decent lie if you just miss the green by a couple of yards,” Lilleboe added.
The Okemos, Michigan, native is looking forward to seeing how his season concludes, knowing one thing for sure: He’ll conduct his business on a Canadian beauty.
“What they did with one and 18, putting even more of an emphasis on hitting the fairway and getting the ball on the green, is mission accomplished. It’s a pretty big golf course but taking two (par-)5s and turning them into 4s, it becomes a very big golf course, a course that could hold any Tour event at any level.”