It's a dog day afternoon

IAN HUTCHINSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

Hockey, hoops and Hollywood converge on Glen Abbey today in a marquee splash of A-listers called the Mike Weir Charity Classic, just one reason the RBC Canadian Open has returned to respected status on the PGA Tour of late.

While the national championship has elevated its status, the players gathering today at Heron Point to the west of Glen Abbey are hoping to do the same by landing one of four qualifying spots.

If they make it to the Abbey, they'll only see the top of the leaderboard with binoculars. At least, that's the theory on 'dogs, who hardly will steal the thunder from Michael Jordan, Kevin Costner or any of the celebrities in attendance.

It isn't totally out of the question, however, that an underdog may be grabbing headlines by Sunday. The presence of 59-year-old Tom Watson in yesterday's British Open playoff will attest to the unpredictability of golf.

The classic example is Kitchener's Vic Ciesielski, a 21-year-old amateur who played two rounds of qualifying to get into the 2006 Open at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, but didn't stop to think how the odds were stacked against him.

"You go in there and just try to play your best," Ciesielski said. "There's no pressure on a qualifier because nobody really expects anyone to get in there, so you just try not to make any mistakes and, if the putts fall that day, you have a chance.

"The first (qualifier) wasn't too stressful. I knew I'd just have to shoot, like 70, to get through to the final qualifier. I didn't play the greatest. I birdied three of the last four, or something like that, to get by.

"When I went to the final qualifier, I felt comfortable. It was at (Burlington's) Hidden Lakes. It's not a golf course I'd played before, but it was similar to what I had been playing. It was shorter and tighter, with good greens.

"I went in pretty confident. I threw up a bogey-free 66. The worst part was I had the first tee-off time, so I had to wait 41/2 hours until the last group finished to see if I actually got in or not."

It was worth the wait. Ciesielski provided some memorable moments that stand out in Canadian Open lore.

"When I dropped 68 in the first round, it started getting crazy," said Ciesielski, whose charisma, flamboyant attire and army of buddies and family members set off a buzz. The scores he posted proved he could back up that buzz.

Ciesielski shot a 70 in the second round to make the cut and followed up with a 69 to give himself a chance in the final round, but it was not to be as a 77 ended any grandiose dreams. He tied for 72nd.

Afterwards, he joined the University of Waterloo golf team, turned pro a year later and played the Great Lakes Tour before making it through Fall Qualifying School to play on the Canadian Tour.

He was hoping to get an exemption through the Players Cup yesterday in Winnipeg, but failing that, Ciesielski planned to be at Heron Point.

Monday qualifiers aren't the only 'dogs in a tournament that has a defending champion who came in last year with six missed cuts in his previous 19 events, his best finish a tie for 34th during that span.

Winning as an underdog, as Chez Reavie did last year, is the stuff of movies and Kyle German chuckled when he heard a comparison between himself and the long-shot character played by Costner in Tin Cup.

"I promise not to fill my bag with the range balls," replied German, who shot a 10 on one hole in the first round of last year's Titleist and FootJoy Canadian PGA Club Professionals Championship in Port St. Lucie, Fla., but still managed to win in a playoff to earn his Open exemption.

Like that Tin Cup character, German admits he'll be an unknown, leading him to quip he would use Twitter to find practice-round partners.

No matter what happens, he said, playing in the Open will not only be the thrill of a lifetime, but also an education as he observes touring pros.

"There are lots of guys I'd love to be able to spend a few hours with, just to see how they go about it."

Who knows? This unknown or any other long-shot may get a lesson in Sunday pressure at an event where underdogs quickly can become Big Dawgs.


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