It's uncharted territory

TODD SAELHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

If it's home sweet home wanted by Calgary stars on the Canadian Tour, they won't find it over the next four days at Sirocco Golf Club.

In just its fifth year on the golf landscape, the links-style course situated just south of the city is unfamiliar territory to all but a few of the 156 golfers competing in the $150,000 ATB Financial Classic, the circuit's seventh stop on the 2009 schedule.

"Hometown but kinda not a hometown advantage," said Calgarian and CanTour star Wes Heffernan of the event, which begins today at Sirocco.

"Honestly ... I know absolutely nothing about the course," Heffernan continued. "I didn't even know how to get here (for practice rounds). I had to use Google Maps on the way here."

He's not alone.

Even though the 2009 ATB Financial Classic will boast 17 players calling Southern Alberta home, only local club professionals, who spend most of the summer in the area, can attest to how the course will challenge the players over 72 holes.

The area's full-time CanTour stars -- including Ryan Yip, Todd Halpen and Stuart Anderson -- knew little about the 7,185-yard course heading into this week.

"It's funny," said Heffernan, during his first scouting trip of Sirocco 10 days ago. "At the last event in Vancouver, I had about 50 guys ask me every day what's this course like. I had to tell them, 'I haven't played it.'

"But I've heard really good things about it. Everyone that's played it says it's tough off the tee, so you have to drive it straight off the tee. Whenever you have to drive it straight off the tee, it makes for a better tournament."

Perhaps among those swinging for this week's top prize, the only true testament of the Pine Creek Valley track comes from Sirocco's own Tim Sawatzky, who gained a sponsor's exemption into the event as the host club's CPGA professional.

"There can be more teeth than last year's event at Cottonwood" said Sawatzky, who played in what was a low-scoring 2008 ATB Financial Classic. "If the wind comes up here, the weather will dictate what kind of scores end up happening. I still think guys will shoot 16- to 20-under. There's going to be guys that shoot 63, 64, 65 ...

"But if the weather is lousy, you're going to see some 65s, 66s, 67s and 68s creep in there. Maybe even some 69s and 70s.

"And the last four holes will dictate how low the guys go, too. The last four holes, when the wind's up, she wears you down. From No. 15 on, bogeys are easy to find."

It'll also be a tough week from the tee.

The natural hazards of the course, especially the deep fescue that lines the fairways, make for a true test.

"There are some hard driving holes in places," agreed CanTour executive deputy director Dan Halldorson. "And if it gets windy, it's going to be tough. The players are going to have to do their homework on the practice rounds.

"But none of our players have played it, so we don't know what to expect scoring-wise."

What could make a difference compared to last year's lowball scores at Cottonwood is the added length of Sirocco, says Sawatzky. Where the host track last year played about 6,900 yards, Sirocco weighs in at 200 to 300 yards longer.

"But after they play their practice rounds (yesterday), they'll know where to hit it," Sawatzky added. "And these guys, they're no slouches when it comes to hitting the ball. They'll put it in spots where they need to, so it'll come down to putting the way it normally does."


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