Wasn't easy to watch

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

As difficult as it was for him not to be in the field, Rob McMillan couldn't resist watching the Canadian Open.

Never mind the fifth major references, the Canadian Open has been somewhat of a staple -- not to mention one of the season highlights -- in the Winnipeg touring pro's life since playing his first as an amateur in 1994.

The Pine Ridge member would have preferred being in the field again, but his 51st-place finish on the Canadian Tour's Rolex Money list prevented from getting an exemption into the fabled national championship.

That meant spending ample time in front of the tube at his Winnipeg home, charting the progress of several prominent Canadians and ultimately, the one-stroke victory for Jim Furyk over Bart Bryant.

'WISH I COULD HAVE BEEN THERE'

"I did watch quite a bit and it wasn't easy to watch," McMillan said yesterday. "I love that golf course (Hamilton Golf and Country Club) and I wish I could have been there. It's tough to watch when you're not there but it's such a great venue that I wanted to watch for that reason, more than anything. It was good. People talk about how the field wasn't as strong as they would like but there were still a lot of great golfers that played there."

Although many were disappointed that Canada's favourite son Mike Weir missed the cut and Stephen Ames had to withdraw on Friday because of a bad back, there were several uplifting stories.

One of them even had some local flavour as David Hearn, the 2004 runner-up at the MTS Classic, ended up being the low Canadian (at 5 under) and tied for 20th overall.

Hearn's strong play earned him a cheque for $50,438, which is slightly less than the $87,338 he's picked up playing the Nationwide Tour this season.

Not bad for a guy who happily shared his story with us a couple year's back about how he used to skip school so he could attend the Canadian Open with his dad.

Hearn spent the 2005 season on the PGA Tour and though he didn't do enough to keep his status, his strong play this week continues to serve as inspiration for guys like McMillan.

"Hearn's got a really good game and I wasn't surprised to see him do well," said McMillan. "He's usually a really good ball-striker and if you keep the ball in front of you out there and in the fairway, you're usually going to do quite well and that's the strength of his game.

"There are so many guys out there that you look at who you've gone through the ranks with that are doing well so that's definitely a boost to everybody who is trying to get there (PGA Tour)."

Two other Canadian Tour members also had strong tournaments.

Money list winner Stephen Gangluff finished tied for 35th (two-under 278 for the tournament) and made $24,125, while Rob Oppenheim (who was second on the money list and tied for third at the 2006 MTS Classic) tied for 41st and made $19,500.

Another story that caught the attention of McMillan and many other viewers attention was the great showing from colourful amateur Victor Ciesielski, who struggled to a final round 77 to finish four-over 284 and ended up tied for 72nd.

The fact Ciesielski, who had a huge gallery following him around throughout despite gaining his spot in the Monday qualifier held the week of the event, was in contention after three rounds and only three shots back was impressive.

"Anytime you have someone in there who you're not expecting to do it that goes out and plays great, that's great for the tournament, great for golf in Canada and good for junior and amateur golf in Canada," said McMillan. "I'm a big believer that the more Canadians that are out there doing well, the more it's going to spur (Canadian players) to believe they can do it as well."

McMillan was then asked if Ciesielski's stirring performance brought back any memories of his own debut?

"It reminds me of my first Canadian Open but I didn't make the cut," quipped McMillan, who then elaborated on his own debut. "I was 18 and I didn't play very well, but it was a great experience. It was at Glen Abbey and playing Glen Abbey from the back tees is brutal. It's long and it's tough. I just remember how hard it was.

"And my dad caddied for me, so that was pretty cool."


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