Chris McCuaig is feeling a lot better than he did at this time last year.
McCuaig overcame the searing heat and dreadfully slow round for a 4-under-par 68 yesterday to take the first-round lead at the prestigious Alexander of Tunis tournament yesterday at Rivermead, the second leg of Golf Quebec's Triple Crown of amateur golf. Around this time last year, McCuaig was nursing a sore back he threw out in the first round of the Tunis.
"That was unfortunate because when you injure yourself in mid-July, that's pretty much the season for you," said the 31-year-old, who had seven birdies and three bogeys in his round yesterday.
He has a one-shot lead over 16-year-old Mathieu Rivard of Royal Bromont, Charles-Etienne Boucher of Le Blainvillier and Jean-Francois Angrignon of Summerlea.
Another shot back at 70 are Matt McMahon of Brockville and Louis-Pierre Godin of Ki-8-Eb.
McCuaig looks to be getting back into the form he had before his injury. In 2004, he made it to the round of 16 at the U.S. Mid-Amateur (which receives more than 4,000 entries) and swept the Ottawa Valley Golf Association's stroke, match and Tournament of Champions events.
He lost the Quebec Mid-Am in a playoff earlier this summer and was ninth at the Duke of Kent to kick off Golf Quebec's Triple Crown (the order was shaken up this year to incorporate the playing of the Quebec Amateur later this week at Camelot in Cumberland).
McCuaig's putter was almost as hot as the weather yesterday as he needed only 10 putts on the front nine.
"I'm in the lead and will be in the final group tomorrow. That's right where you want to be," he said.
Rivard, the outstanding junior playing in his first Tunis, said he hit the ball well, "but the putts just weren't falling."
Rivard, a member of Canada's national junior team, has already committed to play at Southern Methodist University in Dallas in the fall of 2007.
WOMEN ON DECK: Members of the CN Canadian Women's Tour will get their last shot at exemptions for the CN Canadian Women's Open when they tee off in the final qualifier today at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club. The CN Canadian Women's Tour is putting up for grabs seven exemptions into the Women's Open Aug. 7-13 at London Hunt and Golf Club.
Two exemptions have already been snapped up by American Taya Battistella and Burlington's Salimah Mussani, who won the first two stops on the Canadian Women's Tour. The winner of the event over the next two days at the Hunt will get a third exemption and then four will be handed out to the next four players on the Order of Merit.
There will be a field of 79 players for the 36-hole event with the national capital region represented by amateur Ashley Bickerton, Stephanie Brown, Julie Cashaback, Danielle Nadon and Gatineau native Claudia Beauchesne.