It's Canada's day

IAN HUTCHINSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

On Wednesday, I will take a couple of hours and go down to Main Street in Newmarket to take in the Canada Day celebrations. The street will be shut down and filled with vendors, barbeques, kids with painted faces and there will be a beer garden in the park down by the lake.

From the outside looking in, the Newmarket shindig will be no different than countless others across the country, but it is the opportunity to take a breather and appreciate the things in your hometown that usually get overlooked in the whirlwind of work and other commitments.

Overlooking the present is easy to do and something Canadians often are guilty of when it comes to the PGA and LPGA tours.

While Mike Weir, Stephen Ames and Lorie Kane have provided memorable moments over the years -- and Alena Sharp could do so in the future -- golf goes much deeper than that.

That message has been hammered home emphatically this year with the emergence of Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., and NCAA champ Matt Hill of Bright's Grove as major players on the world amateur scene.

Taylor is coming off a U.S. Open at Bethpage Black where making the cut would have been an accomplishment. Instead, he shot a second-round 65, a record for amateurs, and was low amateur for the tournament and tied for 36th overall.

He still is the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, while Hill has slipped a position to third. But the way Hill has been playing, he likely will move back up soon. So should we be focused on how long it will take Hill and Taylor to get to the PGA Tour, or should we be content for now with what's happened over the past few weeks?

Let's enjoy it now and worry about the top tour when it's time. It's actually gratifying to see players develop before they make it to golf's highest level.

If we think amateur golf is something beneath us, remember that Canada's lone inductee into the World Golf Hall of Fame, Marlene Streit, got there by going down the amateur road.

But there also is a buzz regarding Canadians who already have turned pro and are doing quite well on the major tours.

Samantha Richdale of Kelowna, B.C., and Oshawa's Angela Buzminski were fourth and fifth, respectively, last week on the Duramed Futures Tour money list, positions that, if maintained, will earn them their LPGA Tour cards next year.

Calgary's Dustin Risdon was 26th on last week's Nationwide Tour money list, just one spot short of the top 25 who automatically earn their PGA Tour cards for 2010.

So, if you're willing to look past the major tours, there's good news to be found in golf this Canada Day.

Here are a few other random thoughts to consider this Canada Day:

* Like the players mentioned above, the RBC Canadian Open and CN Canadian Women's Open have elevated their status considerably the past few years. Thanks in a big way to their title sponsors, both tournaments quickly have gone from doormat events to being marquee ones on their respective tours.

* Canada still is recognized for having one of the highest per capita golf participation rates in the world. It is the sport most played by Canadians.

* How about the Canadian Tour? It seems to be in a renaissance with more Canadian and international events coming on to the schedule these days, despite the shaky economy. Like the Canadian Open and Women's Open, the Canadian Tour has bumped over rough patches only to recover in style.

* Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., enjoyed a stellar early season trip through Africa in which he had a couple of runner-up finishes, and he was 13th on the Canadian Tour money list last week, perhaps another developing player to keep an eye on.

It's not as if these stories are well-hidden secrets, but collectively, they show Canada is starting to show the "green chutes" economists talk about when referring to positive signs in a struggling economy.

In the case of Canadian golf, there are positive signs sprouting up that indicate that golf in this country could have a bright future. But the temptation when it comes to emerging players is to ask if they can become the next great Canadian on tour, even if that question can never be truly answered until they get there.

Instead of focusing on an unpredictable future, it may be more gratifying to take a breather and appreciate what we already have this Canada Day.


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