Thrill of a lifetime

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

This is his dream.

He's worked his entire adult life to get here.

So the fact they're only letting him in for a brief visit hasn't dampened any of Stuart Anderson's excitement. When Edmonton's best golfer steps to the first tee at the Bell Canadian Open this afternoon the only thing bigger than his eyes will be his goals.

"I'm pretty thrilled," the 27-year-old said before his practice round yesterday at Shaughnessy Golf Club in Vancouver. "It's an opportunity to play with the best players in the world, and to play in our national open.

CAN CHERISH IT

"It's going to be unreal, something I can cherish when I'm older. But hopefully this will be the first of many."

Even though it's his first PGA event, the top Canadian on the Canadian Tour money list isn't afraid to aim high.

"It would be nice to be one of the top Canadians, and to be playing on the weekend," said Anderson, who tees off at 1:49, six groups after Vijay Singh and five groups before Mike Weir.

"I even think top 20 would be a reasonable, attainable goal. I just have to go out there, play my own game, and don't get caught up in all the madness."

Like star players, TV towers and galleries the likes of which he's never seen before.

"There are a lot of things that we don't see on the Canadian Tour," he said, adding the nerves haven't kicked in yet.

"I had a nice practice round with Scott McCarron. He was a really nice guy and had a chance to play a few holes with Glen Hnatiuk. They all hit it pretty straight off the tee, that's one thing you definitely notice, but I think I can compete."

Enjoying his best year as a pro, Anderson didn't secure his exemption into the Bell until the last minute.

The top six CanTour money leaders gained admission, but with one week to go Anderson was fifth, clinging to a narrow lead.

GOAL ACCOMPLISHED

"I knew going into Bay Mills that I would probably have to finish in the top 10 to get into the Canadian Open, so it was nice to accomplish that goal. It says something about the changes I've made to my lifestyle and my game to get to this position."

He finished ninth, his third top 10 of the season and highest placing since his April 24th win in California.

Now he's here, for a visit, anyway. He'll tee it up with Mathias Gronberg and Paul Claxton in the first round today.

"They're both PGA Tour members, but I'm not really familiar with either one of them and I'm not too worried about either - I'm just going to go out and play my own game, play the golf course because they have it set up tough. The fairways are inched in and rough is inched up.

"You hit it in the rough and it's almost a guaranteed bogey."

With the nerves and an almost overwhelming scene, Anderson knows he has to guard against his biggest weakness - bad Thursdays. His first round scoring averages have been a brutal 74.

In the Nationwide Tour stop in Calgary last weekend, he shot a 69 on Friday but couldn't overcome an opening round 77 and missed the cut.

MEDIOCRE AT BEST

"My Thursday rounds all year have been mediocre at best," he said, adding that will have to change if he hopes to make a PGA weekend. "You don't have to shoot super well on the first day, but you can't shoot 74 and put yourself out of it right away."

Whatever happens, this will give him a taste of what it's like, and what it takes, when he goes to PGA Q-school in the fall.

"It'll be a great experience to see it all up close."


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