Runway to success

Top Canadian David Hearn gets a line on the 9th hole during the first round of the Canadian Open at...

Top Canadian David Hearn gets a line on the 9th hole during the first round of the Canadian Open at Angus Glen on Thursday. (Sun Media/Dave Abel)

KEN FIDLIN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

MARKHAM -- Golf is a game where few become successful without failing miserably along the way. For every Tiger Woods for whom everything he touches turns to gold, there are a thousand David Hearns who must cipher it out at the school of hard knocks.

Hearn appears to be learning his lessons well. Yesterday, the 28-year-old Brantford resident, a six-year pro trying to find his way back to the PGA Tour, assembled one of the best rounds of the day in the opening round of the 2007 Canadian Open, firing a six-under-par 65 to grab a share of third place.

Hearn's affinity with the Angus Glen North Course begins with his ability to hit the ball long and straight off the tee but yesterday, it finished with a smoking-hot putter. His 27 putts included seven birdie putts, with an average length of 20 feet, that finished in the bottom of the cup.

Back in 2004 in his third professional season, Hearn turned some heads with his performance at the PGA Tour Qualifying tournament. Through the first five days, he sat in a second-place tie and even had designs on winning the tournament.

Then, a string of bogeys in the final round not only knocked him out of the running to be the medallist, but put him in peril of blowing his chance to earn his 2005 PGA playing privileges. On the last two holes, Hearn rallied to sink long birdie putts, including a 70-foot monster at 18, to secure a 21st-place finish and secure his card.

That's the good news. The bad news turned out to be his 2005 season on the PGA Tour. He played 24 tournaments but finished in the top 25 only twice and a 196th place finish on the money list with $197,453 in winnings. Relegated to the Nationwide Tour for 2006, Hearn didn't even make it to the final stage of Q-School last season and only has limited playing privileges on the Nationwide this year.

He accepts his lot in life philosophically.

"I think I could have done a lot of things differently," Hearn said yesterday, "but I think it's one of those things where you're only a rookie out here once. I learned from it in a different way than other guys will. When I get back I think it will pay off."

Notice he said "when I get back." A few more rounds like the one he shot yesterday and when could be a lot sooner than anyone realizes.

"I was playing a level of golf (in 2004-05) where I could compete at that time, but I wasn't doing it week-in and week-out. My bad days were just not good enough. It has been good for me to go back to the Nationwide Tour and develop a game that's more consistent. Now, when I get on a tough course, if I'm not playing my best I can still shoot even par or a couple under."

Hearn also has proven himself as a guy who likes to perform well in his national Open. He was low Canadian at last year's Canadian Open at Hamilton, shooting a 68 in the final round for a 20th-place tie. Yesterday's round gets him a leg up on at least duplicating that feat this year.

"Last year when I came here I was a lot more confident in the Canadian Open than I was in previous years," he said. "I definitely feel my game's at a level where I can do well at these events."

Angus Glen's inviting fairways are tailor-made for big hitters and Hearn, despite his slim build, can get it out there a long way. The rough is penal but the fairways are generous enough to make the risk-reward scenario favour the long ball.

"I feel like most courses these days set up well for a guy that hits it a little bit longer," Hearn said.

They're also set up for guys who've learned the ropes, guys who've taken their lumps and figured out how to squeeze the most good out of even a bad situation. More and more, David Hearn is looking like one of those guys.


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