Our sweet 16

DARREN FRIESEN -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- The state of Canadian golf will be no more prevalent than this week at the Bell Canadian Open.

With 16 Canadians in the field, young and old, golf fans north of the border will get a glimpse into what's to come and what's still out there. Aside from the obvious names -- Stephen Ames and Mike Weir -- Canada's crop is beginning to flourish.

Youngsters like James Lepp, last season's NCAA Div. 1 champion, will be headlining a crew of 20-somethings hoping to make names for themselves in their national championship.

Other up-and-comers set to tee off at the tournament, which starts today at the Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club, are Richard Scott and Jay Snyder.

Scott, 22, and Snyder, 20, earned their way into the 155-man field after a final-round meeting in this year's Canadian Men's Amateur in Baddeck, N.S.

Scott, who hails from Kingsville, Ont., and is a senior at the University of Georgia, beat Snyder to claim his second straight men's amateur title.

For Glen Hnatiuk, a 40-year-old from Selkirk, Man., who is a veteran of both the PGA and Nationwide Tours, watching a new generation of Canucks earning their stripes is exciting.

"From what I understand, the crop of young players is fantastic," said Hnatiuk. "I think it's getting better and better every year. We have an NCAA champion from Canada, James Lepp. He has taken his game to a high level and I'm sure he's looking to some day play on the regular tour."

Hnatiuk, who will be joined by veterans Richard Zokol, David Morland IV and Jim Rutledge this week, gives kudos to the American collegiate system for developing the new Canadian stars.

"From what I understand, there's guys, three or four other All-Americans playing in college down in the States. I always thought that's the way you had to go. To have these young guys playing at a high level is great," said Hnatiuk. "I've always said it would be fantastic to have 20 Canadians out on Tour every year."

While all of the Canadian amateurs will be looking to gain some valuable experience, it will be players like Jon Mills and David Hearn, both from Ontario, who will be looked upon to start finding status on leaderboards.

Mills, a former Kent State standout who sits fifth on the Nationwide Tour's money list, is all but guaranteed to get his PGA card next season. The stakes are higher now for him but he remembers what it was like coming out of college as an amateur to play on the big stage.

"I looked at it as a learning process and tried to take as many positives out of the situation as possible," said Mills.

If there was a piece advice Mills could pass along to his younger colleagues, it would be to keep learning.

"I was really focused on probably the wrong things when it came to hitting it far and all of that kind of stuff," said Mills. "I guess since then, I've really kind of toned it down and worked hard on ball control and distances, knowing my distances, and especially when it comes to wedges, because that's really where it comes down to. That's what gets you those low numbers."

CHIP SHOTS: Champions Tour regular Dave Barr pulled out of the Canadian Open and will be replaced by fellow Canuck Derek Gillespie ... Vijay Singh, No. 2 on the money list and the defending champion, will be joined by Chris DiMarco and Fred Funk as the only top-10 money leaders at the tournament ... The last time the Canadian Open, which is the third oldest national championship in the golf history, was held out in the west was in 1966, also at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club.


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