“I want to pursue my dream.”

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The recruitment letters and calls just kept coming for Jeevan Sihota of Gorge Vale Golf Club. It was a dizzying array of more than 60 offers, from most of the biggest-name NCAA Div. 1 sports programs in the US, all who coveted landing the most heavily recruited graduating Grade 12 Canadian golfer in several years.

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Sihota turned them all down and will instead begin his quest for the PGA Tour by turning pro immediately on the PGA Tour Canada, beginning with the hometown Royal Beach Victoria Open presented by the Times Colonist from June 2-5 at Uplands Golf Club. Sihota is also playing in the PGA Tour Canada qualifying tournament, beginning today at Crown Isle in Courtenay, but has been granted a sponsor’s exemption into the 2022 season-opening Tour event at Uplands.

Sihota’s move is surprising a lot of people, including family members and others around him, who strongly urged him to take one of the many NCAA offers he received for a fully paid four-year post-secondary education worth close to, or into, the six figures. But Sihota took his high schooling online, to better build his life around golf, and the ivy-clad buildings, campus life, cheerleaders and football and basketball games mean nothing to him.

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“I received a lot of NCAA offers, for sure, but none of that [campus atmosphere] stuff matters to me,” said Sihota, a member of the Canadian junior national team.

His way. The quickest way into the pros is by joining the pros. The potential rewards this year include a full-season exemption into the 2023 Korn Kerry Tour for the 2022 PGA Tour Canada Fortinet Cup season champion with other selected 2023 Korn Ferry Tour exemptions for the top-five finishers in the Fortinet Cup season standings. The Korn Ferry Tour is one step away from the PGA Tour. The top-two season finishers, and top Canadians, on the PGA Tour Canada will also earn exemptions into the PGA Tour’s 2023 RBC Canadian Open.

A total of 54 PGA Tour Canada alumni have advanced to play on the PGA Tour since 2013 with 16 PGA Tour victories between them. More than 300 PGA Tour Canada alumni have gone onto play on the Korn Ferry Tour since 2013 with 49 victories between them.

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But there is no guarantee all this will happen overnight for an 18-year-old pro rookie, who could end up spending more than one season on the PGA Tour Canada. Even a prodigy like Sihota, who made a spectacular debut last year as an amateur on the PGA Tour Canada by placing in the top-six in two of his first three pro tournaments, including tied for a second in the Victoria Open at Uplands where he was followed by a large gallery.

Whether it’s a quick ascension from the minor-pro tours to the big time, or a several-years slog, Sihota said: “I am prepared for both scenarios. If it doesn’t go my way right away, I have many years ahead of me to make improvements. I am taking it just one step at a time.”

Crown Isle this week is the seventh and final PGA Tour Canada qualifying tournament to complete the 2022 player roster. There are 99 entrants for the Crown Isle qualifier, with 60 of them Canadians, including Island golfers Sihota, Zach Anderson, Riley Wheeldon, Dallas Jones, Maxwell Sear and Lachlan Tisma, along with other notables Derek Gillespie, Jared du Toit and Jimmy Jones.

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“Crown Isle is a good track and a fair test,” said Sihota.

“It is narrow and precise and not necessarily for the bombers. You have to keep it in the fairway and limit mistakes.”

The six previous medalists in this qualifying tournament season are Alex Herrmann and Austin Hitt from the two Florida tournaments, amateur Jacob Bridgeman from the Alabama tournament, Max Marsico from the Arizona qualifier, Jake Vincent from the California qualifier and Taylor Funk from last week on The Home Course in Tacoma, Washington.

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