Pack of young Canadians poised to bust out

Canadian Nick Taylor holds up his ball after a par putt on the 18th hole during the first round of...

Canadian Nick Taylor holds up his ball after a par putt on the 18th hole during the first round of the 2009 U.S. Open. Taylor, along with fellow Canadian Matt Hill, are on the cusp of breaking through following stellar collegiate careers. (REUTERS)

IAN HUTCHINSON, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:47 PM ET

If you need a reason to keep an eye on developing Canadians, Matt Hill of Brights Grove and Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., are providing it on the Canadian Tour.

Hill, who won the 2009 NCAA title, was locked in a playoff battle with Victoria’s Cory Renfrew at the Syncrude Boreal Open in Fort McMurray, Alta., on Sunday, but lost after four holes.

Hill’s second-place finish, however, earned him full-time status on tour and he’s now fifth on the Order of Merit. Taylor, once the top-ranked amateur in the world, is seventh after two top-10 finishes in three starts.

Both have been relatively quiet since their stellar collegiate careers, but it appears breakthrough seasons could be happening for either or both.

Renfrew leads the Order of Merit and Burlington’s Michael Gligic is third, so two of those four players have a chance of playing in the RBC Canadian Open through that list.

REINVENTING HIMSELF

The blur of time has erased the location.

All I recall is that it was on a driving range in Florida if memory serves correctly when a pleasant chat with one of golf’s great gentlemen began, about 12 or 13 years ago, while going about my duties of writing my Toronto Sun column.

That may sound vague, but the topics of that discussion are still clear and how it ended is what stands out for purposes of this contribution. “Hey, Ian,” said two-time Masters champ Ben Crenshaw. “Would you say hello to Lorne for me?”

This wasn’t a case of an American automatically assuming a Canadian knew another because of shared nationality. About everybody in golf knows Lorne Rubenstein, who has announced he’s retiring after 32 years as golf writer/columnist for the Globe & Mail.

Like Crenshaw, Rubenstein is a distinguished gentleman who makes it easy to call him friend and colleague ahead of competitor.

Case in point was when in the pages of the Sun back in 2007, I wrote a piece applauding Rubenstein’s induction into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.

I received an email from Rubenstein, declaring that I was now his mom’s favourite writer. I laughed, but found that hard to believe due to bloodlines and Rubenstein’s impact on the game.

For the last reason, Rubenstein became one of the most golf’s most recognizable names, certainly in this country but also outside Canadian borders.

You wouldn’t know it by the way he conducted himself in a profession in which a growing trend is columnists/bloggers writing about themselves or news being passed along in short Twitter bursts.

Rubenstein was more interested in the golfer on the other side of his notepad and he sought them out, more concerned with being unique and analytical by getting a fresh perspective over the comments spread to the masses through press conferences.

I recently called Rubenstein a “knucklehead” in a headline, but it wasn’t meant as disrespect, quite the opposite actually. Knucklehead was a term used by the late Moe Norman for people he liked and trusted.

In Rubenstein’s most recent book, Moe & Me, Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius, Rubenstein offers a fascinating look at the legendary Canadian ball-striker, one that could only be managed through years of association.

Rubenstein said in announcing his retirement that he noticed at the recent U.S. Open that he couldn’t get engaged with the pro game anymore.

Rubenstein just turned 64 and there’s a new wave of younger players flooding the tours. The game has changed in that it’s more difficult now to get to the players one on one than it was at one time.

How much those factors, plus the fact that the Globe & Mail was using his work less frequently, played in his decision can only be answered by Rubenstein, who I don’t expect will disappear, just reinvent himself through magazines, books and the occasional newspaper column/feature.

WASN’T THAT A PARTY?

David Duval, who recently accepted a Canadian Open exemption along with John Daly, has foggy memories of Canada in July. It was at Royal Lytham and St. Annes, the site of this year’s British Open, where Duval won his only major in 2001. Duval — with Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia and Canadian Mike Weir — made an overnight flight to Toronto right after his big win to take part in the Telus Skins Game at Angus Glen in the sweltering conditions. Judging by the red eyes, the Claret Jug got a pretty good workout at 40,000 feet on the trip over ... Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal failed to qualify for the British Open ... Adam Oates, who was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame and as coach of the Washington Capitals on the same day last week, served as caddie for Brett Quigley at the 2010 RBC Canadian Open at St. George’s Golf and Country Club ... The storm damage at Congressional was a big story on the weekend, but the famous 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass truly became an island last week as its walkway to the green was submerged after heavy rain from Tropical Storm Debby hit Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Not the place you want to be with the critters that can come out of that water.


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