Former Tour regular Will Yanagisawa of Long Beach, Calif. erased a three-shot deficit with a final round 5-under 65 to take medallist honours at 8-under 272. New Zealands Nick Davey, another former Tour member, finished two strokes back while Americans Byron Smith and Ryan Camp, who shared the lead heading into the final round, came in at 5-under 275 at Belmont GC.
The lone Canadian to earn one of the seven full exempt cards was Billy Noon of Maple Ridge, BC, who ended up in a tie for fifth at minus-2.
Nine others, including Canadians Mike Mezei, Eddie Maunder, Chris Wood, Dan Roberts, Tim Wilson and Hasoi Koh, will have non-exempt status for the remainder of the 2005 season.
Those earning playing cards Friday will not have to travel far to get their first taste of Tour action. The Times Colonist Open will be held in Victoria beginning Thursday.
Yanagisawa was a member of Stanfords NCAA national championship squad in 1994, a team that also featured Notah Begay and Casey Martin. After playing with Tiger Woods in their senior seasons at Stanford the following year, Begay and Yanagisawa both came north and earned Canadian Tour playing privileges. In the past few years, Yanagisawa has taken his swings in Asia and spent time as a teacher.
Nearly a decade later, he has, in a way, come home.
Im happy to be back, it feels great, said a relieved Yanagisawa, who has played in a pair of events this season on sponsors exemptions. Coming back to the Canadian Tour seemed like a natural choice. I always wanted to come back and play here.
Starting the day three back of Camp and Smith, Yanagisawa turned at 2-under and began to make his move by chipping in for birdie on the par-4 13th. He then birdied 16 and 17 and, playing one group in front of the leaders, watched as his 65 held up for a two-shot win.
When the leader (Smith) came back to the rest of us (Thursday), I knew I had a chance. Playing a Q-school is the same process as a regular event. You want to execute your shots and not worry about what anyone else is doing. After the birdie on 13, I knew if I could get a couple more coming in I could put some heat on those guys.
Noon, who failed to keep his card in his rookie campaign a year ago, gave a couple back late in the day when, looking to move a couple of pegs up the leaderboard, he bogeyed his last two holes and settled for a share of fifth.
I didnt really keep it together today, said Noon. Coming in, I knew I had a card in my pocket and I took a couple of chances late.
In the summer of 2003, Noon won an employee showdown at Swan-e-set Bay Resort to earn a berth in the Greater Vancouver Classic, where he eventually finished in a tie for 12th with Tour champions Mario Tiziani and Brad Sutterfield. Two months later, Noon was in Whitby, Ont., earning full-time status on the Canadian Tour at Fall Qualifying.
His first season is something Noon doesnt care to remember.
You cant get too frustrated with your rookie season, admitted Noon. You have to learn from it. I struggled last year and put up too many big numbers. I feel more comfortable this time around.
As he prepared to make the ferry ride to Victoria, Yanagisawa was itching to get back to playing full-time.
Its right down the road, so to speak, so its nice not to have to travel, he said. There are a lot of perks on this Tour this summer, and someone has to go get them. Im excited about getting out there next week.