Club pros shake off rust

IAN HUTCHINSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Even those who play and follow the game tend to associate anything PGA with the tour where Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and the elite players of the world display their talents.

This link is not necessarily wrong for all are brothers and sisters within the Professional Golfers Association in their respective countries, the PGA of America in the United States and the Canadian PGA here.

It may be tough to get past the PGA Tour, but the majority of association members are club professionals, who don't get much time to hone their games on the driving range or in competition.

The club pros' days are usually comprised of lessons, administration of tournaments at their facilities or pro shop duties.

Every now and again, club pros break free from those restraints and return to the aspect of golf that first drew them to the game. The most recent competition took place last week in the Sunshine State at the Titleist and FootJoy Canadian PGA Club Professional Championship.

It may seem strange having a Canadian club pro championship in the U.S,, but the main reason for that is to hold it at a time of year when club duties aren't as heavy back home. The Canadian PGA holds it in a warm weather location and may take the event to Nevada or Arizona soon.

At the PGA Golf Club here last week, the rust on their games showed occasionally.

Kyle German, who was working on his club's payroll while he was here, recorded a score that may not have been as memorable as John Daly's 18 at Bay Hill, but his 10 on the 18th hole, his ninth hole of the first round, was notable because he finished the day with a respectable one-over 73. There's more.

By the end of the second round, the head pro at Vancouver's Point Roberts Golf and Country Club was in a four-way tie for the lead, but seemed to be faltering late the next day before a birdie on 16 tied him with Marc Girouard of Club de Golf Balmoral in Quebec, who bogeyed the same hole.

The two wound up in a playoff on -- you guessed it -- the 18th hole. German appeared to be suffering a case of deja vu when he pulled his tee shot left into some pine straw. He still managed to rocket his second shot toward the green, but it rolled down into a gully at the side, where he chunked his third shot.

He putted from off the green and managed to win the tournament to slay the curse of the 18th hole and that nasty 10 two days earlier.

"It almost bit me, but I got away with it," said German, who earned an exemption into next year's RBC Canadian Open with the win.

Finishing three-under on a tough course under windy, cool conditions is a fine accomplishment, but one can only imagine what German might have done had he played and practised like the tour pros.

That goes with the territory though, says Gar Hamilton, the head professional at the Mississaugua Golf and Country Club, who spent a couple of years on tour and won this tournament four times.

"For me, I need three or four days of play, I think, to get in some sort of tournament shape," said Hamilton, 59, whose 2008 season at Mississaugua got underway late after renovations to the club's greens delayed the opening.

"I can only speak to my situation at Mississaugua, We have a huge, demanding tournament schedule, If playing was my No. 1 priority, I'd be playing. I enjoy it, but it's tough to make the time," he said.

"I haven't played a competitive round -- except for little, fun things -- for two or three months. It's not easy just to turn it on, not at 59 anyway," he added.

SCHEDULE FIT FOR A KING

Two-time tournament champ Danny King of Milton is one Canadian professional who plans to get more tournament golf in next season.

King, who works out of Magna Golf Club in Aurora, plans to play mini-tour events and Monday qualify for several Nationwide Tour events in 2009 after failing to make it past the first stage of PGA Tour qualifying school recently.


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