As usual, the anticipation of a home boy winning actually winning the RBC Canadian Open, was high as Thursday’s first round approached at Glen Abbey and Calgary’s Stephen Ames put it all in perspective.
“The odds are pretty stacked against us of that happening. It makes things difficult, to some extent, but at the same time, we have what we call the 15th club in our bag, with the crowd behind us, cheering us on, which is a good thing,” said Ames, adding it’s a feeling that’s prevalent inside and outside the ropes.
“I guess it would be like winning a major, wouldn’t it, to some extent? I can imagine it, yeah. They’d have me busy in Calgary. It would be unbelievable,” said Ames, who would be an odds-on favourite to be the Canadian who accomplishes that elusive goal, along with Mike Weir.
Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., wouldn’t have such favourable odds in his bid to become the first Canadian to win the national open since 1954, but he doesn’t let that get in his way.
“I come here with pretty high expectations of myself,” he said. “I might not win, but that’s what I’m playing for this week and it would be great to win see a Canadian win the championship.”
Whether that happens this week remains to be seen, but DeLaet, 27, is one of the rising Canadians serving notice that the future is suddenly looking bright.
DeLaet has been somewhat overshadowed by Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., and Matt Hill of Bright’s Grove, Ont., two amateurs ranked first and second in the recent world rankings.
“It’s really good to see Matt and Nick being ranked number one and two in the world as amateurs. It’s phenomenal for golf in this country. I’ve seen some of the scores they’re shooting and some of the tournaments they’re winning and it’s extremely impressive,” said DeLaet.
Taylor, the low amateur at this year’s U.S. Open, and Hill, the 2009 NCAA champ, have rightfully deserved the headlines they’ve received, but DeLaet is also causing similar fireworks in the professional ranks.
“It’s cool to see him playing so well, coming in here,” said Taylor.
Hill is also aware of DeLaet’s accomplishments. “I heard he played great at the World Cup and played really well in South Africa. He’s been pretty phenomenal,” said Hill.
DeLaet has been on a tear since last year when he won the Canadian Tour’s Desjardins Montreal Open in a playoff before representing Canada at the World Cup where he and Calgary’s Wes Heffernan tied for 14th.
Earlier this year, DeLaet continued his hot hand and tied for second on two occasions in South Africa.
“I shot 64 or lower three times while I was down there. When you shoot low numbers like that, you really start to believe in your abilities,” said DeLaet.
“We had a bit of a break for a couple of months from February until we got back to the Canadian swing and I just kind of picked up right where I left off,” said DeLaet, who finished second at the Canadian Tour’s City of Surrey Invitational in early June.
That one took some pressure off DeLaet.
“It was nice to get a little bit of money and not worry about it. On the Canadian Tour, it can be difficult because, if you miss two or three cuts in a row, you start thinking about it,” he said.
DeLaet can breathe even easier as he won two of his next three tournaments, including the ATB Financial Classic in Calgary and the Canadian Tour Players Cup last weekend in Winnipeg. Those victories sandwiched a tie for third at the Telus Edmonton Open.
“I’m playing with a lot of confidence and I’ve just been on a little bit of a roll,” said DeLaet, who is writing a regular blog on www.cpga.com.
“I can’t really explain it. I’ve always had the ability. I think I’ve shown flashes of it the first couple of years that I was a pro. I’m playing well and when you expect to play well, you tend to play better,” said DeLaet.
DeLaet is expecting that renewed confidence to carry over into PGA and European Q-Schools this year and he says he will likely return to South Africa later this year to play at least in one more event so he can continue playing there.
The immediate goal starts Thursday when he tees off for his national championship and, no matter what happens at Glen Abbey over the next four days, DeLaet sees an interesting future for Canadians and the number of PGA Tour players from this country should soon swell.
“We have enough Canadian guys that we should be represented on the PGA Tour and we just haven’t got them out there yet,” he said.
“I think it’s going to happen within the next few years. You’re going to see a lot more Canadian flags next to guy’s names on the leaderboards out there.”